When the community gathers to celebrate the grand opening of the new Muskegon Farmers Market Saturday, there will be an emphasis on growing for good — and that doesn’t just mean the budding downtown.
Growing young bodies in a healthy way is a focus of the celebration — and an ongoing kids club that debuts this year at the market.
A soft opening at the market earlier this month gave a peek into the potential the new market at Western and Terrace avenues holds. Now that roofs are on the stalls, parking lots paved and more vendors planning to be on hand, the market truly will be on display.
As usual, sales start early, at 6 a.m. But grand opening festivities won’t begin until 10 a.m. That’s when the mayor, market manager and community leaders will gather for a ribbon cutting, passing of the market key and a dedication of its clock tower.
The especially harsh winter and wet spring have meant construction has continued to the very end, leaving Market Manager Lori Gomez-Payne scrambling over last minute details all week.
That includes lining up performers for the market’s new stage, where the music duo Swamp Crickets will get things rolling Saturday at 9 a.m. Following the dedication ceremony, the West Michigan Concert Winds will play from 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Kids will be a big part of the day, with activities planned especially for them starting at 10 a.m.
The Muskegon Conservation District will be on hand Saturday to help children make bee houses out of toilet paper and learn about different types of pollinators. The Mona Shores Green Team will be there Saturday too, providing materials for kids to plant seedlings that they can take home and put in the ground.
Habians Country Farm also will provide the opportunity for everyone — young and old — to plant seeds and young plants they can take home. The opportunity, called a “plant-a-thon,” will continue all month, culminating with a demonstration on planting combination containers.
And the Muskegon Lumberjacks will be meeting their fans and signing autographs from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Cultivating healthy habits is the focus of the market’s new Power of Produce (POP) Club for children ages 5-12. Sign-ups for POP will begin Saturday, though the activities don’t start until June 14. The program will be offered from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 25.
POP members will receive a POP reusable bag for market shopping and $2 to purchase market fruits, vegetables and plants to fill their bags each time they visit the club.
POP members also will participate in activities focused on food, nutrition and food growing. These will include jam-making, flour-grinding, seed planting, a scavenger hunt and more.
Renae Hesselink, a community volunteer heading up the POP program, said the idea is to expose children to the farmers market and healthy food options. POP programs elsewhere in the country have proven that children can influence parents’ shopping patterns. That’s especially important in urban Muskegon, where there’s a lack of supermarkets offering fresh food, she said.
POP organizers are continuing to raise funds for the project, and Hesselink said about $23,000 is needed to serve 500 children.
“The hope is to create those farmers market shoppers in the future,” she said.
The new farmers market is located on about a four-acre parcel that is part of 23 acres that was purchased in 2002 by the nonprofit Downtown Muskegon Development Corp. The Community Foundation for Muskegon County, the Paul C. Johnson Foundation and the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce formed the DMDC to acquire, demolish and redevelop the former Muskegon Mall that consumed much of the downtown core.
The new Muskegon Farmers Market is another step in the regrowth of downtown Muskegon — one that occurred relatively quickly. It was just over a year ago that the Muskegon City Commission agreed to move the market from its Yuba Street location.
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