Super Sunday: Market will mark 15 years supporting La Jolla Elementary on Oct. 27

If you go
What: La Jolla Open Aire Market 15th anniversary
■ When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27
■ Where: Girard Avenue and Genter Street (La Jolla Elementary School upper playground)

La Jolla Elementary School students and teachers, along with La Jolla Open Aire Market organizers and principal Donna Tripi (front row), gather to thank La Jollans for supporting the market. For 15 years it has raised funds that help pay for programs affected by budget cuts at the school. Pat Sherman

By Pat Sherman

During its first 15 years, the La Jolla Open Aire Market has served as a space for locals to gather on Sunday mornings, pick up farm-fresh produce, and peruse art and handcrafted gifts — all while helping raise more than $2 million for science, technology, physical education, art and music instruction at La Jolla Elementary School, as well as a part-time school nurse and librarian.

Young ladies get the ‘royal treatment’ at the La Jolla Open Aire Market. Courtesy Photos

The market includes everything from fresh flowers to Oriental rugs, paintings and jewelry, and an array of fresh food, including Mexican, Korean and vegan, as well as Pho noodles and savory Belgian-style waffles that incorporate produce from Open Aire vendors.

“It’s almost like a bazaar,” said Alexa Scoma, current president of the Friends of La Jolla Elementary, Inc., the foundation that launched the event. “It’s really a little bit of everything.”

In honor of its 15th anniversary, this Sunday’s (Oct. 27) market will have a harvest festival theme and include a DJ and music from a Muirlands Middle School all-girl band and La Jolla High a cappella singers, as well as professional percussion, circus and dance performances.

“We have thousands of pumpkins that the kids get to paint, and there’s all kinds of crafts and art projects and cake walks for kids. It’s just going to be a really big party,” said community activist Sherry Ahern, who launched the first market in 1998 with former Friends of La Jolla Elementary president Sarah Agler, watching it grow to become the largest farmers market in San Diego.

“My original 14 vendors are still there,” Ahern chimed. “Now we have 200 vendors. We’re the biggest farmers market in San Diego. We have more farmers than any farmers market (in San Diego).”

Market Manager and vendor Nicolina Alves of Terra Bella Ranch (between Fallbrook and Temecula) has been at La Jolla Open Aire Market for four years with husband, Jeff, selling their avocados and citrus during summer and grapes and figs in the fall, in addition to sundried apricots and tomatoes from a friend’s ranch.

“This is epicenter of so much good,” Alves said. “There’s no better way to spend a Sunday.”

Jolla Open Aire Market founder and Friends of La Jolla Elementary School, Inc. foundation board member Sherry Ahern.

When considering vendors for the market, Alves said she looks for new or interesting products that aren’t already offered at the market. “I’m always looking for vendors who offer a unique product or unique story to share … or a special way of growing or harvesting the product,” she said, noting a young couple that sells custom, wood kitchen blocks and a nonprofit vendor who features artisan home décor items bought at fair trade, sales of which help sustain businesses in third-world countries.

“I think it’s just trying to find those folks that have that special something,” Alves said. “We’re always trying to make the market fresh to our patrons because they come every Sunday.”

Scoma noted that chefs and restaurateurs, such as Barbara Beltaire of Barbarella restaurant, are often seen scouring the market for fresh, seasonal produce for their dishes.

Scoma’s daughter works with one of the farmers each Sunday, helping unload and sell vegetables.

“I think it’s great for kids to see that there are farms that grow things,” Scoma said. “It’s just such a different experience than going into a grocery store. … There’s not as many farmers as their once were, because land is being developed and they’re not making the kind of money they once did. … It’s a good lesson for everyone, and a good reminder of the way things used to be.”

Dawn Villela, a volunteer who serves on Friends of La Jolla Elementary and helps with marketing, noted how much of the community’s Sunday morning routine the market has become.  “It’s not just going and buying your vegetables; you can spend the entire morning there,” she said. “The vendors really consider themselves a family. There’s camaraderie and friendship. … Many do several markets a week, but feel (La Jolla Open Aire Maret) customers are the most warm, loyal customers that they encounter.”

Related posts:

  1. La Jolla Art and Wine Festival returns for fifth year
  2. La Jolla Open Aire Farmers Market holds Harvest Festival to celebrate 14 years
  3. How ‘Merlot’ can you go? La Jolla’s Art & Wine Festival will show!
  4. Tickets on sale for Scripps luncheon
  5. Donor spurs brick campaign at Athenaeum

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Posted by Pat Sherman on Oct 22, 2013. Filed under Life, Philanthropy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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