Struggling Shawnee farmers market to undergo major changes this summer

The farmers market was previously a weekly Saturday morning activity, but it has underperformed with both low attendance and low vendor turnout. To try something different, city staff have proposed a pilot program called the Moonlight Market that will take place on the third Thursday of each month. Photo credit city of Shawnee.

Shawnee is planning to move its weekly farmers market to a monthly downtown event on Thursday evening.

The farmers market had been a weekly Saturday morning event, but it has underperformed with both low attendance and low vendor turnout, according to city officials.

To try something different, city staff have proposed a pilot program called the “Moonlight Market” that will take place on the third Thursday of each month.

The pilot program will launch this summer and run from May through September. Tentative hours are 4 to 8 p.m. every third Thursday of the month, although city leaders expressed interest in potentially expanding those hours later into the evening.

What a ‘Moonlight Market’ could look like

In a presentation to the Shawnee City Council during its committee meeting this week, Neighborhood Planner Lauren Grashoff said city staff would like to expand the farmers market to become a bigger downtown event.

The “Moonlight Market” is slated to involve the following:

  • Traditional produce vendors, along with arts and crafts vendors
  • Live music and entertainment
  • Inclusion of downtown businesses with their own activities and specials

The Shawnee City Council unanimously agreed to approve the “Moonlight Market” plan. The council will formally consider the plan at a future meeting.

Interest in allowing beer, wine sales

City leaders also expressed interest in incorporating children’s activities to make it more family friendly.

Some city leaders also broached the idea of allowing the sale and consumption of wine and beer at the monthly event.

“Our farmers market has underperformed for quite some time, so doing something different strikes me as the right thing to do,” said Councilmember Matt Zimmerman. “And I think the timing is going to be really good. We’re going to be coming out of the pandemic. I think people are going to be looking for something to do. The Moonlight Market just strikes my fancy.”

City leaders and staff acknowledged that enhancing the farmers market and offering other community events are considered “top priority” by residents.

The Shawnee Farmers’ Market dates back to 1988, according to city documents.

Grashoff said the “Moonlight Market” will have protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The city plans to review the program at the end of the year to see what worked and what didn’t.

During the monthly events, the city will keep the streets open, but closures could become necessary if the “Moonlight Market” grows in popularity.

Grashoff also said current farmers market vendors were open to these changes. The city may initially waive the $10 booth fees for vendors in order to boost interest.

Some city leaders also sounded interested in potentially keeping Saturday mornings open for the weekly market, if vendors want to keep coming back on weekends.