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Growing success: Organizers call Tuesday Farmers Market a success

Gary Cottam is the calm, male voice of your youth who peddled you fruit despite all the more saccharine treats in the world.

It is just so good, Cottam says, so much better than anything else.

He is palming half an Israeli melon in one hand, exposing its golden center.

"Try some," he says, slicing off a sample. "I'm warning you, this is addictive."

In 10 minutes, passers-by at the first Tuesday evening Downtown Farmers Market consumed a whole melon.

"This is great," Cottam said. "I work at the University (of Utah), and a lot of people live in Sandy. They can't make it to the Saturday market so I told them all to come down tonight."

About 35 local vendors set up booths along a pathway in Pioneer Park to kick off the new weekday market, open from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays. The market is a trimmed-down version of the Saturday Farmers Market, aimed exclusively at growers rather than craftsman and chefs, said Kim Angeli, special events director for the Downtown Alliance.

Organizers had hoped 2,000 patrons would attend the first Tuesday market. Halfway through, Angeli estimated that they'd surpassed that number.

"We're already calling it a success," she said.

Many who strolled the market work downtown and live in the suburbs. The weekday market allows them to come after work to pick up local meats, cheeses, baked goods and produce.

Grace Torres of West Jordan said this was the first market she has attended in Salt Lake City.

"Saturday is my day off, so when I heard they were having the night one, I thought it would be nice to come down, especially now that it's cooler," Torres said.

The Tuesday market was not nearly as busy as the Saturday market, which has more than 200 vendors. But for the first night, vendors were pleased with the turnout.

"We're having pretty good business," said Alarik Myrin, a third-generation natural-beef rancher from Altamont. "We usually sell two or three times as much on Saturday, but I think for the first night, it's going quite well. I'm thinking this will grow, and we'd like to be a part of it."

Cottam said his booth also did well, though nowhere close to their Saturday numbers. With two hours left, he and his partner, Andy Thompson, sold one bin (800 pounds) of Israeli melons. On Saturday, they would have sold twice as much, he said.

Thompson stands behind the trough of melons and collects the money. He has been doing it for seven years, since he was 11 years old.

"I'm happy with it," he said. "There's a lot of people, considering it is the first week."

e-mail: mgonda@desnews.com