New direction for Santa Rosa’s Wednesday Night Market

New director, board members share a vision for Santa Rosa's downtown Wednesday Night market

One of four new poster design for the Wednesday Night Market in Santa Rosa
Can new leadership bring renewed life to downtown’s Wednesday Night Market?

The downtown Santa Rosa street market, which opens May 11, 2011 and runs through September, has long been a vibrant mix of music, food, farmers and crafts but in recent years has seen flagging attendance, decreased funding, a muddling of vendors and frustration from downtown merchants.
New director Janet Ciel, with the help of seven new board members, hopes that a spruced up image, new events, more artisan purveyors and some bigger name musical acts can steer the summertime market in a new direction. Or maybe on old one.
“We want the market to get back to focusing on what makes Sonoma County great. We’re focusing on the community, good foods for all palate levels, wine, entertainment and music,” said downtown marketer and new board member Chris Denny. His Santa Rosa company, The Engine is Red, is creating a new branding and marketingfor the market.
“I have never enountered a more driven, excited, movtivated, creative and connected group of people,” said Ciel, who took over the helm in January. The Sebastopol resident (who lives part-time in Santa Rosa) is a 17-year veteran and organizer of the Bodega Seafood Art & Wine Festival. Board members hope her experience heading the festival and connections to the art, wine, dance and food world, will bring a new caliber of artisan vendors to the event.
The group is hinting at a wine component to the event, though they’re still mum on exactly what that might mean. Denny said that much of the food and farm component will remain consistent, but that the group is working hard to reach out to new purveyors. In addition, the market plans to add several larger-scale music acts, a guide map that will include downtown merchants and the possibility of a more-inclusive layout for downtown merchants. Business owners have complained that previous markets blocked sidewalks and entrances, and trash cans and other detritus of the event piled up in front of their storefronts.
“We really want everyone to feel that the market is of value to them and to welcome it,” said Ciel.
The event’s current evolution was sparked by the departure of former market director Tracy Pugh, who left in December after 13 years. She plans to work with her husband, Russ Pugh, at the Vineman Triathalon. Denny said that an organic shakeout occurred afterward, with several board longtime board members also offering up their seats to new members.  New board members include Elisa Pedersen of Moss Adams, Cheryl Cruz of Summit State Bank, Denny, Nina Ferrando of Mama Roux, Dan Lanahan of Carle Mackie Power & Ross, LLP, Orhan Sarabi of Fusion Fitness and Laurence Becker of Community Builders Group. Returning board members are board president Terri Moore of Sterling Savings Bank, Ursula Anderson of Hottie Dogs, Riley Benedetti of Willie Birds, Art Horner of Santa Rosa High School, Bob Maddigan of Pedersens Furniture, Ty Marestein of Mary’s Pizza Shack, Valerie Silva and Gianni Messmer of Round Robin, Chrome Lotus and Kettle Corn.
The deadline for vendor applications for the weekly summertime market, which runs from May through October, is March 11.

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35 thoughts on “New direction for Santa Rosa’s Wednesday Night Market

  1. Well, I like the posters!!! Waddya want, another ooozy vineyard scene
    or rolling green hills? Gimme a break. As for management, let’s see how
    “Janet from another Planet” does with this event…

  2. Why doesn’t the board review other markets in cities and why they are successful? As an example, San Luis Obispo has a great Thursday market. For such a great area we live in, county we cannot get it right when it comes to events like these and helping our down town thrive.

  3. Really hate the Downtown Market now as it’s just a “festival” similar to what goes on at the Sonoma Fairgrounds. The FARMERS there are fantastic, there are some local farmers mixed in & others that have incredible organic produce. But the loud noise from the bands, the greasy food trucks…..and the “posters” from this year look absolutely abyssmal.

    Personally I would like more emphasis on farmers, organic and locals, higher end food trucks, and artisan breads, artisan food people, and artists….but that’s just me.

