A murky fog blankets The Old Town section of Portland, and as the first hint of light begins to overtake the cloudy sky, the vendors appear with their moving trucks and vans. It is a Sunday morning in early December, one of the last big weekends where many of the vendors make more money in a month selling to Christmas shoppers than they do the rest of the year combined.
Thriving Local Artisans
Over 300 vendors gather here every weekend to sell their wares. Called “Portland’s Saturday Market”, it actually takes place every Saturday and Sunday, from March through Christmas Eve. They are even open the entire week before Christmas. What began in 1973 as a handful of local arts and crafts people, has blossomed into over three square blocks of epic shopping. Here you will find everything from homemade taffy, to one-of-a-kind board games, to hand-knit sweaters, to scented beeswax candles, to world-class photography….need I go on?
What starts out as a huge, empty stretch of pavement from the 128-year-old Skidmore fountain to underneath the massive Burnside bridge, turns into a sea of white tarps in the span of two hours. Each holding a treasure trove of locally sourced and lovingly made wares.
The morning drizzle gives way to a sun break in the east. With the sunshine, a heavy cloud towards the west still delivers its last bouts of moisture. Portlanders call this “rainshine”. It’s a fairly common occurrence here, but something I had never experienced until I became an Oregon resident. As I walk up and down the aisles, I notice that people are beginning to smile more, the jovial conversations between shopkeeper and customer flowing more easily. Something about a small sunbreak will do that to Portlanders.
I stop at one of my favorite booths. The lady behind the counter eyes me knowingly and smiles. Time to get my cat another catnip body pillow. She hand sews 8-inch decorative body pillows for felines made with hemp material and stuffed with high-quality catnip. My cat can’t get enough of this product, and I need to buy another one every couple of months. As I browse her latest collection, the smell of lavender and patchouli oil permeates the air. To the left of the cat lady booth is a new vendor, one who is selling incredible smelling soaps. After buying my tiny body pillow I can’t help but to wander next door and buy a small bar of hand-made apricot soap. One can easily blow through their discretionary spending here.
Several yards before I approach the food aisle, the heady aroma of corn dogs and french fries engulf me. There are equals parts fried food and healthy options at Saturday Market. This is Portland, after all. My stomach responds with a low growl. Will it be yakisoba noodles or a sourdough chowder bowl today? It’s always so hard to choose. You can experience the cuisine of over a dozen different countries around the world at the Market. You can bet I’ll return just before dinner.