By Bill O’Boyle, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — Music, milkshakes and fresh produce will mark the beginning of the 44th annual Farmers Market Thursday on Public Square.
Mayor Tony George will open the festivities at 10 a.m. and the market will be open every Thursday through Nov. 16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The national anthem will be performed by John Shemo, of Geisinger Health Plan.
One of Thursday’s features will be free milkshakes between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., courtesy of the PA Dairymen and the American Dairy Association North East, along with help from the Commission on Economic Opportunity’s Weinberg Food Bank.
This event is an effort to raise awareness for the statewide “Fill a Glass with Hope” campaign, which helps CEO purchase milk to distribute to those in need. Milk is one of the most requested items from the food bank and food pantries across the state and this program is vital to ensure that those in need have access to it.
The mayor said the annual Farmers Market brings people to the downtown and gives just a taste of what Wilkes-Barre has to offer.
“Not many communities have a weekly Farmers Market, especially one that brings fresh fruit and vegetables, a variety of lunch options, entertainment, and activities for residents of all ages, to a central location,” George said.
The mayor said the Farmers Market is accessible to residents and visitors alike, including more than 11,000 downtown workers during their lunch hour and older residents who can redeem their Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) checks.
“Wilkes-Barre is honored to host this annual event, along with our other holiday and community events throughout the year,” George said. “Too often, the news concentrates on the negatives instead of the positive attributes and activities which the city has to offer. Annual events, such as the Farmers Market, showcase the city’s dedication to serving all of our residents.”
The mayor is expected to make an announcement regarding when the Monday Farmers Market will begin.
Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership, said it’s difficult to overstate the importance of the Farmers Market to the downtown’s identity.
“That’s true for a number of different reasons,” Newman said.
First, Newman said the Farmers Market brings people downtown. He said it’s an enormously popular weekly event: 31 percent of all the respondents to his organization’s most recent survey showed that people “regularly” patronize Farmers Market, with another 39 percent saying that they “occasionally” patronize the Market.
“What that means, of course, is that market days are always among downtown’s busiest, which means more foot traffic and more customers throughout downtown,” Newman said.
Second, Newman said the Farmers Market reconnects the city to its origins as a marketplace — which is the fundamental role of any city.
“The first market hall was built on Public Square in 1812,” Newman said. “Remarkably, here we are 205 years later, and Wilkes-Barre’s residents are still buying their fresh produce from local farmers in the same location.”
Lastly, Newman said downtown is simply a more festive place on market days.
“You’ve got residents, workers and shoppers from throughout the Wyoming Valley heading to the Square to meet friends, shop for food at the market stalls, grab lunch, listen to music and watch all the people go by,” Newman said. “I know that for many folks, Farmers Market is a big part of what makes downtown Wilkes-Barre special.”
Children’s Day July 27
• Families will receive Child Safety Information from Wilkes-Barre City Police Department, Fire Department and Health Department.
• The Luzerne County Reading Council will promote local literacy programs.
• There will be photo opportunities with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ mascot “Tux” and Dunkin’ Donuts’ mascot, “Cuppy”.
• Wilkes-Barre’s 2017 Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Kelly Grevera and Princess Alyson Lenker will also be in attendance.
Luzerne County Active Aging Day Sept. 28
• Seniors will receive valuable information from the Wilkes-Barre City Health Department and the Area Agency on Aging.