MARCO ISLAND — Clean out the refrigerator to pack in fresh fruits and vegetables. The Farmers’ Market is open for the 2013-14 season.
Wednesday, Marco Island’s Veterans’ Community Park became a veritable Campo de’ Fiori, one of Rome’s favorite marketplaces. Produce, flowers, artwork, fresh baked goods, prepared food and specialty items lined corridors with more than 120 booths of delicious goodness.
Vendors, particularly those new to the market, got a taste of how much people on Marco Island love to squeeze the tomatoes, smell the pineapples and sample some of the island’s unique creations.
Most purveyors were returnees with 109 reclaiming their booths. An additional 13 set up business for the first time this year.
Island Breeze Coffee Company, headquartered on Marco Island and a first-year vendor, woke up shoppers with its specialty cup o’ morning Joe. New vendor, Jimmy P’s Butcher Shop & Deli tempted with beef, pork and sausage choices. Ralph’s Island Seafood displayed an assortment of crustaceans and local fish and prepared light lunch fare.
Antonio’s Pizza, new vendor of prepared food, offered authentic brick oven pizza (complete with brick oven) for a quick lunch or a take home meal. Uncle Dan’s Old Fashioned Kettle Corn lived up to its reputation giving shoppers a taste of that sweet yet salty snack.
For the health conscious, new vender Fresh Juice King created smoothies and juices to order. And for kitchen gadgets, Good Stuff demonstrated a specialty spice graters designed to keep nails and fingers injury free.
Although a few craft vendors and artists did not return, said Samantha Malloy, community events coordinator for Marco Island’s Park and Recreation Department, new crafters broadened the offerings available at the market.
Starfish on the Rocks offers candles uniquely suited for seaside retreats, and the island’s Sandy Moore Howe will return again with her local pottery collections, Malloy said before the market opened.
New traffic patterns were established to alleviate problems primarily in the parking lot, said Alex Galiana, the city’s recreation supervisor. Although traffic can flow into the lot from both directions on Park Avenue, vehicles will be allowed to exit the parking lot onto West Elkcam Circle only.
New Life Community Church will allow parking for market visitors in its lot, said Galiana, and vendor parking has been moved, opening 15 more spaces in the main parking lot.
Two policemen were placed at strategic locations to help direct traffic and keep it flowing.
The Farmers’ Market will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Wednesday until April 30, 2014. Exceptions will be made for Christmas week and New Year’s Day when the market will be open during the same hours but on Monday, Dec. 23 and 30.
The Farmers’ Market is located in Veterans’ Community Park, 901 Park Avenue, Marco Island.