Where farm meets park

February 28, 2013 

The Civic Center crowd has some new lunch options with the coming of the Grand Park farmers market.

Gordon Pawlowski didn’t know what to expect when he tied on his apron in anticipation of Grand Park’s first-ever farmers’ market on Tuesday. It didn’t take long to find out.

“We sold out at 12:30 p.m.,” said Pawlowski, chef and owner of Lenny G’s, a Cajun eatery. “I had to turn away a line of 30 people.”

The market will be held every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. between Broadway and Spring Street, just in front of City Hall. At the inaugural event, 22 vendors were selling berries, flowers, crafts, exotic spices and teas, baked goods and prepared foods like Pawlowski’s popular po’ boys. Julia Diamond, Grand Park’s programming director, said organizers started small on purpose.

“At its core, a farmers market is about supporting independent business owners, small farms and local vendors,” said Diamond. “My biggest concern is for them, because they take the risk in coming there.”

The event drew an estimated 1,500 people—a mix of workers from adjacent buildings, passers-by and local residents.

“It went gangbusters,” said Diamond.

Fresh produce lured Carolyn Lifsey and Monica Roache away from their work at MOCA, about six blocks away on Grand Avenue. They learned about the event from Grand Park’s Facebook page. (Grand Park also is on Twitter.)

“The walk is actually kind of nice,” Roache said. “Being that it’s in the park, it offers a really tranquil ambiance for lunchtime.”

Others, like downtown worker Henry Chisom, said they were hoping for a bigger selection and smaller prices. He also hopes to see some music added to the mix.

He may be in luck.

Given the success of the trial run, Diamond plans to expand the market to meet the demand. (“We will have more farmers next time,” she said, referring to the fact that only a handful of produce vendors were selling on Tuesday.) Also, on alternating Tuesdays through the end of May, Lunchtime Concerts in the Park will add live music and food trucks on the block between Grand Avenue and Hill Street, effectively activating the whole park.

Other than the farmers’ market, relatively few organized events have taken place in Block 4—a grassy, expansive section of park. Diamond was jazzed to see the area bustling with activity.

“It’s such a big space,” she said, “that it takes the right kind of event.”

Colorful berries were moving fast at the market's inaugural run Tuesday.

Posted 2/28/13


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