Civic Park is a tiny triangle of green space bordered by Niedringhaus Avenue, 19th Street and Delmar. Its usual highlight is the Flags of the Nations display, reflecting what the Granite City Park District calls the city’s “rich and diverse heritage.” If the traffic light is green, you’ll miss it if you blink as you drive past.
It doesn’t look like Soulard Market in any sense of the word, unless it’s the second Saturday of the month. From May to October, Civic Park morphs into the Melting Pot Market, which its website calls “a seasonal European-style open air market with an urban flair featuring local arts and crafts, freshly grown produce, food, live music and kid-friendly activities.” I call it a pocket-size Soulard you can sweep through in an hour or so ... or spend the whole morning at your leisure chatting with the friendly vendors.
Angie and I reacquainted ourselves with the Melting Pot on the second Saturday in July. We fell in love when we first visited it years ago, and we fell in love all over again that morning. It’s tough to ignore the smell of freshly cooked hot dogs wafting toward us as we got out of the car, even after breakfast.
We loved the freshly picked green peppers, corn and tomatoes we bought at Maggie’s Market, whose operator was one of our daughters’ schoolmates 20 years ago. As I loaded the produce into the back seat, the hot dog man called out, “Fresh corn goes good with a hot dog!”
There were red onions and cucumbers from a mini-farm operated by Boy Scouts at the Old Six Mile House Museum. There was homemade coconut cream pie at a third stand. (We would have had caramel apple, but it had vanished when we came back later.) While I don’t eat a lot of honey, the “honey lady” at another kiosk had Angie and me ready to add raw honey, complete with comb, to our rapidly expanding goodie bag.
We would have needed a truck to take home a custom-made wrought iron and stained glass accent table we could order that day, or the wooden outdoor bench finished in cheerful yellow and white. We did take home four hand-painted Indian “prophecy stones” to surprise our grandchildren. I can’t describe what we bought from a woman who makes baseball-themed nicknacks. A rabid Cardinals fan I know may get one of her creations between now and Christmas.
Nearby, a guy sitting at a picnic table was making his harmonica sing; I can imagine a jam session with a guitar player and a drummer in the future, but I’ll have to visit the Alfresco website for more details.
The old Chicago song comes to mind when visiting the Melting Pot Market: “Every day’s the Fourth of July.” And I can’t wait for the next (second) Saturday in the Park. For information, visit alfrescoproductions.org or call (844) 278-9780.