Meander the Boardwalk on Saturday Mornings in Arnold’s Park. Summer at the Iowa Great Lakes is filled with excitement, activity, and families. Farmers Market in the Park is no different, as the Saturday community-based event is a haven for people looking to spend several hours browsing for a niche product along the beautiful shores of West Lake Okoboji.

Farmers Market in the Park is beginning its second year, and is one of very few inland farmer’s markets in the United States where a visitor can arrive by water. People can bike, boat, walk, or drive to spend time listening to live music, enjoying yoga on the Arnold’s Park Pier or finding a unique product from a local vendor.

“We are primarily a Farmer’s Market, but have really focused on being a community-based event, which is different than other Farmer’s Markets. We have products from scratch, made or grown by vendors themselves, produce, live music, and kids’ activities from local organizations,” said Krissy Thiessen, President of the Farmers Market in the Park and co-owner of Cherry Lane Farm, LLC. “Local businesses have the opportunity to host and sponsor the market, which is a fun way to get them involved.”

How the Market Began
Farmers Market in the Park began in 2018, after several community members had a desire to provide another avenue for the area to gather, whether for vendors or families. In the fall of 2018 plans went underway, with the help of board members Krissy Thiessen, Tracy Evans, Dalton Kidd, Amanda Shaffer, and Tresa Hussong. The board met with Arnold’s Park Amusement Park administration and began to put together plans for a large weekly event held every Saturday.

Many of the plans came from experiences Krissy and her husband Calvin had encountered at expos and markets from around the country.

“With our farm, we participate in a lot of different farms and expos and thought our area had the space to offer another market in conjunction with other markets going on,” she said. “Last year, we found different clientele came, and many people and vendors visited or used both markets in our area. We are just excited to provide more ways for people to find healthy, local food options.”

Buying Local
In 2019, Farmers Market in the Park had 25 vendors. In 2020, they will have over 40 vendors coming throughout the summer. Many of them are locals, with others coming from Sioux Falls, Sioux City, and Minnesota to sell their niche product. The Farmers Market Committee didn’t want to exclude anyone who had a unique product not already found locally.

This year, there will be more produce vendors. Booths will be filled with quite a few day vendors rotating in and out each week with specialty products like watermelon, sweet corn, food items, craftsmanship items, and more. There will be meat vendors, spices and rubs, as well as Mexican Sweet Corn or Pork Chop on a Stick. Megan and Company is returning with their teas and visitors can purchase a yummy Acai bowl to enjoy while browsing the available options.

“We really focused on the food side, as we found people wanted different options,” Krissy added.

One vendor will showcase Aromatherapy soaps, lotions, bath bombs, and candles. Others will offer bird houses, jewelry, metal works, Okoboji photography, or coasters. There will also be a kombucha vendor. Arnold’s Park Amusement Park will have several stands open and the nearby stores are also open for business.

Cherry Lane Farm, LLC will be bringing their favorite microgreens and lettuce mixes—highlights for many locals in the area. They also sell radishes, beets and other herbs, with all of the produce being grown at their local farm.

“I love the idea of buying local. We really need to support our local growers and craftsman. It’s also a great way for entrepreneurs to kick-start a business, and we love encouraging that as well,” Krissy said. “Plus, it’s great for the consumer to put a face on a product.”

The Nature Center, Treasure Village, Camp Foster and Bedell YMCA, and KinderMusik will all be there throughout the summer, providing children’s activities. The Dickinson County Humane Society will bring kittens and dogs to pet, and Arnold’s Park Library will host story time at the Park. One week, the author of “The Adventures of Bob” will be hosting a story time with her special Baja Blue Chihuahua, who was rescued five years ago and lives in Colorado.

“We’re really excited for who’s coming; we feel like it's a good mix this year,” Krissy said. “Farmers Market has such a good vibe with the live music, and it being family-oriented and something there for everyone.”

Take Time to Enjoy
Many people will walk the loop and check everything out before making purchases. Visitors take their time, enjoying a breakfast burrito or an Acai Bowl. Krissy said they will go back through and then make their purchases, often bringing coolers to hold their produce. Others will run in to get what they need and head back out for the day.

“Of all of the markets and expos I’ve been too, we picked the favorite parts of them and brought them to Arnold’s Park,” she said. “Many love the big city feel but small-town charm of the market.”

Last year, there was only one market day that was cut short due to extreme weather. Right now, the market is a “rain or shine” event. Krissy said they are working on a contingency plan to move inside but at this point, plan on bringing the umbrella if there’s a light rain.

This summer, make sure to take a Saturday morning and walk the loop. Take your time enjoying the fresh air and blue waters of West Lake Okoboji. Let the kids get their face painted by Treasure Village or bring your yoga mat for a class with The Studio Yoga and Barre. Savor the moments together.

Farmers Market in the Park will be open every Saturday Memorial Day through September, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For questions, visit farmersmarketinthepark.com, their Facebook page or contact kristine.e.thiessen@gmail.com.