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Farmers market returning to downtown Kennewick

The Pevey family of Kennewick checks out Debbie Crafton’s vegetables at the Southridge Farmers Market in 2013.
The Pevey family of Kennewick checks out Debbie Crafton’s vegetables at the Southridge Farmers Market in 2013. Tri-City Herald

Downtown Kennewick will once again host its own farmers market, beginning in June.

The Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership recently purchased the rights to the Southridge farmers market from owners Dusty and Joe Wirtzberger, who’d managed it since late in the 2015 season.

The market will continue to run on Thursday afternoons and evenings as in recent years, said executive director Dan Smith. It will be located at the plaza at the intersection of Kennewick Avenue and Benton Street.

It’s been roughly a decade since there was a farmer’s market in downtown Kennewick, though a craft market was held during the past summer. The former owners had moved the farmer’s market to the Southridge Sports Complex, where it featured about 40 vendors during its last season.

They have far more resources to make it into something big and beautiful and great.

Dusty Wirtzberger, former owner of farmers market

Dusty Wirtzberger said she and her husband’s time for the market is constrained by his involvement in AAU youth basketball and his business Three Cities Hoops. They were open to passing it on when the partnership approached them about a purchase.

“They have far more resources to make it into something big and beautiful and great,” she said.

Smith said the partnership’s purchase of the Southridge event comes with all the parts, from the signage to the vendor relationships. Those ties to vendors were critical to the deal, as they largely already have tight schedules during the summer working different markets each day. Some contracts still need to be finalized.

“It would be tough to open a new market without having farmers already part of it,” he said.

The tentative plan has the market running from 4 p.m. to at least 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, possibly a little later depending on daylight. The first market is scheduled for June 2. The event will run through October.

We’re in the middle of a reinvigoration campaign and this is a piece of it.

Dan Smith, Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership

A portion of Benton Street between the plaza and the partnership’s downtown office building will be closed, but Smith said there are no other plans to close downtown streets for the weekly event. He plans to approach businesses about staying open later on market days.

The partnership floated the idea of bringing the market downtown via social media and received a generally favorable response. Some said they were sad the market would no longer be at Southridge, as they liked having access to the Carousel of Dreams. Others raised concerns about available parking in downtown compared to the sports complex.

Parking is a potential problem, Smith said, but there are plenty of communities with successful markets that have a dearth of parking, such as the one in Roslyn, in the foothills of the Cascades.

Collaborating with local businesses is also crucial, as they may be concerned about the generally ample parking in front of their businesses disappearing on market days.

But those issues can be worked out, he said, and having a market is a great means to get people familiar with the city’s core.

“We’re in the middle of a reinvigoration campaign and this is a piece of it,” he said.

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