Oxnard's Farmers' Market got off to a good start Thursday when hundreds of shoppers flocked to a downtown parking lot to enjoy an afternoon of clowns, Andean music and bargain hunting.
"We're very happy that Oxnard finally has its own market," said 30-year-old Mary Fabian of Oxnard as she filled a wicker basket with Valencia oranges while carrying her 6-month-old baby on her back. "There's a lot of organic fruit, and the music is great too."
City officials hope that the market--which will operate from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Thursday at B and 7th streets--signals a revival of downtown.
"This is a longtime dream of mine," said Mayor Nao Takasugi, who attended the inauguration.
"When the businesses moved out to the suburban shopping malls 25 years ago, downtown died," he said. "For any city to be great, vital and vibrant, it needs a strong downtown."
Market publicist Rosemary Leigh said she hoped that attendance would grow as news about the products spread.
"Our produce is picked this morning, as opposed to being shipped in from Brazil, Mexico or places like that," she said.
Offerings at the market ranged from nopale cactus and chimichanga fruits, both popular in Mexico, to the seldom-seen sweet lime that originates in India, to the more conventional lemons, legumes and wildflowers.
The merchants, many of whom also take their products to farmers' markets in Ventura, Camarillo, Santa Barbara and Santa Monica, said they liked what they saw in Oxnard.
"First time out and it's pretty good," said Camarillo farmer Greg Ryan, who was peddling oranges, grapefruits and avocados four for a dollar.
"One dollar at a time, if I make $200 by the end of the day, it will be worth it."
The Ecuadorean folk group Ruva Pelaa entertained the crowd, performing a variety of Andean songs with a miniature guitar made out of armadillo skin called a charango, a wood-and-cowhide drum called a bombo , and several quenas and sikus, wind instruments made out of cane.
"This is very pretty, with the music and the people," said Josefina Gallardo, 75, whose bag was full of strawberries and broccoli.
"It reminds me of the outdoor markets in Jalisco," she said, referring to her home state in Mexico. "The prices are good, the fruit is fresh, and it's a lot more fun" than going to the supermarket.