by Erin Thursby
The Riverside Arts Market opened last year to unprecedented success. That success cleared the way for more localized markets to open. Though it seemed like it sprung up overnight, it was years in the making. That research and dedication since RAM was merely an idea in 1993 has paid off in both economic value and entertainment.
After a brief hiatus, from late December of last year, the main RAM market is set to reopen. (The farmer’s market portion of RAM has remained in operation during this time, although with slightly different hours).
For those of you who haven’t experienced RAM, it’s situated under the Fuller Warren Bridge as it passes over Riverside Avenue in Riverside. The bridge structure offers some protection from the weather and sun.
RAM Market director Tony Allegretti says that this year’s RAM “will have a lot of the great features we had last year like great local arts, foods, produce, bike valet, and free wifi.”
Though they’ve made their criteria for art a bit more stringent to ensure that all the offerings are handmade, they’ll also be adding another section called FRINGE.
This section, explains Allegretti, includes “outsider art and activities that don’t quite fit our art criteria. Some FRINGE vendors that we have already accepted include the Library’s Zine Collection, a Mobile Record Store and Commuter Bikes from Holland.”
On the March 6th opening day, the event will revolve around a walk from area parks (Memorial, Balis and the North Bank Riverwalk at the Hogan Street gazebo) to the RAM site. The event will promote orthopedic health and awareness of reducing our carbon footprint through walking rather than driving. Each entrant will receive a tree for planting. See www.joionline.net for details and sign up.
Past RAM entertainers and events have included–and this a long list, so take a deep breath before reading it out loud: “a dog parade…a national break-dance championship, giant puppets, a man escaping from two straight jackets and chains while hanging upside down from an 18-foot tower, the Guinness Book of Records juggler, two state-champion magicians, two fire boats shooting water cannons in the river, a bag piper, a barbershop quartet, a body-painted man in a loin cloth playing a didgeridoo, an alligator exhibit, a dancing gorilla, a sitar concert, three full orchestras, zombies…acrobats, 31 clowns…two fire eaters, the entire cast of the musical Hair…over 20 belly dancers…four hula hoopers, a human pretzel, a Viking ship, an Improv troupe, 10 celebrity chefs feeding over 1,000 people free food, a 9-foot-tall stilt-walking beauty queen, 38 different free Children’s Creativity programs, two puppet shows, a bubble party, four balloon artists, a hip-hop popper, a lacrosse demonstration, H1N1 flu shots provided, an 80-year-old fire truck, a fencing demonstration, a hybrid car test drive, a free health-screening clinic, several live television broadcasts, a Halloween costume competition, a weekly bicycle valet, pedicab service and a backpack collection drive.”
You would think that with a diverse list such as that, they wouldn’t be able to top last year’s events and entertainment, but Allegretti says that there will be plenty of new stuff this year: “We will have a great many new bands and entertainers especially traveling entertainers, as the word is out all around the country that RAM is a hot spot for fun entertainment.”
Go to www.riversideartsmarket.com for more information on the Riverside Arts Market!
RAM Facts from Year One:
Economic impact – several million dollars. (The market has had over a million in on-site sales, and add to this the salaries, purchase cost of artists’ and vendor’s raw materials, hotel rooms, sales tax, advertising, printing, stimulus of local businesses, etc., and the three-fold recycling of money in the local economy, RAM has had well over $4 million in local economic impact.
. Over 700 different artists have exhibited at RAM.
. Nearly a half million visitors have attended RAM. (38 weeks x 15,000 avg. per week. RAM has drawn more people than our NFL team.)
. The average price of item sold at RAM is $30 to $50, but some artists have sold work in the thousands of dollars.
. RAM has over 150 volunteers that have participated at RAM. 30 of those are semi-regular weekly participants. (38 weeks x 12 volunteers per week x 4 hour shifts per week = 1,824 volunteer hours). Plus RAM’s steering committee “RAMROD” has put in well over 8,000 hours, pushing RAM volunteers into over 10,000 hours.
. Over 250 different entertainers have performed at RAM.
. Over 100 non-profit organizations have received free exposure at RAM.
. RAM has become one of the top twenty community markets in the U.S. in its first year, and RAM was recognized in USA Today as Top 10 River City Destinations.
. RAM is the largest weekly free outdoor arts and entertainment venue in Florida, perhaps in the South.
. RAM has become one of the most spectacular public spaces in Jacksonville, if not Florida. RAM has a devoted following of weekly local visitors, and out-of-town visitors have begun choosing RAM as a destination for their vacations (not just a stop on the way to Disney).
Riverside Arts Market re-opening March 6
by Erin Thursby