The third annual Market After Dark returns to downtown Cedar Rapids by popular demand from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday. What began as an idea from community and business leaders to commemorate the 10th Downtown Farmers’ Market season has quickly become a massive community celebration drawing an average 30,000 people.
What may not have crossed the minds of past attendees and the community at large while attending this free, fun community event are the quality-of-life elements, community engagement, economic impact and vibrancy it brings to our city. This is important as the Economic Alliance and the Downtown Commission work toward these goals through community development and a strong vision for the vitality of downtown Cedar Rapids.
As employers face national competition in their recruitment efforts and our unemployment rate stands at just 3.4 percent, workforce remains the number one challenge for many Cedar Rapids area businesses. Our large employers very often find themselves recruiting candidates who may have never stepped foot in our state. Often, the first step with these (hopeful) transplants is to combat the preconceived notion that Iowa is just corn and pigs. While agriculture remains of vital importance to us and our economy, it is not all we offer. When employers recruit new talent to our area, Market After Dark as well as the Downtown Cedar Rapids Farmers’ Market seasons are, quite literally, proof of the enthusiasm, fun and collaboration this community can provide newcomers and current residents.
Market After Dark also creates an incubator for small businesses to test their products. The event will feature nearly 100 local vendors and local entertainment. We encourage entrepreneurs and their efforts to help build their dreams and grow here. On average a Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers’ Market season generates $3.1 million in economic impact. These events are not just fun, they assist our vision to be the top economic growth region in the country. It starts here.
We look forward to Market After Dark as it also gives us an opportunity to work with and showcase downtown businesses in a unique way. Certainly we’ll have beverage tents on the streets that will offer local brews and wines for purchase, but downtown bars and restaurants within the Market After Dark venue also will provide beverage service opportunities to enjoy your beer or wine on the streets of the event if you choose. This year, participating establishments include: Bricks Bar & Grill, Cobble Hill Eatery & Dispensary, Grin N Goose, Hazzard County Saloon, La Cantina Downtown, Need Pizza, Pub 217, Red’s Public House, Rock Bar American Grill, The Lost Cuban and White Star Ale House. Downtown businesses report the first two Markets After Dark were among their highest sales nights ever.
Throughout the past two years of producing Market After Dark, we have appreciated the downtown business community rallying behind the effort and event. And it does take a village (or whole Cedar Rapids community) to make this event possible. While Market After Dark is produced by the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, more than 100 volunteers are needed to help make it a success. Several volunteer shifts still are available for a variety of duties between 2 p.m. and midnight, including venue setup, vendor direction, beverage service, patron services and cleanup. We’d love to have you working alongside us!
If you are interested in helping create a vibrant and fun, yet economically impactful event for your community, please give us a call at (319) 398-5317 and sign up to help. More information about Market After Dark can always be found on the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance’s website at www.cedarrapids.org. We look forward to seeing you all on Saturday in downtown Cedar Rapids!
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• Casey Prince is downtown executive director for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance