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Federal Way Farmer's Market opens this weekend
Rose Ehl recalled watching the peach juice drip down a girl's chin while she ate a peach at the Federal Way Farmers Market.
The girl's mother brought her to the market each week to buy produce using her Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) vouchers.
"It was so touching that the girl said, I just love coming here and getting my fresh peach each week," said Ehl, who has been the market's events director since it started.
This is just one of the many reasons why Ehl said the market is more than a farmers market - it's a community market.
This year, the market will kick off its 11th season on Saturday, May 10 at a new location that will be more visible to the public. While the market will still be located at The Commons Mall, it is now in the parking lot beside Sears at 1701 S. 320th St.
The market's location has been an ongoing challenge for market organizers, Ehl said.
"In the past, the market was located behind Sears in the corner and hidden by fences and bushes," said market manager Karla Kolibab, noting that location is currently being used as a staging area for the incoming Dick's Sporting Goods store.
Organizers would put out yellow signs with arrows showing that the market was located behind Sears, Ehl recalled.
"And this one guy said, "I don"t notice your market,"" Ehl recalled. "I said, "I have signs all the way down the street" and he said, "I guess I don't see them; maybe they're not tall enough or large enough." So now we won't have that problem."
The Federal Way Farmers Market will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays through Oct. 25.
During the market's opening day on Saturday, Mayor Jim Ferrell will welcome market patrons, while Steve McNey, chief of staff for King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer, will emcee the event. A bouncy inflatable will also be available for kids to jump in.
Back by popular demand, Danny Vernon will entertain the audience at noon with an Elvis Presley performance.
"I told him to wear his white jumpsuit," Ehl laughed. "For a parking lot performance, it's fantastic."
In addition to long-time vendors, the market will also host new vendors, including food trucks that will offer Thai cuisine and crepes.
"And since Great Harvest Bread retired, everybody's going to be really missing them," Kolibab said. "They were a big hit. But the new bakery is coming in that took their spot."
The new Ma Boulange Bakery will offer a range of unique cakes, sandwiches, breads and gluten-free options. But the business will also offer market patrons some long-time favorite baked goods.
"I went in there the other day and I was just amazed to see some of the breads that Great Harvest Bread made," Ehl said of Ma Boulange Bakery. "So they said they are taking the advice of many people who walk in and say, "Oh I miss this, I miss that." They just keep adding all the time."
Last year, the market's long-time nursery also retired and a new vendor from Gig Harbor will take its place this season.
"The people who retired have been training him on how to make his plants like theirs," Kolibab noted. "They told him what they sold and they helped him do it."
The market will begin with about 50 vendors, offering all Washington-grown fruits and vegetables, as well as pasta, flowers, crafts, seafood, pet items, breakfast and lunch items.
During the peak season in July, the market usually adds more vendors. Ehl said as many as 100 vendors are set up during the Kiwanis Family Safety Fair, which is set this year for July 19.
"The police and the fire bring out all their vehicles and that's a lot of fun. We give out free helmets to kids," Ehl said of the safety fair. "We usually have about 100 vendors that day because it;s into the season where we've got peaches and cherries and all that."
The market hosts a variety of community events to attract patrons and vendors alike, such as an Outdoor Bazaar on June 7, a Father's Day event featuring cars and music on June 14 , a Health and Wellness Fair on June 21 and the annual Chili Cook-off between the fire and police departments on Sept. 27.
"So we try to have a lot of fun," Kolibab said. ÒWe're not just a farmers market. We want to involve the whole community, so that people hopefully donÕt go out and shop somewhere else (and) they stay in Federal Way."
People can sign up for an e-newsletter on the market's website at www.federalwayfarmersmarket.com to receive weekly updates about upcoming events.
The Federal Way Farmers Market will also open a new location this year at Town Square Park, which the city will open the weekend of July 4 at the former AMC Theatres site.
The market will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays through September. Kolibab hopes the market's vendors and park atmosphere will attract the lunch crowd.
The market also operates a Sunday market from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays at the Norpoint Community Center in Northeast Tacoma, beginning on Father's Day, June 15.
For more information about the Federal Way Farmers Market, call 253-261-8157.