by Amy L. Hatch
One of the biggest jewels in Urbana’s crown is, without question, the Market at the Square.
This year, the market opens on Saturday, May 7. We chatted with Lisa Bralts, director of Market at the Square, and she gave us the skinny on what’s new for the 2011 season:
No animals. Perhaps the biggest change patrons will notice this season is the lack of four-legged creatures in the market aisles. Bralts tells us that pets are no longer allowed to visit the market. “We’ll still allow service animals, and we’ll allow animals that are part of a registered community group (rescue groups, for example), but other than that, we’re asking our patrons to please leave their animals at home,” Bralts says. “The main concern here is safety – not just for patrons, but also for the animals. I realize that for some people, bringing their pet to the market has been a Saturday morning ritual, but in the end we had to do what was safest for all our patrons.”
New locations for community groups. For the last several years, groups and organizations have been located at the north end of the market. “This year, the groups have been moved to Walnut Street, which is the blocked-off street to the immediate west of the main market site,” Bralts explains. “This will differentiate the groups a bit from the vendors, will give them increased exposure, will enable animal rescue groups to bring their animals (they will only be permitted in this area), and will hopefully help with some of the congestion in the market at that north end. The spaces will now house several food vendors.”
New vendors. The market loses some venders every year to health concerns or other issues, but Bralts says several new sellers will be joining the market in 2011. ”The new produce folks will be trying some new vegetable varieties, I’m hearing, and we might have fresh, Illinois-grown nuts at the market this season,” Bralts tells us “For those with allergies, don’t worry – they’ll have plenty of signage alerting people to their products, and I’ll do my best to let everyone know where their booth is located in the market). I’m still trying to track down some other items that patrons ask for, like bison, cow’s milk dairy products, fish, etc. We have a few other irons in the fire that I hope we can get going this season, too.”
As for what products and produce will be available at the market on May 7, Bralts says that food can be tricky thanks to the fickle Illinois spring weather. However, she anticipates plenty of greens, including kale, asparagus, lettuces, spinach and green onions. Shoppers may also expect some rhubarb, and strawberries should show up at the end of the month.
“We’ll also have frozen meats, eggs, and honey on hand, and I expect a few different kinds of goat cheese, as well,” Bralts says. “Several of the ‘street food’ folks won’t be around until toward the end of (May). Veggie Trails comes in on the 14th, and CraveTruck (waffles) and the Moo Mobile (ice cream) will be in place by the 28th.”
Events will begin to gear up later this month, also, she adds: “The Urbana Free Library will be in residence on May 7, our opening day. U-Cycle comes to visit on the 14th. Our first Sprouts event with the Master Gardeners is on the 21st, and there’s a bike rodeo in the parking lot just south of the market site that same day. Finally, on May 28, we have our first Art at the Market workshop of the season.”
Look for chambanamoms at the market during the Sprouts events this year, and if you look closely, you’ll see us there in the crowds, shopping for delicious local foods, almost every weekend.