Historic downtown Fort Dodge is the place to be each summer when the Market on Central comes to town.
"We average 8,000 visitors each Saturday that the Market is held," said Cheryl O'Hern, who chairs the Market on Central committee. "In 2012, these activities generated $1.6 million of tourism dollars in the community."
Ambassadors greet visitors at entrance points along Central Avenue and hand out flyers showcasing the events and vendors at the Market, which has been held on the second and fourth Saturdays each month from June through September since 2011. Visitors can enjoy different activities and entertainment while they browse the vendors' booths.
A majority of items sold at the Market are Iowa-made, and vendors come from across the state to sell fresh produce, wooden barn quilts, wine, meats (including beef, pork, goat), cheese, jams and jellies, honey, breads, Amish breads and baked goods, kringla, popcorn, gourmet chocolates, eggs, artwork, unique homemade items, quilts, jewelry, pottery and more.
Vendors also serve breakfast and lunch, O'Hern said. "Our motto is 'Come for breakfast, stay for lunch, take home dinner.'"
Market is a business incubator
Some of the vendors have built such a strong following that they have been able to open a new business downtown, including Renae Grogan-Hulsebus, who is fondly known as the Cheesecake Lady. "The Market offers a low-overhead way for entrepreneurs to network with others and see what customers are looking for before they take the big step of opening a storefront," O'Hern said.
Success stories like the Cheesecake Lady highlight the economic development value of the Market, which is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., O'Hern said. The Market, which is guided by a volunteer committee, also reflects the positive impact of the downtown Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District (SSMID).
"This is the perfect example of a public-private partnership that's revitalizing our historic downtown," O'Hern said. "State legislation provides this 'self-help' approach to the development and improvement of business neighborhoods. Fort Dodge's SSMID encourages a higher level of local initiative for dealing with local challenges, and it helps to maintain local control toward future municipal betterment."
The downtown SSMID is in place for 10 years and has been renewed three times since its establishment, O'Hern said.
"Downtown areas are perceived as indicators of community health, both by residents and non-residents. We're glad that the SSMID is working in conjunction with the Market to enhance the city's core."
Downtown tells a compelling story
The Market' s popularity has encouraged community groups to coordinate their annual events with the Market. For example, Fort Dodge's annual 5K/10K Apple Fest run/walk sponsored by the Fort Dodge Noon and Daybreak Rotary Clubs has been scheduled to coincide with the Market on Sept. 28 of 2013.
"Downtown areas tell a compelling story about the advantages of doing business downtown and are indicators of the potential growth and development of the community," O'Hern said. "The Market on Central offers a tremendous way to help our community grow and thrive."
Upcoming Market on Central dates include July 13, July 27, Aug. 10, Aug. 24, Sept. 14 and Sept. 28. For more information, log onto www.fdmarketoncentral.com.