ALTON - The Alton Farmers’ and Artisans Market opened for the season on Saturday, May 11, 2024, and according to Sara McGibany, the market provides much more than groceries.

“It’s just really a community gathering place down at the market. It’s much more than a grocery shopping trip,” said McGibany, executive director of Alton Main Street. “It’s our job at Alton Main Street to keep downtown on the map. So we try to plan all sorts of activities and events that bring people downtown. We figure that a lot of people come downtown to visit the farmers’ market as a tourist, but we have a lot of locals that this is just really important to their quality of life to have a wonderful farmers’ market.”

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The farmers’ market will run from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays until Oct. 19, 2024, in the parking lot at the corner of Landmarks Blvd. & Henry Street. McGibany explained that people can expect “a wide variety of handmade and homegrown products,” with over 250 vendors registered for this Saturday’s market.

Crops like lettuce, asparagus and strawberries will be for sale, and more fruits and vegetables will become available as the season progresses. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of canned items, baked goods, pickled items, vegetable plants, coffee, homemade crafts, pottery, stained glass, woodworking and more. This is the second year where hot food items will also be available.

McGibany explained that the farmers’ market aims to help people expand their small businesses. By selling their products at the market, small business owners can increase their following. Alton Main Street works to support local businesses, so this is an important part of the farmers’ market.

“Everybody’s just absolutely ready to get this rocking and rolling again,” McGibany said. “We are super excited for all of these entrepreneurs that are starting and growing their small businesses with us, and we just really appreciate the opportunity to be able to help them take their next step wherever they’re at, if they’re trying to turn something from a hobby into a business or trying to turn something that they’ve been doing at the market for a little while into a brick-and-mortar. We’re here to help people every step of the way with growing their business.”

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To register as a vendor, visit the official farmers’ and artisans’ market webpage for more information.

McGibany noted that Alton Main Street received the Link Up Illinois Grant, which doubles the value of SNAP benefits for fresh fruits and vegetables. Stop by the information booth at the farmers’ market to swipe your card and receive twice the dollar amount of fruits and vegetables.

The biannual Community Yard Sale is scheduled for Saturday, May 18. For more information about both events, click here.

McGibany hopes the farmers’ and artisans’ market serves as a “lightning rod” to bring more people to downtown Alton.

“Once we draw these thousands of people down on Saturday mornings, of course they’re much more likely to stick around and have lunch downtown and go shopping afterwards, things like that,” she added. “It’s just kind of a lightning rod that we use to attract people to downtown Alton and then get them to realize how great of a place it is to shop and dine and be entertained and just kind of make friends. We see people that are seeing old friends they haven’t seen in a long time, making dates with friends to meet up down at the market and stuff. It’s just a really special place, a special atmosphere.”

For more information about Alton Main Street, visit their official website at DowntownAlton.com.

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