Holiday Market brightens cityscape


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The annual Iowa City Holiday Farmers’ Market will give community members an opportunity to shop locally for the holiday season.

By Naomi Hofferber

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The holidays may be approaching, and fall may be drawing to a close, but for Iowa City community members, one aspect of fall is not quite over.

The 11th-annual Holiday Farmers’ Market event will take place Saturday at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, 220 S. Gilbert St., from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Vendors will set up in the gym and the social hall.

The first holiday market was held in 2006 and was a relatively small operation, held in a meeting room with only 35 vendors.

“At that time, winter markets had become a little more popular, and we had a lot of vendors who said they could sell items longer than October,” said Tammy Neumann, the Iowa City Farmers’ Market coordinator. “I started looking into it, and we determined that we could hold one here.”

Over that next year, the city decided to offer two holiday markets, one in November and in December, and opened the gymnasium for vendors, allowing 94 vendors to participate. In the past 10 years, the location of the holiday market has varied, but typically, the market has 85 to 90 vendors.

“It’s been very popular. A lot of people think we won’t have produce, but we do,” Neumann said. “There are vendors that will have greens, potatoes, and we even have our Ineichen tomatoes that will be here.”

A few vendors only attend the holiday market and offer specific holiday items.

Neumann said that while shopping locally year-round is important, these markets allow vendors to offer their goods much longer than they typically could otherwise.

Melissa Osborne, a vendor and the owner of Creations by Oz, has a standalone shop in Muscatine. She said the market allows for a unique experience with customers.

“It’s excellent for me to do one-on-one,” she said. “To be able to see someone face-to-face and get feedback, especially if they don’t buy; what am I missing? What do you like, what do you not like, what don’t I have; it’s awesome feedback. I love interacting with my customers.”

Osborne, a regular at the Farmers’ Market, offers handmade jewelry featuring sterling silver, pearls, fused glass, and handmade Czech crystals. She also offers scarves and wraps, and this time of year, wine glasses.

“The market, I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” she said. “I’m there every Saturday and at every market the city does. They do an outstanding job.”

Wende Fugate, the owner of Rare Bird Soap Shop, said that the market gives the community an opportunity to buy locally for the holidays.

“I think the Holiday Market is important because the Farmers’ Market itself is important, and it gives customers one last chance before the winter not only to stock up on goods but also to shop locally for Christmas gifts and things like that.”

Fugate said that while a lot of market-goers do some holiday shopping at the markets, they also shop for the goods they can’t get on a regular basis. Fugate has a shop at the New Bo City Market in Cedar Rapids, but only regularly attends the Iowa City Farmers’ Markets.

“It’s where I broke into doing this business, so it’s kind of like my home market, and it’s my favorite one,” she said. “There’s a lot of dedicated customers who come every weekend and shop.”

Fugate’s shop offers a wide variety of vegan soaps and skincare items and a new line of baby skincare items, including baby wash, body butter, and talc-free powder. Her products are also offered at the New Pioneer Co-Ops and Lucky’s Market.

Osborne said there are benefits to buying holiday gifts locally.

“You get an experience where you get to talk to the person who made it and get it the way that you want it if you want it changed,” she said. “You can get just about anything when you look around that can’t get anywhere else.”

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