  4. Well how are locals who wish to make it worth their time if you have to come up with $75 for a health permit, $12 for application and now up to $84/week and you are required to pay for 5 weeks in advance. If you do not do well you are still required to pay for the remainder of the event. $507 just to start the season as a food vendor

    Also if you look at point 7 section N “approval by the Market Manager of changes in menu or price, prior to change. ” where are we living that we need to get approval to change our retail prices on our own products?

  5. Wonder what Bernie Schwartz has to say about this. Last year he caused a whole lot of stink for lots of people downtown when the even SUGGESTED changes be made to the market.

    The people in charge should make sure they clear everything with him, or look out, he shut down any improvement on anything in downtown.

  6. Heh, I hate to say it but those posters *are* pretty horrible.

    I hope the new director can improve the market in both flow and what it has to offer. That was a great observation below that the current market puts the local businesses behind the action and makes walking a bit hazardous. Putting tents down the middle would come with its own set of problems though: Mainly that walking space is restricted as it is when it is crowded. It would be great if someone could design a layout that let people freely walk between the street and the sidewalks a little better to ease congestion and open up access to the businesses down there.

    I’d also really like to see a market where you could walk around with a glass of beer or wine. Lemonade is nice and all but, what is it, 5 or 6 bucks for a glass of lemonade when I could be walking around with a Pliny or Bodega Head or whatever? Beer and wine tend to open people’s pocketbooks as well. 🙂

    1. Vince, I gotta agree with you on the beer/wine. But I gotta disagree on the posters. I actually really like them. I’m kind of exhausted of the “wine country watercolor” you see on everything around here. I actually want a set to frame for my house. heh.

  7. I take some responsibility for the tenor of this conversation. There are actually four posters for the new market that are part of a series. I have added those three, and hope that the addition makes for a better understanding that this is not a “wine” event, but may have some tasting as a small component of the event. THat’s not yet set in stone.

    I also want to emphasize that the organizers do feel strongly that the event remain “family friendly”.

  8. I am sorry to see all of this whining going on before anything has happened. You all act real tough behind a keyboard. How’s this for an idea…..instead of crying about what hasn’t happened yet why not get more active in what’s going on. If what you read here stirs a reaction, then use that to do something other than sit on your butts and critique others who are actually doing something.

    You bunch of softies make me sad to be a part of this community.

    1. Still don’t get it! We aren’t “whining”. We are attempting to forestall another blown opportunity to do something right for a change. We aren’t “Crying about what hasn’t happened yet”. We are voiceing our displeasure at what HAS happened in the past and the absolute refusal to learn from it. If what we are doing is not working, what makes you think doing more of it will? “Oh gee, nobody wants to come downtown to patronize us because all we offer is over priced yuppie tourist food…Brainstorm! Let’s make the market even more like Disneyland ™ by adding fancy wine and more fru fru” Of course, that will keep the locals away, but all they want is good tasting, reasonably priced food sold by grateful entrapenures who actually thought the city would support their efforts, rather than sell out to the REAL “whiners” who don’t want competition. I too am “sorry” and “sad” over what has become of our comminity, not, however, for being a “part” of it. Now, I don’t know if that is being “tough behind a keyboard”, or even a “softie”. What I do know, Old Sport, is that when you ignore locals by catering to well heeled tourists during good times, it is being quite entitled to expect them to save you during difficult times when the tourists are busy staying home.

      1. Sooooo you choose to act behind your keyboard?

        I don’t expect everyone to jump up and go “Save the Market”, even before we really know what is going on. How about we get the facts before stomping our feet and holding our breathe. Who even said anythng about “ignoring the locals” here. The premise of the market is to create community through what is hopefully a cheerful gathering.

