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. http://www.srdowntownmarket.com/