Parker Farmers’ Market deals in fresh food and fresh air

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One Sunday morning trip to downtown Parker is enough to show why families have turned regular visits into a summer-long ritual.

The town’s most recognized corridor — the section of Mainstreet east of South Parker Road — is the idyllic venue for the Parker Farmers’ Market, which this year has a record 80 vendors. Booths stacked with fresh breads, jars of exotic jellies, just-picked veggies, locally grown produce and other wares line Mainstreet between Pikes Peak Drive and the eastern end of Victorian Drive.

The farmers’ market is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Sunday from Mother’s Day through October. Although it has changed locations over the years, market organizers seem to have found a permanent home on Mainstreet. It was only six years ago that 40 vendors were forced to squeeze into a small church parking lot. Extra space has increased visibility and made the market more accessible.

The crowd is a mix of young families, empty-nesters and retirees, all of whom enjoy the vast selection of natural foods and friendly chatter with the vendors. Many of the booth-minders have personally overseen the crops, or, in the case of Boulder-based Wild Alaska Salmon, pulled the product from the sea.

“The fisherman was there himself selling the salmon,” said Jason Williams, who purchased the Parker Farmers’ Market with his wife, Jillane, back in April. “It’s things like that that we want at the market.”

Williams said he has every intention of maintaining the charm of the market and sensibly building on its 13-year tradition.

That’s good news for people like Kayte Quinn, a married mother of a 13-month-old. She lives in the nearby Town & Country Townhomes and has become a frequent customer at the Parker Farmers’ Market.

“I like having all of the vendors in one place, and they’re mostly local vendors who always have fresh fruit and produce,” Quinn said. “Since we have a child now, we’re trying to get more organic, locally grown food.”

The market attracts an estimated 4,000 to 7,000 people each week, said Nanci Simmons, who owned and expanded the market in recent years and has stayed on as a consultant. Even after rattling off some of the goods that can be found — peaches, crafts, salsa, pickles, jalapenos, pastries, cakes, pies, cobblers — Simmons still marvels at the market’s popularity.

“It blows my mind how crazy busy it is,” she said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Organizers recently worked with town leaders and fire department officials to get approval to widen a narrow, congested section on the east end of the market. The change received an overwhelmingly positive response.

“I struggled to get through there with a stroller,” Quinn said. “We would have to skip over some booths. When it opened up, we got a chance to visit more vendors.”

The most important booth to stop by, at least for Quinn’s daughter, is the one run by Great Harvest Bread Co. The 13-month-old happily devours the freshly baked bread. Quinn and her husband are also fans of the dairy products containing goat’s milk, as well as the vendor with preservative-free jalapeno jelly.

The variety of fresh food is the biggest attraction, but a leisurely outdoor stroll in downtown Parker adds an element of fun.

“It’s a fantastic community event that has a little bit of something for everybody,” Williams said. “If you have kids or don’t have kids, it’s a great way to spend a Sunday morning. There is so much to do and see.”

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