        Before I sign off on this I’d like to point out this:

        ” ”We want the market to get back to focusing on what makes Sonoma County great. We’re focusing on the community, good foods for all palate levels, wine, entertainment and music,” said downtown marketer and new board member Chris Denny.” “

  9. You have censered earlier posts that were less than enthusiastic and now you have more just like them. Doesn’t that tell you something? People are not just being critical. They are expressing real disappointmnet and unhappiness with the wine/food culture that prevails downtown. Events start out to be for the families that live here; then they morph into another opportunity to fleece the tourists with overpriced food and wine. A poster of a wine glass is the worst possible advertising for a family-oriented market. When the winos come to an event, they take over and change it. It becomes just another opportunity to push wine sales and people who live here stay home.

    1. It’s not censoring. I remove posts that incite hate, are off topic or generally don’t move the conversation forward. It’s my blog, and I make those calls.

  10. I agree with a lot of the comments here. “The vibe” is getting a bit frayed around the edges in Sonoma County. We need new and creative ideas to pushes us into the current culture. So many of the downtown restaurants are so out dated and boring. I think the market needs to focus more on people who grow the food and the artisans that create local products. I agree that the new poster is horrible. Really? It looks so 1985. Come on Sonoma County get with it. We need more young innovative artists, growers and chefs in this area. I hope the market can help pull them in, but it’s not looking promising.

    1. It is a little disheartening that the poster shows no food at all, when this is supposed to be a farmers market.

  11. Seems like some bad ideas to me. This has been a great community event for years – especially focusing on kid’s activities and the family. Bringing wine and big bands does not sound like a kid friendly, family event to me. Sounds like they are trying to create a totally new event – why change something that worked and the community loved??

  12. A poster with a wine glass? You must be kidding me. This is an example of sprucing up the image of the market? How utterly disappointing and lame.

    And tell me how can a new director ” bring a new caliber of artisan vendors to the event. ” Can she manufacture them by May 11? Are the current vendors not of a high enough caliber?

  13. There was no mention of children’s activities. Families with young children are a driving force for this event.

    Kudos to Tracey for a great job done over the years!

  14. So much for hiring local bands, if they’re going to go with the ‘name’ has-been acts they think will draw new visitors. Local bands can go in to local restaurants and have lunch while the tourists eat from food trucks on the sidewalk and listen to 5 guys who were never in the Doobie Brothers.

  15. Disappointing to hear all the naysaying before the thing even launches. Wow. I think we need a little healing, people. And, uh, can we stay on message? The Munch Monday thread is on another post. If you’re not a regular BiteClubber, read a few posts and respect the vibe here.

    1. Respect the vibe? How about we respect the citizens “vibe” ? Let me tell you, it ain’t “mellow”. We dont need Rodney Richpig and booteek wine snobs insisting that the “4th Sreet Mafia” control all “community activities”. Are you guys sure you ran this by La Vera, La Bufa and Mary INC? Can’t ignore the overpriced greasy tourist food lobby…Too big to fail? Don’t worry the fix is in. As Mary (who is spinning, by the way) used to say…”You need to stir it up a little bettah”.

  16. I was excited reading it, till I saw who the new director is! Her experience is with a terrible festival!!

    Lets hope this time they get it right.

    I do hope they layout back to back booths down the yellow line, thereby including the downtown stores, and also that line is a tripping hazard when your busy looking at people and fun stuff to buy instead of where you are going.

    1. Excellent point. Booths running down the middle, back to back with breaks every 6 or so booths make a lot of sense. And I’ve seen folks tripping on the center line bumps too.
      Thanks for bringing that up.

  17. They are missing the element if the focus is “What make Sonoma County great.” Where the arts? Artrail, Farmtrail.

  18. Would you belive that there are people in Sonoma County who do not worship wine! Hard to imagine, I know.

  19. lol @ wojamo

    This could go either way because the Bodega Seafood Art & Wine Festival is lameeeeeeee!!! I am excited that there will be some changes, because it is getting pretty stale.

  20. What a relief! I thought when you said “new direction,” it was going to say that the downtown farmers’ market has been kicked out of downtown because the restaurant owners pitched a fit! Phew!

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