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Farmers Market: Creating a gathering place for friends to meet from north to south

February 10, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

As if on cue, warm temperatures with just the right breeze touched the Imperial Valley on Saturday as some 3,000 people gathered in El Centro for the Farmers Market.

Not even the charred remains of buildings in the downtown — the aftermath of two recent fires — could stop the crowds from enjoying the mild weather, food, music, crafts and the vegetables grown in local fields.

Sponsored by the Downtown El Centro Association and the El Centro Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, the Farmers Market was the first of two such events this month. A second Farmers Market will be Feb. 24, the first time in a number of years the event has been staged twice in a year.

Larry Bratton, head of the DECA, said the goal is to continue to conduct the Farmers Market twice a year along with other events that bring the Imperial Valley community together and show off downtown.

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"It creates a gathering place for friends to meet from north to south," Bratton said.

He added, "I love to see all the people bring their children. I love to see grandparents with their children and their children's children. You see three generations out here."

There was a time when farmers markets were held more often. In 1988 farmers markets were staged every Thursday for three winter months. Then the market was conducted once a month during the winter, according to event organizers.

In recent years it has been staged once a year due to a lack of participation and a need for volunteers.

Bratton said there is a new interest in such events and participation is increasing.

He added it is important to show off the downtown, particularly in light of the revitalization effort in which the downtown area is getting a facelift with new parking, new walkways, the building of arches leading into downtown and an under-construction outdoor mall.

There are other projects ahead, including a project to improve building facades and add lighting.

Those at the Farmers Market on Saturday said they are pleased to see such events downtown because it brings people together.

June Rearic, who has lived in El Centro since 1955, said, "It is just a party atmosphere. I get to see people I have not seen for awhile and it's just a fun time for everyone."

Trish Burich-McNeece, the local blood-drive coordinator for the San Diego Blood Bank, was busy Saturday accepting blood donations as part of the Farmers Market.

She said within the first few hours of the event some 25 people had given blood.

She said of the event, "I think it just adds to that feeling of a tight-knit community."

Mary Seitz was selling carrots picked just a day earlier from Imperial Valley fields. The money earned would go to the Mount Signal 4-H Club to purchase rabbit cages for the upcoming fair.

"This is great," she said. "People come out and it is fun. This is a street festival."

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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