After a one-year hiatus and rebranding campaign, Merced's farmers market is making a comeback.
Just don't call it that.
Summerfest is its new name.
The festival kicks off at 5 tonight and runs to 8 p.m. It will feature artisans, local produce, music, booths and bounce houses.
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Main Street will be closed from K to M streets, as well as on Canal Street from Main to 18th streets.
Beyond simply creating a place for families to buy fresh vegetables and hand-made crafts, Summerfest is one component of the city's effort to revitalize downtown Merced.
City leaders, with the support of the Merced Downtown Association, halted the farmers market after summer 2007 so it could be retooled.
The event had begun to resemble more of a flea market with people hawking inappropriate and low-quality merchandise.
Most shop owners told the city's downtown task force that they believed the event hurt their business. The police also had to commit several officers to keep the event safe.
Summerfest, city leaders hope, will avoid the pitfalls that plagued the farmers market.
There are more restrictions on who can have a booth, and backers hope the turnout mirrors the Cap & Town festival.
"We're trying to make it family oriented," redevelopment technician Josh Ewen said, noting that on some Thursdays the festival will have themes, such as health and wellness, Merced culture and cars.
Tami Davidson, who owns Diva Accessories and serves on the downtown steering committee, said the event will help boost business in the difficult economy.
"People are definitely ready to come downtown and check it out," she said. "It's good when you can create some more revenue on a Thursday night and get new customers."
Improving the festival was among the goals in the five-year downtown strategy, which tries to create a better ambience, add more housing and make the area a destination for arts, dining and entertainment.
Specific recommendations included: adding lighting by the end of this year; building at least 300 housing units by 2012; and establishing the mid-town neighborhood, with its historic character, as a premier district by 2011.
The plan also includes revitalizing key downtown areas, such as Hotel Tioga and the block of Martin Luther King Jr. Way, between 16th and Main streets.
Reporter Scott Jason can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.