Downtown Phoenix was a happening place this past Saturday. I mentioned in a previous post that we were headed to the Downtown Phoenix Public Market for a big announcement. Pamela Hamilton, publisher of Edible Phoenix presented Cindy Gentry, dubbed “Market Mom” by supporters and fans, with the Local Hero non-profit award, saying that the market would be retired to the Local Hero Hall of Fame, after snagging the award for three years in a row. But that wasn’t the BIG announcement.
The BIG announcement was a BIG fat check from the Phoenix Industrial Development Authority — $250,000 to be exact. The money will be used to open the indoor market. The downtown market, celebrating it’s fourth anniversary, has been raising money to convert the historic brick building next to the market’s parking lot into a year round store, cafe and gathering spot that will operate five days a week, while still holding the outdoor market on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings.
The farmers market wasn’t the only place to be last Saturday. Just up the road, at the Margaret T. Hance Park behind the library, the fourth annual WorldFEST was happening, an outdoor festival celebrating Phoenix sister cities. Tents featuring the sister cities, including Ennis, Ireland, Taipei, Taiwan and Hermosillo, Mexico, among others, entertained spectators with educational activities for the children and literature about these cities.We scarfed on outrageously delicious barbecue from Big Belly’s BBQ, a local caterer. Best dish? The BBQ sundae: a cup of shredded, smoked pork, spicy pinto beans and topped with creamy coleslaw and a drizzle of sweet, tangy BBQ.
Hopping on the light rail down to Washington Street, we found the Firefighter’s Chili Cook-Off. How I managed to down a few chili cups after a bowl full of BBQ, I’ll never know. As we exited the Chili Cook-Off, we came face to face with a protest march. The “March to Stop the Hate,” rally, sponsored by the National Day Laborers was in progress, with thousands of marchers — young, old, White, Hispanic, Black, and every color in between — were Marching down Central with banners, mostly calling for the local Sheriff to go. A few Sheriff supporters — all White from what we could see — stood on the sidewalks holding we support Joe (the controversial sheriff).
At that moment, I felt really proud to be an American, where we are free to protest if we choose, free to mosey through street fairs and farmers markets. And then this morning, I read that downtown Phoenix is in the process of re-branding itself. The new brand is “Arizona’s urban heart.” You can feel the heartbeat, whether you’re supporting the local firefighters or the downtown farmers market, connecting with sister cities across the globe to celebrate our diversity, or marching in a peaceful protest. Yes, indeed, downtown Phoenix is alive.