Construction; closed roads; closed bridges; and one-way, two-way, and “no way” streets in downtown Peoria haven’t affected the plans for the 2005 Peoria RiverFront Market (RFM), sponsored by Methodist Medical Center. This year, the RFM kicked off June 4 and will run until September 24 each Saturday morning from 8 a.m. until noon. The RiverFront Market is located at Liberty Park on Water Street on the RiverFront.

The purpose of the RiverFront Market is to draw people to the Peoria riverfront, to provide a family event on the riverfront, and to increase business for existing riverfront restaurants and shops.
The market began last year and immediately gained loyal customers returning each week to attend with friends, neighbors, and even the family dog. Vendors enjoyed a brisk business, and many sold all of their offerings by noon each week. To date, more than 40 vendors will return to the RFM for the 2005 season. As the season progresses, they’ll be joined by vendors who attend the market occasionally, as they have seasonal produce or products.

Last year at the height of the market, 60 vendors enjoyed the RiverFront Market. This year, as we expect an increase in vendors, we’ll expand along the RiverFront sidewalk to accommodate this increase.

Consumers are discovering the importance of organic fruits and vegetables and know more about the food we feed our families and how this food is produced. The RFM features only Illinois-made or -grown products, and most of the vendors practice organic methods. Organic meat and eggs, as well as heirloom vegetables, southern Illinois peaches, Manito sweet corn, Spring Bay melons, and central Illinois tomatoes galore can be found at the RiverFront Market.

Then there are the arts. Again, only local artists may sell their wares at the RiverFront Market. Diversity is key to attracting customers, and the RFM has a wide variety of local art available. Glass blowers, handmade knitted or loomed scarves; personalized note cards; watercolors; pencil drawings; pottery; many homemade soy candles, soaps, and scents; and jewelry (beaded or silver) as individual as its maker line the booths at Liberty Park. Many artists create their wares and exhibit technique on site, and market-goers can stop and enjoy the demonstrations.

In addition to the local produce and local art, there are also vendors who sell herbal vinegars, homemade fudge, and locally made breads and cookies.

To complete the market experience flowers, plants and herbs encourage visitors to follow their nose to the booths offering these fragrant offerings.

Homegrown and handmade locally is the only requirement of vendors. Vendors at the RFM are diverse, but they all share a similar friendliness and “come sit a spell” attitude. Many get to know their customers so well they greet the regulars’ pets with dog biscuits or catnip and take special orders for a beaded bracelet to match exactly the earrings you bought last week, pottery for a wedding in June, the perfect watercolor for Father’s Day, or just the right color blooming plant for your front porch.

Another element of the RiverFront Market is the commitment to our community. Support of local art, music, and produce is clear. Joining the market mix are local non-profit organizations most every week. Education and awareness by area groups in a fun atmosphere is a win-win idea . Wildlife Prairie Park, Methodist Well Mobile, Illinois Red Cross, Illinois Ballet, and Counseling & Family Services are all planning events at the RiverFront Market.

July music events, from 9 a.m. to noon, include:
• July 2—Miller Boys.
• July 9—Dave Hoffmann.
• July 16—Barry Cloyd.
• July 23—Water Street Band.
• July 30—Preston Jackson.

Special events in July include:
• July 2—Wildlife Park/Fun on the Run.
• July 9—Illinois Ballet.
• July 30—Methodist Well Mobile.

For more information, vendor applications, and to check the RFM calendar of events, visit www.peoriariverfront.com. AA!