The community missed its lazy Wednesday evenings in Central Park – the music, food and family fun. The Davis Farmers Market listened, and found a way to bring back its beloved Picnic in the Park.Picnic in the Park logo

Starting May 17, Picnic in the Park will return, and continue every Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m. through Sept. 13. A local band will play each night. There will be children’s entertainment, loads of food vendors, and plenty of opportunity to gather as a community. Late September through early May, Wednesdays swap back to a traditional farmers market, open 3 to 6 p.m.

Randii MacNear, executive director of the Davis Farmers Market Alliance, is thrilled. With a redesigned layout, it will be more manageable. “I’m so happy, because I really feel like we broke people’s hearts. There was no solution except to try to bring it back – if we could find a way.”

The new layout of the Wednesday market is designed for success. Food trucks will fill the patio area, and the band will play from the top of the stairs, facing the lawn. Patrons are encouraged to bring their own chairs and blankets for picnicking. Tables and chairs will no longer be provided.

During operating hours, the market will have an open-container permit, allowing patrons to consume alcohol on the grassy area, whether it’s a bottle of wine from Heringer Estates, or a beer they bought from a downtown brewery or from home.

Farmers market picnic in the park photograph

Patrons enjoy a Picnic in the Park in 2018. (Photo by Wendy Weitzel)

COVID-19 health guidelines halted concerts and alcohol consumption just before the Picnic in the Park season was to begin in March 2020. In November of that year, the Alliance announced it would discontinue the festival portion of its Wednesday market because it was difficult to manage. Meanwhile, the Davis Downtown Business Association started planning a summer concert series called Thursdays in The Davisphere, which ran in September and October.

While the change simplified the market and allowed it to focus on its roots, the family and community-gathering tradition was missing. Thursday concerts were highly successful but not a replacement for Picnic in the Park. The 2023 season for The Davisphere will be twice a month, rather than weekly, in varying spots around downtown.

Picnic in the Park will focus on family-friendly children’s activities and music, along with a wide range of food made from market ingredients. Plans call for a clown and face-painter but no pony rides or bounce houses.

“It’s going to be a little bit more low-key than it was, but everything it was,” MacNear said.

Year-round in downtown Davis, thousands gather each week to shop for what is grown, raised and made locally. Since 1976, the Davis Farmers Market has connected and supported communities, area agriculture, farmers and artisan food producers. It educates the public about nutrition, sustainable agriculture, and the local economic value of buying food and products directly from the producer.

The Davis Farmers Market’s signature markets are Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons/evenings in Central Park. It also manages farmers markets at UC Davis, Sutter Davis Hospital and Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento. Since 2000, its Davis Farm to School program has supported the Davis Joint Unified School District, providing farm- and garden-based education, increasing farm-fresh foods in school meals, and reducing solid waste through recycling and composting. Follow it on Facebook or Instagram.