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Updated: 01/19/2014 05:12:15PM

Saturday market kicks off in Bartow

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In an effort to get more people downtown, next weekend’s 3rd Saturday Market could be the first step in creating monthly party weekends in Bartow.

It’s the day after Friday Fest and the plan from Main Street Bartow is to make the third weekend of the month a party with the 3rd Saturday Market.

“The concept and our goal is to get heads in the beds,” said Main Street Bartow board member Jen Daniels. “People can have a small-town weekend.”

Main Street hooked up with Sergio Cruz and he plans to fill Fort Blount Park with 40 to 50 vendors of homecrafted items, have some jazz music and alongside the Uptown Yard Sale and Vintage Market takes place in the Oaks Parking Lot on the corner of Wilson Avenue and Parker Street. The event in Fort Blount will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., while the Uptown Yard Sale is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

And a little something extra will be going on at the debut in Fort Blount: Santa Claus will be there. He’s going to be at the Polk County History Center and those who want to get their wish list in early for Christmas and get a photo with Santa (and Mrs. Claus, too) can do that.

Main Street Bartow has hooked up with Sergio Cruz, who has about 40 or 50 vendors lined up to fill Fort Blount Park. He takes this stable of homemade crafts makers all over the area. He said he will be available to do this every month.

Also known as the Guacamole Guy, Cruz said this group of vendors basically goes where he says there’s a spot for them.

“I basically was forced to build my own market. I have about 40 vendors in my books and they would all go to Bartow tomorrow if I can get them today,” he said Wednesday.

His goal, of course, is to provide business for the vendors, but he also has a goal to rejuvenate downtown areas in Polk County to bring people there and that’s his goal with Bartow.

“(Downtown) Bartow is a beautiful site and it’s very unfortunate that it’s a ghost street (on the weekends),” he said.

In addition to vendors in Fort Blount Park will be a musician who will play jazz music. Cruz also has seven-foot trucks to fill Main Street.

In a quick little survey of downtown, he said about 75 percent of the businesses on Main Street and the surrounding area are closed on Saturday. He said without the proper marketing there won’t be a lot of money to make at first for his vendors, but once this gets started, maybe there will be more activity downtown.

“If they don’t provide the signage like on Tuesday through Saturday, it’s hard to let people on (State Road) 60 know to make a left turn,” he said. “Because people know there is nothing in downtown, nobody goes downtown. When I left downtown at 2:30 last weekend there was hardly anybody there, but when I went five blocks away (on S.R. 60) there were a lot of people.”

In a recent weekend he and his vendors set up in downtown Winter Haven and the response was tremendous, he said. It can be that way in Bartow, he added. He knows the merchandise will attract people. Now, it’s getting the people to see it.

“I want to contact the middle school and high school and get drums down there and wake up Bartow. I want people to come say, ‘hey.’ I don’t expect 5,000 people down there but I do expect to get 500 at a minimum. We did this in Winter Haven and it was great. It’s all about traffic and traffic will make you money. I want to bring business to Bartow.”

Just like Cruz with making his own guacamole flavors (only Florida guacamole, he said) the vendors featured all have homemade items … things you cannot get anywhere else.

“There will be jewelry, head clothing, hats and everything is hand-crafted,” he said. “They’re all artisans. This is stuff you’ll see on holidays. If you don’t make it you won’t make it.”

Those who want to become part of the stable of artists that travel with him, must be approved by him before getting in.

But, he said, “we need the support from Bartow, too.”

Coming after Friday Fest was part of the idea of attracting people downtown and keeping them there for the weekend was part of the impetus for this. Now drawing up to 2,000 on the third Friday of the month, it didn’t start out that way, but with a little marketing it grew.

“And to have it land right after Friday Fest (would be good),” Daniels said.

This month’s Friday Fest, which is 6-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, will not only feature live blues, oldies and country music from Faces South, and the usual car show, it will be the kick off to the Christmas season with the theme “Magic on Main.”

That means the Christmas lights downtown will start and Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, who will be there on Saturday as well, will take part in that as well as set up an area at the Polk County History Center for children and to kick off the decorated wreath display.

The Spessard Singers from Spessard L. Holland Elementary School will be on hand and there will be a special performance from The Salvation Army Brass Ensemble.

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