Farmers, merchants team up downtown

BUSINESS --Owners back market request to block off a downtown street on Wednesdays
by: photo by Chase Allgood,

Organizers of the Forest Grove Farmers Market, with the backing of local merchants, have asked city officials to block off a section of 21st Avenue each Wednesday afternoon for their food, craft and activity booths.

The weekly market, now in its second year, currently is set up on the parking lot of the 19th Avenue Plaza, wedged between Horton's Office Supplies and Tupper's Home Furnishings. The market will need to move, at least temporarily, next month during Tupper's annual tent sale.

While market organizers were pondering a location, a group of downtown merchants was discussing how to bring more people to its monthly First Friday activities, which typically include artist demonstrations, wine tasting and live music.

The two groups came up with a proposal, which was sent to City Manager Michael Sykes last week.

'For the past two weeks members of both groups have been discussing the possibility of combining their events,' the letter states, 'moving the (weekly) market downtown and coordinating efforts once a month to create a 'First Wednesday' event that would encourage market patrons to check out activities at the local shops … while steering store customers over to the market.'

The letter was signed by Bridget Cooke, executive director of Adelante Mujeres, the nonprofit group that organizes the market; Brian Wilbur, past president of the Forest Grove Chamber of Commerce; Michael Moore, president of Forest Grove City Club and Dana Gore and Kristen Ling, two of the most active merchants in the First Friday promotions.

They requested that the city block off 21st Avenue between Main Street and College Way each Wednesday from 2-9 p.m. during the months when the market is in operation.

Sykes said he's asked the city's public works director and police chief to look at the request and get back to him by this Wednesday.

'I don't see any problem with it,' Sykes said, 'But I want to make sure my staff has a chance to look at it.'

Cooke said she and chamber representatives have talked to property owners along the block and found them supportive. In fact, she said, the Forest Grove United Church of Christ, which sits on the south side of the block, seems willing to allow its plaza to be used for some market activities.

Cooke is hoping the city acts quickly. She needs to find a new spot by July 12, and would prefer to move to the new location on July 5.

Downtown merchants said they will skip the First Friday activities in July to line up some special events for the first Wednesday in August.