Confession time: I had never been to the Des Moines downtown Farmers’ Market until a few weeks ago. Before you clutch your heart and gasp, “No, that can’t be!” Hear me out. I’ve been less than 10 feet away from it almost every Saturday for 2 years … working.
I work at Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Company. Last year I worked our Farmers’ Market root beer cart (located in front of our restaurant) every other week, and often hosted during the intermittent Saturdays. This year I had my first Saturday morning off since I can remember. I immediately scheduled a date to the popular downtown affair.
This post includes a list of things I’ve found to be characteristic of the Farmers’ Market. Most of them I found unbelievably annoying when I was working. But hypocritically I quickly fell into the Farmers’ Market routine. Things I used to find odd or irritating suddenly seemed perfectly natural – with the exception of a few unforgiveable oddities.
1. People carrying their dogs
This was a common sight when I was working root beer. Is there an epidemic rendering dogs’ legs paralyzed? I didn’t understand why the people in the crowd were clutching their dogs like they were new Louis Vuitton purses.
When I was shuffling slowly through the congested streets I realized why people tote their puppies along. There is so much to see at the Farmers’ Market, no one is paying attention to puppies who might be unknowingly scurrying under moving feet. I can now appreciate this protective measure.
I remember last year I saw a couple who pushed their dogs around in strollers converted to doggy thrones with plush cushions. Dogs are the one thing spoiled more than only children. Despite the fact that I can now cross Farmers’ Market off my bucketlist, I still give mobile canine thrones a judgmental single-eyebrow raise. But perhaps by the next Farmers’ Market I’ll gain a better appreciation for this strange ritual.
2. Dogs dressed up
Don’t worry, this whole post isn’t dog themed. But if you’ve ever been to the Des Moines Farmers’ Market you would understand. Skirts, dresses, sweaters … there is no end to the modish Maltese. This not only still seems a little extravagant –it’s 100 degrees and these poor pups are already donning fur coats – but it’s a little embarrassing for me. These dogs are dressed better than I am.
3. Free samples
As a cheap college student, I can’t get enough of them. As a former Farmers’ Market vendor, I loathe them. Some stands are kind enough to present free samples for swiping as people meander by. But I’ve experienced my fair share of people fishing for free samples, when none are being openly offered, with no intention to buy. And for those of you who partake, just own up to it. You’re not fooling anyone with your Z-list acting – “Oh that is good … maybe I’ll come back and buy some,” you say as you shamelessly disappear into the crowd.
4. Horrible parking
If parking was seriously enforced during the Farmers’ Market, Des Moines would have millions of parking ticket dollars every weekend. As far as I can tell, the unwritten rule is this: any open patch is fair game, whether it’s grass, gravel, a private lot, or sits next to a clear “NO PARKING ANYTIME,” sign. People are so desperate to get out there to eat crab Rangoon and get sun burnt, they will park anywhere.
I understand the anxious appeal now. But there is something I still don’t understand. I usually park in the 3rd street parking garage. But over the course of 2 years I’ve parked in almost every parking garage downtown during the Farmers’ Market.
Whenever I drive through these garages there are handfuls of cars parked over those helpful, guiding yellow lines. This causes every car in the long line awaiting a spot to pause, hoping the break in parked cars is an available spot, only to find that some selfish Chevrolet is taking up 2 spots because he/she couldn’t take the extra 15 seconds to readjust the car.
What really baffles me about this is that these appalling parkers probably experienced the same desperation and know the satisfaction of finally finding a place to park, only to steal the hope from all other fellow parkers. They leave the rest of us to wander lots like thirsty men wandering the dessert, seeing an oasis again and again, only to find it’s a mirage.
5. Slow walkers
Once I find a parking spot it takes me another 10 minutes to walk 1 block to the brew pub. There’s no hustling in the bustle of the Farmers’ Market. It’s like Court Avenue is caught in a time warp that slows everyone down. It’s surprising the crowds don’t end up in a complete standstill. Everyone is packed in so tightly, they might as well form a conga line and tour the market that way.
After seeing the abundance of sights that pack the streets, not to mention the smells and sounds that need to be equally appreciated – pastries, breakfast sandwiches, vendors shouting out witty “come hithers” – I understand why people have to walk slowly to take everything in.
6. Friendly faces
Everyone who is a part of the Farmers’ Market – vendors and buyers – are unbelievably nice, despite their oncoming heat stroke and blistering sunburns. Strangers chit chat. Everyone is in a good mood. It will leave you with a smile for the rest of the day and good memories for the rest of the week until the next Farmers’ Market.
7. The $nack$
A charismatic duo who play covers every Saturday on the patio of Mickey’s Irish Pub. This goofy band kept me from going insane through multiple exploding kegs, which left me with countless root beer-stained ensembles, and endless heat with their fun song renditions and upbeat set lists. My personal favorite: Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It.”
Even though I used to despise some of these qualities when I worked the Farmers’ Market, they became part of my routine as an attendee. I meandered, I picked at free samples with no intention to buy the product, I bantered with vendors, and parked on a lawn that had no signs prohibiting it. I’m sure my car wasn’t normally welcome. But like everything else on a bright Saturday morning in downtown Des Moines, it welcomed me.