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St. Pete's Saturday Morning Market

By Jessica Metcalf

Looking for something to do this weekend? Head over to the Saturday Morning Market in St. Pete for great food, interesting crafts, and lively music that you won't find at any other local market. Now in its thirteenth season, the Saturday Morning Market began in 2002 and has been drawing customers from across the state ever since.

When it comes to making visitors feel connected to the creative community that is St. Pete, the Saturday Morning Market has it down. "There are three key factors that are at the core of how we have done it," says Mark Johnson, Market Director. "One, we put a great band right in the middle of the market. This is very uncommon in Markets. We choose our music very carefully. Two, we have three times as much seating space as in any Market we know of in the US. Three, we have a very strong variety (fifteen different nationalities/styles) of ready-to-eat food."

These factors encourage returning patrons to come hungry in order to enjoy the great food, and to expect great music, and social interaction. "People often tell us that coming to Market is the highlight of their week," remarks Johnson. "We even have people tell us they have chosen to move to St Petersburg specifically because of the quality of the market, and the sense of community they feel there."

Customers aren't the only ones enjoying the sense of community built into the Market's operation. Johnson explains, "We have built a great sense of community among our vendors. They all report that they feel a sense of support among each other that doesn't exist at any other place they vend. So before the first customer walks into the Market in the morning, a great sense of community exists in what was an empty parking lot just several hours before."

The vendor selection process is competitive. "We've always been extremely careful in selecting our vendors, having declined over 1000 vendor applicants in our history," boasts Johnson. Currently, 180 vendors have made the cut, rotating through the 135 available slots throughout the year.

As a result of this careful hand-selection of vendors, the Saturday Morning Market has been awarded a 'Certificate of Excellence' award for the last 2 years from TripAdvisor, which is based on the strength of the ratings that customers have given us. It has also won the 'Best Farmers Market' award in Creative Loafing's annual reader survey for all five years that the award has been given.

You can visit the Saturday Morning Market in one of two locations, dependent on the time of year. From early October to late May, the Market can be found in the Al Lang Field parking lot from 9am-2pm. During the hotter seasons, the Market changes venues for shade purposes. From June to August, the Market takes place from 9am-1pm in the Williams Park. Find out for yourself why the Saturday Morning Market has been called the 'Heart of Saint Petersburg," by visiting this weekend.

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J.L. Metcalf has a Bachelor's degree in English from Rhode Island College. She has...

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