Saturday Market encompasses the spirit of Eugene.
On April 6, the Eugene Saturday Market kicked off its 50th season. It all started with one woman, Lotte Streisinger. Inspired by fond childhood memories of European markets, and later inspirations from market plazas she saw in Central America led her to the vision of a Saturday marketplace in Eugene.
The very first Saturday Market was held on a rainy day in May 1970. At its debut, it was ran with one volunteer coordinator and 29 vendors. The first year there were some trying moments–at one point in the summer they were down to 12 vendors–however on their closing day of the first season they had 100 vendors trying to squeeze into their tight space in Oak Alley.
Since then, the Saturday Market has moved in and out of three locations and currently has over 800 active members; nearly 300 of these members sell each week, with an average of 150 vendors any given market day.
In 1978, a County Task Force sought out to begin a new Farmer’s Market. The Saturday Market offered to provide the administration, organizational structure, insurance and marketing. expertise to make it happen. With that assistance, in 1979, the Farmer’s Market made its debut across the way from the Saturday Market, coincidentally in the same location where the last Farmer’s Market was held 64 years prior. They have been together ever since, offering a wide variety of fresh vegetables and produce to the community.
The market had survived though the help of rotating volunteers that first summer. Late into their first year they developed a board of directors, comprised of five of its most active market organizers. Today the board has nine active members.
As the market expanded, the Board Of Directors was now dealing with the County Commissioners instead of the City Council. The Market was required to incorporate, and retain liability insurance. These factors affected vendor’s fees as well. At its inception, each vendor was charged a dollar for their booth space, which went down to fifty cents that first summer when attendance was down. Today members pay an annual membership fee of $50.
While a lot has changed over the years, there is still a lot that remains the same. Quality goods and wares, international dining, performance arts and entertainment. The Saturday Market strongly adheres to its loose rules. All hand craft vendors are welcomed without a jury process to approve their work, on the principle tradition that everything being sold at the market is made, grown or gathered by the person selling it, or a direct family member.
According to the market website, “Buyers start to come around 10 a.m., and from then on throughout the day the market is alive with activity: browsing, buying, selling, trading, exchanging information, meeting friends, eating lunch, listening to and playing music. All these and more activities are going on simultaneously. Children and older people alike enjoy the selling and visiting at the Market.”