Link to Article: https://www.bnd.com/news/local/community/ofallon-progress/article274825176.html
Three District Night special events this summer, expanded Vine Street Market activities and other festive plans are on the slate for downtown O’Fallon. Featuring some vendors from throughout the area, the Vine Street Market will celebrate its fifth anniversary with a ribbon-cutting on Saturday, May 20, but the farmers’ market at the O’Fallon Station will kick off a week earlier, May 13. The regular market season is May 13-Oct. 21, with hours 8 a.m. until noon each Saturday. Since opening in May 2019, the market has increased its variety and activities, especially more for children. Last year, attendance was estimated at 26,000 over a 23-week period, which was 1,000 more than projected, according to Andrew Dallner, director of the department of parks and recreation, which oversees the O’Fallon Station.
Sarah Burton, the market and downtown district coordinator, said they have expanded slightly within the same footprint, and have 74 stall spaces this year. Originally the city’s horticulturist, she spearheaded its creation five years ago. “This season we will have two live music locations and one food truck parked in the center of the market. POP Club for kids will be back with an expanded twist, more details to come,” she said. The POP (Power of Produce) Club is a free educational program for children to participate in, encourages eating more produce. “The O’Fallon Shiloh Chamber of Commerce will host two Military and First Responder Appreciation Days and Pekala’s Precision Sharpening will be back four different times for people to bring their kitchen knives and such to market for a sharpen,” she said. “Most importantly, we will have some of the best local farmers market vendors in the area. They will have fresh in-season produce, meats, breads, cheeses, and the like, all from within 100 miles of O’Fallon and all grown or made by the vendor in the tent,” Burton said.
New vendors this year include Olive, which sells infused olive oils; Fantastick Pops food truck, which features natural locally sourced artisan popsicles; fresh-made pizza from Fireline Pizza, and some new produce vendors. “Farmers markets are a unique experience for the shopper because you are face to face with the person who was a part of every aspect of the food the customer is buying. That is not an experience a person gains at a supermarket,” she said.
The fifth and last Micro Market of the season will take place this Saturday, April 29, from 9 a.m. to noon. The Micro Markets are smaller than ones during the regular season and held indoors until the weather permits outside ones in winter/early spring. The non-profit HeartLands Conservancy will be there with four types of native trees (Bur Oak, Red Oak, Shagbark Hickory, and Swamp White Oak) available to take home and plant, Burton said. The trees are not potted, easy to carry and ready to plant, and assistance will be provided for tree selection, and to explain care and maintenance.
Because the Scott Air Force Base Air Show is set for May 13-14, the five-year anniversary festivities were moved. Founders Day, which the historical society began last May, will be skipped this year. “We’re looking into possibly doing something like Founders Day in 2024, though. Just too much going on that weekend this year,” Keller said. NEW DOWNTOWN DISTRICT EVENTS Featuring live music, family-friendly activities, food and drink specials, District Nights will take place the first Thursday of June, July, and August, opening at 5 p.m. and closing at 9 p.m. Burton said activities will be provided by O’Fallon Parks and Recreation and such downtown businesses as Art Gecko Creative Studio. Food and drink are the focus of these events. The goal is to build more community focused gatherings and showcase the O’Fallon Downtown District. The 1st Street corridor from Vine Street to Oak Street will be closed so people can walk around, listen to music, sit and enjoy food and drink. All visitors are encouraged to bring their own lawn chair for the evening.” Burton said. “Another exciting part of these events is the car cruise that 1st Street Lounge is sponsoring. The cruise will not be a judged show but a place where car owners can show off their prized cars and the community can have fun looking at them and talking to the owners. The cars will be stationary within the event so everyone can enjoy seeing them,” she said.
Bands include Champagne Fixx, June 1 and The Retro Nerds, July 6, with the Aug. 3 not announced yet. “The O’Fallon Historical Society will have the caboose open for anyone who wants to tour it or just hang out at it while listening to the music,” said Brian Keller, president of the organization. Each night has its own Facebook event page. More details will be disclosed over the coming month. Burton said the Downtown District event calendar is up to date all the way through August with the sponsored events listed through the fall. https://www.ofallondowntowndistrict.com/events/
The partnership the city, O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce and local businesses formed during the past seven years has made downtown a destination. They had banded together to create a coordinated strategy to revitalize the area after years of little attention and investment. In 2021, O’Fallon Station and Vine Street Market were honored with the Most Engaged Community Partner Award from the Illinois Governor’s Conference on Tourism. The website contest, called “Silver Lining Stories,” stated: “Vine Street Market at O’Fallon Station is one of the largest farmer’s markets in southwest Illinois. Folks from neighboring counties and communities look forward to vending at the market, and shopping at the market each Saturday. During the pandemic, Vine Street Market changed their model to a drive-thru approach and continued it for weeks. They even expanded to a Tuesday night drive-thru, which people really responded to.” In November 2019, O’Fallon received a regional award that recognized the cooperative efforts in revitalizing and transforming the downtown business district into a hub of community activity and commerce. The East-West Gateway Council of Governments presented one of its Outstanding Local Government Achievement Awards to the city, chamber, and O’Fallon Downtown merchants. Representatives received the Exemplary Collaboration, Partnership or Regional Initiative Award. “The coordinated approach from planning to action steps makes downtown’s resurgence from forgotten commercial corridor to a bustling hub energy and source of community pride a truly remarkable accomplishment,” East-West Gateway stated. Key initiatives included the city commissioning a downtown action plan and established a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district for the area. Then, through the Destination O’Fallon economic development project, O’Fallon Station was constructed. The $1.5 million pavilion and gathering space was designed to hold events throughout the year, and opened during the 2018 holiday season, but officially was ready in spring 2019.