Great Park welcomes antiques market

Antiques and collectibles will be featured alongside farm-fresh produce beginning Sunday with the arrival of the Groves Antique Market at the Orange County Great Park Farmers Market.

The popular antiques and knick-knack market, which used to take place at Irvine Valley College, will operate adjacent to the weekly farmers market operated by Orange County Farm Bureau from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first Sunday of every month.

With about 200 vendors, the addition will nearly triple the size of the overall shopping event.

"We see tremendous synergy between the two parties," said antiques market operator Brady Hart. "I look forward to the future and have a lot of confidence that what is built will be a world-class tourist attraction."

The market operated at Irvine Center Drive and Jeffrey Road for 14 years, but was forced to move when the college failed to renew its lease agreement in July for reasons Hart declined to discuss.

The Groves' arrival is one of many changes slated to come to the farmers market, which marks its one-year anniversary this weekend, said Tom Larson, who oversees the market as park manager of farm, food and landscape.

Nearly 100,000 people have bought fresh produce, gourmet nuts and spices, handcrafted goods and artisan products since the market opened Oct. 31, 2010.

Admission is free for the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday event.

"Most markets take many years to get up and growing, so we're really excited of the progress we've made in one year," Larson said. "We still have a lot to learn, but there is a lot of potential with where we can go with this."

With a 114-acre agricultural area on park grounds growing a variety of year-round and seasonal produce, much of what's in the farmers' stalls goes straight from the field to the market.

"One of the great advantages for the farmers here is being able to deliver same-day harvest," said A.G. Kawamura, a third-generation local farmer and founding partner of OC Produce LLC, operators of the Great Park Farm. "It then allows us to have the potential to let people see what the difference is between same-day, hour-old harvest, compared to something that's been on the self four or five days."

In addition to the produce vendors and artisans, the market regularly opens its stalls to community groups and organizations, such as car shows, pet adoptions, musical entertainment and food trucks, to keep the event lively and full of new surprises each week, Larson said.

Soon a health and wellness element with UC Irvine medical professionals will be added to the market, he added.

"We wanted to be really community-oriented," Larson said. "There are so many people out there with so many wonderful skills and talents that we wanted the market to be a stage to show off what they can do."

However, perhaps the most popular of the attractions of the market are the relationships forged there.

"The farmers market is a place where neighbors come share stories with each other and reconnect," Larson said. "People also get the opportunity to talk to the farmer or the producer. It's not often that you get to speak with a farmer or an artisan and build that relationship with them."

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