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Sparks farmers’ market marks 20 years with new producers
by Tribune Staff
Apr 07, 2012 | 1671 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SPARKS — Shirley’s Farmers’ Markets and John Ascuaga’s Nugget have partnered to produce the Whole Foods Sparks Farmers’ Market on Victorian Square, which opens June 7. The new partners say they are aiming to bring back the “family friendly atmosphere and farmer focus” for the 20th anniversary of the market. The Sparks farmers’ market will run every Thursday through Aug. 23, except Aug. 9 due to Hot August Nights. The season has been extended to 11 weeks this year, longer than the past few years. The market will also open an hour earlier, running from 3 to 8 p.m.

Last year was the first time the market had a title sponsor, with Whole Foods forking out $7,000 for the branding. The market took on a new physical shape in 2011, moving to the newly constructed Sparks Victorian Square Plaza area in front of the Century Sparks 14 movie theater after spending many years lining Victorian Avenue from 15th Street to Pyramid Highway. Some city officials said the move was to put a damper on alcohol-related rowdiness that often accompanied the farmers’ market.

“We wanted to return to a true farmers’ market feel and we felt like that setting would help us accomplish that,” Greg von Schottenstein, special events supervisor for the city of Sparks, said last year about the change.

The change also meant creating a large geographical gap — a “no-alcohol” zone along the vacant Silver Club to the movie theater — between the market vendors and the bars and restaurants that have traditionally piggybacked on farmers’ market. In response, the bars and restaurants formed their own Thursday night events to attract patrons. However, restaurant and bar owners reported at the end of summer 2011 that their business suffered because of the separation.

“Financially, it was not very good for us,” Jonathan Chapin, co-owner of The Alley, said at the end of last summer.

A highlight of the 2012 market will be a new gourmet food truck court with food trucks from the area. The market will also feature an expanded food area. The Thursday food truck gathering will precede the new Friday food truck night that started this week in Reno.

“We want to encourage visitors to enjoy a meal at the market or find products they can take home for an easy summer dinner,” said Shirley Sponsler, president of Shirley’s Farmers’ Markets.  “We want to put a focus back into it that’s geared toward farmers and food.”

The city of Sparks reached out to the Nugget and Shirley Sponsler to produce the event earlier this year.

“It has always been a great event for Victorian Square and Sparks,” said Beth Cooney, executive director of marketing at John Ascuaga’s Nugget. “We hope to re-create the family and community atmosphere of the event’s earlier days.”

Sponsler was the producer of the original market in 1992 and has worked with the city of Sparks on the event ever since.  She noted that the Nugget was instrumental in getting the farmers’ market started 20 years ago. Stephen Ascuaga was a member of the organizational committee.

The Sparks farmers’ market contributes to the local economy by not only introducing new business and products to the region, but also by creating local summer jobs. Sponsler said she plans to employ more than 30 people this summer.
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