Santa Rosa’s famous Wednesday Night Market is back in full-effect, for all of our eating, dancing, shopping (hold on, have to take a breath…), listening, spending and viewing pleasure!

IMG_1183 (1)While Santa Rosa boasts a healthy number of great neighborhood Farmer’s Markets, this one in particular brings Santa Rosa together as a whole, with members of each and every neighborhood making their way downtown to Fourth Street for the festivities. Spanning three-plus long blocks, the Wednesday Night Market feels like part traditional Farmer’s Market, part miniature Sonoma County Fair, part community building and education forum. Peppered among all of the food vendors (we’ll get there, don’t worry), you’ll find a mind-boggling amount of things to learn and see. Such as:

IMG_1241Art – Just one example is from artist Clay Vajgrt, who paints superheroes and villains in meditation pose; he calls them SuperMonks. His booth is a-bustle with people loving all up on his unique concept and artistic take on everyone’s favorite fantasy world.

IMG_1244Also not to be missed are the creative uses of small plants as fun decor. Tiny succulents planted in an otherwise questionable reminder of the night before, i.e. wine corks? Yes please! And air plants hanging from cool shells? Adorable. I do love repurposing things, and there were not one, but two artists selling their recycled clothing designs, too.

IMG_1196Kid Stuff – The Wednesday Night Market blocks off half of D Street just for the kiddos, offering two great big jumpy houses, crafts, and the ever present “Clown Making Balloon Animals”. There are also items throughout the market for your kids to beg you for, such as one booth selling all of the random shiny plastic-packed bits and baubles and bubbles any sugar-fueled kid could dream of.

IMG_1192Maybe better than all of those things, however, is the Kid’s Chess area. Open to all ages, this is a long row of pre-set chess boards, inviting any and all levels of chess players to sit down and play with friends, neighbors or strangers. Several walk-by’s showed each board filled many times over. Brain power for the win!

IMG_1229Music – Whichever end of the market you start at, you’re going to find some live music. From the main stage on one end featuring a local band and room to dance, to the street stage at the other with a rotation of musical options throughout the evening – from classical to blues just while I was there. About halfway between the two on Fourth Street was a lone violinist, just to keep things classy.

IMG_1232Beer and Wine – let’s face it, getting through swarming crowds of people sometimes calls for an adult beverage. Or is that just me? Anyhoo…I’m going to help you out and just tell you right now where to find said adult beverages: on the north end of E Street. Local beer and wine vendors set up shop so you can taste around before deciding what you may want more of. Bring your ID and be prepared to take home a commemorative tasting glass, which you’ll be purchasing in order to get said tastes.

IMG_1218Okay, okay…Food – If you just want to grab some fresh produce and run without taking advantage of everything else the Market has to offer, no problem. If you’re still at the ‘bar’ on E Street, just walk south and prepare to be dazzled by the gorgeous cherries, the early tomatoes, the greens upon greens, and the easy-going, relaxed pace of that end of the Market. It’s a welcome breather from the hubbub happening within the rest of the event, and the samples are worth the cruise-around alone. Be sure to buy some of these delicious, locally-grown treats from your friendly hardworking farmer, though. Don’t just eat the free snacks. Buy a peach to offset that giant turkey leg you know you’re about to go tackle, you’ll thank me for the suggestion later.

IMG_1207Speaking of turkey legs – Willie Birds might be the most popular option at the Market. Giant turkey legs redolent of the caveman-times are expertly grilled by the dozens upon dozens and served up wrapped in a no-frills aluminum wrapper. If I were a person who ate things involving bones I would buy two and just run around pretending I was a warrior woman from Paleolithic times, because that just seems like it would be amazingly fun. Also, turkey is delicious.

IMG_1188Add to that Thai, Indian, Italian, paella, Sushi Burritos (yes, it’s a thing!), oysters, crab, hummus, sausages, yummy vegan and vegetarian things, BBQ, hot dogs, churros, chocolates, cakes, cookies, and so, so much more. Seriously. SO MUCH MORE!

IMG_1186Finally, though, perhaps the coolest element of the Wednesday Night Market (for me), were the community and education booths. I saw people learning about energy efficiency, recycling and water management among the voter registration booths, LGBTQ awareness tent, Latino-culture information, free bicycle valet services, Veteran’s Resource Center, the North Bay Herpetological Society table with live critters (eeeee!) and tons of other resources for education and information.

IMG_1238Give yourselves a solid couple of hours to spend wandering through the Market to see all that it has to offer, then tell us…what was YOUR favorite part?

Wednesday Night Market runs from May 4th to August 17th, 5:00 to 8:30PM on Fourth Street in downtown Santa Rosa. Get all the info at WednesdayNightMarket.org.