It’s an Edmonds kind of tradition going back a generation.
It was 1984. Ronald Reagan was riding high in the White House, easily winning a second term against Walter Mondale. The LA Raiders were Super Bowl champs, Clara Peller first asked “Where’s the Beef?” in a Wendy’s television commercial, and McDonalds sold its 50 billionth hamburger. Terms of Endearment won five Academy Awards, the first syndicated version of Jeopardy aired, and Prince’s Purple Rain spent 24 weeks at the top of the pop charts.
And here in Edmonds, the Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society launched the first Edmonds Summer Farmer’s Market.
A tradition that has grown and evolved with time, the market returns this Saturday for its 29th consecutive year. It offers residents and visitors alike the chance to purchase produce directly from local farmers, arts and crafts from local artisans, food from local vendors, and more – all in the festive, open-air format of a traditional town market day.
Christina Martin has been managing the Edmonds Museum Summer Market for the past decade and shows no signs of slowing down.
“I started out here as a vendor selling my homemade jams,” she said. “I did that with my son for five or six years, and then the opportunity came along to take over as market manager.”
As an employee of the South Snohomish County Historical Society, Martin works closely with Dave Teitzel, who chairs the museum board’s market committee The two have been hard at work in the offseason to bring some changes and new features to the market – several in response to COVID – that will help enrich the market experience for vendors, marketgoers, and the local merchants with businesses abutting the market.
“One big change this year is combining the spring garden market with the regular summer market,” explained Martin. “When we started the garden market 17 years ago, the idea was to provide a smaller-scale, early-season market experience. But over the years it has grown in popularity to the point where it has become almost indistinguishable from the regular summer market.
“The idea to combine them actually originated with the downtown merchants,” she continued. “The merchants north of the fountain on 5th Avenue were in unanimous support even though it meant closing that section of 5th Avenue during market hours. We work very hard not to compete with the downtown merchants, but to complement them in ways that help them do better when the market is there. ”
As one of the premier farmers markets in the Puget Sound area, the Edmonds market has a stellar reputation among vendors, and every year Martin receives more applications for 105 booth spaces than can be honored.
“As of now we are at capacity for 18 of the 22 weeks we’ll be operating,” Martin added.
And speaking of booths, one thing that will change this year is configuration of the booths and walking areas on 5th Avenue.
“We used to have a line of booths down the center of 5th Avenue, with walking pathways on either side; on Bell Street the booths were on either side of the street over the sidewalks, and shoppers walked down the center of the street, ”she explained. “But during COVID we altered the arrangement on 5th to reflect that on Bell, to give everyone more space for social distancing. We also found that this enhanced pedestrian safety by keeping sidewalks and curbs out of the walking path. We all agreed it was a better arrangement, so we decided to stick with it. ”
Deciding which vendor applications to honor is critical, and according to Martin is one of her most important jobs in managing the market.
“We sift through all the applications and do our selection to make sure customers get the best variety of choices,” she explained. “We want to limit duplication – we don’t want 17 soap vendors at the same time – and we also consider how the vendor and his / her products fit into the overall scheme, ambiance and flavor of the market.”
Other guidelines include ensuring that the vendors have up-to-date business licenses and insurance. Additionally, all vendors need to make what they sell – this means no reselling of products made by or purchased from someone else.
Teitzel and Martin look forward to recruiting a staff of volunteer “Market Ambassadors,” who will circulate on market days to help customers find a particular vendor, monitor trash and recycling receptacles, provide restroom breaks for vendors, and generally be a presence helping to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience for all.
“We’re on the lookout for more volunteer ambassadors. We’d love to double our existing pool, ”added Teitzel. “I urge anyone who is interested to go to the volunteer site on the Edmonds Historical Museum web page for more info or to sign up. Also, at the first market on May 7 we’ll be taking applications directly at the volunteer table in the Museum Plaza. ”
Another change coming this year is an experimental relaxation of the rule to not allow dogs in the market.
“There’s been a 50-50 split on this issue for a long time,” explained Martin. “It seems like half of our marketgoers want to allow dogs, and half don’t. During COVID we were required by the health department to not allow dogs (although some customers ignored this) because dogs promote gathering in a time when maintaining social distancing was paramount. The idea was to encourage customers to go, shop, and not hang out. ”
With COVID now winding down, Martin and Teitzel looked at how other markets in the area handle the dog issue. They found that the vast majority permitted dogs.
“In addition, our other Edmonds markets – the holiday and winter markets, both sponsored by the City of Edmonds – allow dogs,” added Teitzel. “This pretty clearly establishes bringing pets to market as the norm in Edmonds and the region, and we don’t want to be out of phase. We realize that no matter what we do on this issue we won’t satisfy everyone, but after much discussion we decided to pilot the idea at this year’s summer market, keep a close watch on how it goes, and adjust as needed. We will require that all dog owners keep their pet on a short leash – 2 feet or less – and maintain constant tension. We feel confident that the vast majority of pet owners will be responsible. We’re on a learning curve with this – we’ll see how it plays out and adjust accordingly.
“Part of the training we’ll provide our market ambassadors will include how to courteously remind pet owners to keep their dog on a short leash and keep the animal under control,” he added. “We’ll also suggest to vendors that they post signs advising pet owners that if their dogs ‘mark’ or otherwise damage goods, that the owner is solely responsible.”
Martin also pointed out that with the summer heat – remember those triple-digit days last summer? – it’s often kinder to leave Fido at home.
“The asphalt can get to 200 degrees and more,” she warned. “I’ve seen dogs burn their feet, and literally tip over from the heat. On these days especially – if you love your dog, leave it home. In addition, the sidewalks behind the booths, while not part of the market, will be open for pedestrians and provide a space outside the market to walk your pet should you not want to bring it into the proper market – and these are often shadier and cooler that the main market walkway. ”
Regarding COVID restrictions, Martin and Teitzel will closely watch the latest advisories from the Snohomish Health District and respond accordingly.
“We’ll keep to the current relaxed guidelines as long as the numbers stay low,” Teitzel explained. “This means no masking or social distancing requirements when we open on May 7, but this could change in a flash, and we’ll respond should this happen.”
Other innovations include providing an in-market opportunity to help Edmonds neighbors experiencing food insecurity.
“We’ll be hosting a food bank booth and drop-off station near 5th and Bell on the first and third Saturdays of every month,” Martin said. “In addition, we’re working on ways for shoppers to buy from local farms to support the food bank. Renton’s market has a ‘buy one-donate one’ where customers are able to buy two bunches of celery, keep one and drop the second in a box right at the vendor’s booth. We’re not set up to do this right away, but it’s one of several ideas under consideration. ”
There’s no doubt about it. With the success of the winter market, the holiday market and the fusing of the garden and summer markets into a single operation, Edmonds is emerging as the region’s premier community for outdoor market shopping. But it doesn’t happen by accident – it’s the result of much hard work and planning behind the scenes.
“And in the end, it’s really our volunteers that make it a fun and uplifting event for all,” reminded Teitzel. “Without our volunteers, the market would not be the enjoyable place it is. Unfortunately COVID has shrunk our volunteer ranks, and I urge anyone who is interested in a fun, rewarding way to be part of the community to call the Museum at 425-774-0900, sign up on our web page, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the volunteer booth in the Museum Plaza on May 7. ”
– Story and photos by Larry Vogel