Hoopla

Market After Dark returns Saturday, here's what to expect

James Year/Freelance

Festive lights illuminating the 2018 Market After Dark will be back for the fifth annual event Saturday night (8/24), bringing food, music, festivities and more than 100 vendors to downtown Cedar Rapids.
James Year/Freelance Festive lights illuminating the 2018 Market After Dark will be back for the fifth annual event Saturday night (8/24), bringing food, music, festivities and more than 100 vendors to downtown Cedar Rapids.
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It’s Year Five for the Market After Dark, which last year lured 40,000 people to downtown Cedar Rapids.

Festivities run from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday (8/24), and admission is free to shop for food and handcrafted items from more than 100 vendors, while enjoying the music, street performers and lighted attractions.

While many activities are family friendly, the nighttime market is geared more toward adults, said Jenn Draper, events planner for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, which stages the popular summer scene. Even the face painting will feature designs adults will enjoy sporting, like henna and flowers. And unlike the daytime farmers markets, only service animals will be allowed at Market After Dark.

The footprint is First Avenue to Fourth Avenue, and First Street to Sixth Street SE, with entrances along First and Fifth avenues, but no activities there.

“You can enter anywhere you find a space,” Draper said. Designated entrances, however, have an ATM, ID station and beverage tents.

One of the most notable differences in this year’s footprint is the lack of activities on Third Street, which has been closed for construction. So the main stage is moving over a block, to Fourth Avenue between Waypoint and the Banjo block, just a short hop from the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Local band City Park will open at 6:40 p.m., with a blend of roots, blues, rock and alt-country, followed by the Diamond Empire Band from Des Moines, featuring a rockin’ soul sound fueled by horns.

“This is a true party band,” Draper said. “People are going to be dancing in the street.”

She expects the audience to stretch down Fourth Avenue, and it’s standing room only.

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“We ask that people not bring in their chairs. It just adds to a lot of congestion in the intersection,” Draper said. “We’ve made some adjustments to spacing — so that allows for a little more breathing room there.”

Other new attractions include a lighted Balloon Garden and a non-heated bonfire made out of LED candles in Greene Square, along with a giant Lite Brite and yard games in the park. Across the tracks will be an illuminated “Wild at Heart” mural visible after dark. A Bubble Alley is coming to Towne Center Plaza, featuring bubble machines, lights and music.

An oasis from the hustle and bustle is popping up in the space near Cobble Hill, featuring an electric cellist, 40 Adirondack chairs in group settings and lighted globes.

“That will be a great place to get away from the crowd,” Draper said.

The ability to walk among the market with souvenir cups of beer, wine and hard cider is a popular returning feature open to patrons ages 21 and over, with a wristband. Cost is $6 for the designated market cup, and $5 for refills from the beverage tents or participating restaurants and bars inside the market footprint. Draper warned that anyone crossing the lines with an open container could be cited by police.

Speaking of closing, streets will close to traffic at noon Saturday and reopen at 1 a.m. Sunday. Event parking is free along the streets outside the venue, and $5 in the nearby ramps, valid until 10 a.m. Sunday.

It’s takes a small army of staff and volunteers to set up, take down and clean up the area.

“We’re really excited to have the highest number of volunteers this year,” Draper said. “By the end of night, we’ll have 120 to 150 individual volunteers, in addition to a ton of assistance leading up.” And for the Alliance staff of 26, it’s all hands on deck, she added.

“Trash Champions” will be emptying trash cans all night long, and a second cleanup crew will come in from 10:30 p.m. to midnight.

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The event has evolved over the years, doubling the number of vendors and patrons from 2015, when organizers planned for 14,000 and had between 24,000 and 28,000 show up. That first year was crowded with wall-to-wall people and vendors on both sides of the street. Foot traffic has improved by enlarging the venue and keeping vendors on just one side of the street, Draper said.

They’ve also learned what people like, and have increased the number of vendors offering prepared food in addition to the produce and cash-and-carry items popular at the daytime farmers markets, with many vendors tweaking their offerings to cater to the evening crowd.

“I think people will be pleasantly surprised by all of those options,” Draper said.

Get Out!

WHAT: Market After Dark

WHERE: Downtown Cedar Rapids

WHEN: 6:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday (8/24)

ADMISSION: Free

DETAILS: Cedarrapids.org/events/market-after-dark

l Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

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