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On March 23, the Hollister Downtown Association held a listening session during which the public and local businesses raised questions and voiced concerns about the annual Downtown Farmers’ Market, which opens for business on Wednesday, May 4.

BenitoLink spoke with HDA Executive Director Brenda Weatherly and Development Director Jeana Arnold regarding the changes they have made to address these concerns.

One of the concerns businesses mentioned was the how their bathrooms were being impacted by market attendees. The HDA has addressed this by ordering two more portables, for a total of four, which will be serviced weekly. 

Businesses also brought up their concern about not being able to receive deliveries during business hours due to the street closures required by the market. To solve this, the HDA will work with UPS drivers to move barricades to allow entrance and exits.

It was also noted that there was garbage left “all over the place” and in parking lots after each week’s event. To address this, the HDA is working to obtain 12 trash toters from Recology. They will be placed at entrance and exit points around the market footprint to encourage proper and convenient trash disposal. The parking lots will be surveyed by market volunteers looking for trash during and at the end of each market. 

One point was made that the market was preferred in its old location, on Fifth Street, but Weatherly said, “We can’t do that because we’ve outgrown that location.”

Weatherly said that in the 25-year history of the market, it has been in a variety of locations. “It started on Sixth Street then moved to the Rite Aid parking lot. None have been as successful as it has been on San Benito Street,” she said. 

With more than 100 vendors, the current location has been more visible and successful, resulting in an attendance of about 5,000 shoppers.

The layout this year is also changing, with food booths being split up in the market to allow for better traffic flow and to ease crowd congestion. The market layout will involve three blocks of street closures on San Benito Street, from Fourth Street in the north to Seventh Street in the south.

The HDA also heard comments about teenagers misbehaving in the Gavilan College Briggs Building parking garage and Mars Hill coffeehouse. The HDA will work with Police Chief David Westrick to have two officers patrol during the market.  However, if there is an emergency that requires them to leave the site, they must do so.

While some downtown businesses said they lose business on the days the farmers’ market takes place, the HDA believes that business is deferred to other days of the week and that it is not actually lost. The HDA continues to offer businesses the opportunity to be part of the market and to take advantage of the opportunity to promote their business.

While some said the market should be held on a different say, the HDA polled vendors last year on their availability and a quarter of them said they were not available on any other day than Wednesday. Three quarters of respondents said they were only available on Monday and none were available on Saturday or Sunday.

As people from the community as well as those from outside the area are enticed to come to downtown, some businesses said traffic congestion and parking is becoming a problem. Weatherly and Arnold agree that this is both a blessing and a curse. However, as the farmers’ market draws larger crowds every year, there is little they could do. They instead encourage people to view this as a blessing.

Weatherly and Arnold said they feel as though some businesses have built up some resentment and divisiveness when it comes to the market. They encourage people to come to the HDA with any issue and they will try to address it as best they can.

The farmers’ market, which is co-sponsored by the San Benito Health Foundation, will run Wednesdays from May 4-Sept. 28 from 3-7:30 p.m.

The HDA encourages residents and visitors to come out and enjoy an assortment of items from vendors selling fresh produce, prepared foods, flowers, organic and gluten-free selections, specialty baked goods, local olive oils and honey, sausages, barbecue and more. There are also handcrafted items, information booths, live entertainment and activities for children.