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Courtesy of City Market
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Courtesy of City Market
City Market Produce
Through the years, changes to the City Market have brought larger buildings, restaurant and retail space, and entertainment venues, including one of the largest outdoor concert venues in the city. But the main attraction is still locally grown food.
A City Landmark
It’s hard to imagine today’s modern City Market as a Wild West scene, but that’s exactly what it started as in the 1850s. Most of the market’s buildings were built in the 1920s and ’30s, but before that, the location served as a major stop along the way for people heading westward. By the late 1800s, famous names such as Wyatt Earp, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Jesse James had walked the market’s streets.
Today, the City Market sprawls across 11 acres on the Missouri riverfront. It’s a Kansas City landmark that on Saturdays draws 12,000 people to more than 140 local farmer vendors and 40 shops and restaurants.
David McFarland is 83 years old and is attending his 83rd year at the market this spring. He accompanied his parents as a child and carried on his family’s vending tradition into adulthood. He remembers how different the market was when he was a little boy. He recalls when the market ran 24 hours a day, and the streets were lined with horses and wagons and cars with solid rubber tires and wooden spoke wheels. “Bushel baskets used to be 75 cents per dozen, and now they run about six dollars per basket,” David says, remembering how produce used to be sold openly off of truck beds without packaging.
Today, David primarily sells tomatoes along with cabbage, cucumbers, squash, okra, and hot peppers that are all grown on his family farm of 70 years. “I’ve got a lot of good customers, some I’ve known 40 to 50 years,” he says. “I would just be lost if I didn’t go to the market.”
But a lot has changed. The City Market underwent its first round of construction in the 1930s, followed by more new buildings in the ’40s. During the ’60s, produce sold by local farmers was the market’s main attraction, but in the ’70s, the City Market expanded to other businesses. In the ’80s, the City Market gained an additional 10,000 square feet of restaurants, food-related stores, retail, and museum space still in use today.
Christine Yanetelli and her husband have been coming to the market for the past 20 years. Breakfast at the market on Saturday mornings is a long-held tradition. Cascone’s, a 40-year-old restaurant that is a tenant of the City Market, is their go-to spot. Christine raves about the home-style cooked foods and community-oriented feel at Cascone’s. “Everybody knows about Cascone’s in the market.” This sense of community can be felt throughout the market, and Christine feels the people truly make an effort to know each other. Another aspect of the market they love is that there is a little bit of everything.
“I can do my grocery shopping, clothes shopping, trinket shopping, and even grab a bite to eat from a wide array of foods from around the world,” Christine says.
Over the years, entertainment at the market has changed. Today, you can find local musicians playing for change as well as well-known artists and bands. The City Market boasts one of Kansas City’s largest outdoor concert venues and can accommodate crowds of up to 10,000 people.
Along with being listed as Kansas City’s sixth top area attraction by Kansas City Business Journal, the City Market has received numerous awards over the years, including the Great Markets/Great Cities Award of Distinction from the Project for Public Spaces, the most prestigious award given to an individual market in North America. Most recently, the Convention and Visitors Association awarded the City Market with Visitors’ Choice Awards in 2010 and 2011 for being the “Favorite Free Thing to Do in Kansas City.”