Some sidewalk vendors angry over expansion of farmers market

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Downtown Farmers Market will look a little different when it opens Saturday morning. Bigger crowds and more vendors have led organizers to expand the market, encompassing all of Pioneer Park.

But some sidewalk artists and vendors are not too happy about the changes. The vendors feel they're getting pushed out of the Farmers Market.

8th annual Downtown Farmers Market
Pioneer Park (300 South & 300 West)
Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., June 12-Oct. 18
Tuesday evenings Aug. 3-Oct. 14
250 food vendors
80 arts and crafts booths

The vendors say the south end of Pioneer Park used to be designated as "The Freedom Zone." There, sidewalk merchants could sell their wares, but that's not happening this year.

Photographer Deanna Thompson sold her artwork as a sidewalk vendor during last year's Downtown Farmers Market.

"I sell them framed, matted, in different sizes, photo cards," she said.

Thompson planned to sell again this year and spent months preparing. That was until she received a letter from the city a few weeks ago stating things were changing.

"When I received that letter, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!' At this late of a notice, there's impact here for me and the other vendors," Thompson said.

In past years, the vendors were not part of the Downtown Farmers Market but set up just outside the event. The letter Thompson received stated the market would be taking up the entire park including, the south end, forcing sidewalk vendors to move to areas outside the park.

"It was pretty clear that there was going to be a problem if we attempted to set up in that Freedom Zone," Thompson said. She said she and other sidewalk vendors feel they're being pushed out, but the Downtown Alliance says that's not the intent.

"We love sidewalk artists. We think they are great. They create great vibrancy downtown," said Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance.

Mathis says because of bigger crowds and more vendors, the fire marshal clamped down on city code.

"We've had to pretty significantly change the layout of the market to make sure we're complying with the fire marshal and the codes that the city has," Mathis said. "We've committed to doing that for this year, and also we're making room for the twilight concert series."

The Downtown Alliance and Salt Lake City government officials say the changes will overall improve the market. They say sidewalk vendors can set up their booths on streets around the park, such as 300 South and 300 West.

City officials will at Pioneer Park Saturday morning to help vendors find spots near the market.



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