Hidden Gems of Tuscaloosa: Food, fun and events at the Tuscaloosa River MarketBy Caroline Giddis | 04/11/2016 9:05pm
In 2012, Mayor Walter Maddox and the Tuscaloosa City Council approved the Tuscaloosa River Market as a place for farmers to sell their products and harvests. Little did they know the space would grow to incorporate performers, wedding parties, fraternities, festivals and more.
“I like to think of it as a place where people come to make memories,” said Alexis Clark, supervisor of the Tuscaloosa River Market. “Whether they’re coming to buy vegetables or a cheesecake on Saturday morning, or celebrate their daughter’s wedding, a family reunion or even senior prom, they’re here to make a memory in Tuscaloosa.”
In a city where many of the businesses are family-owned, it’s important to support the local economy to keep it growing. The River Market works to promote this idea and enhance Tuscaloosa as much as possible.
An employee of the city of Tuscaloosa since May 2015, Clark has worked for the last year to expand the different types of events that the venue can host. With a beautiful open space on the Black Warrior River and the ability to open the garage-style windows, the River Market offers a one-with-nature feel that people are drawn to.
“Our events range from meetings, dinners, prom, fundraisers, and just a wide variety of events, Clark said. “Pretty much every Saturday from now until September is booked for a wedding or wedding reception, and we’re getting calls every day for dates in 2017.”
One of the River Market’s most recent events was the Yellowhammer Festival, which showed off the venue’s ability to host live music as well as serve food and drinks on the majestic riverside. There’s a kitchen in the back with everything a catering company would need to heat and serve food or drinks.
“It really is a beautiful venue being right on the water with the scenery, and we make it really easy for people to work with caterers,” Clark said.
In order to make first year students aware of the River Market venue, Clark has coordinated with University Programs during the Week of Welcome to hold events that students can come to by simply riding the Crimson Ride. The market is only about 5 minutes from campus on Jack Warner Parkway, and she wants to emphasize its accessibility.
“We realize that these students are only here for a short time, they’re only here for 4 years, and we want them to love this place, make memories, and stay here when they graduate,” Clark said. “A part of wanting to stay is providing a great quality of life."
As for the farmer’s market, visitors can come any time from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. every Saturday and find something to enjoy. With 62 vendors on their list with all different products, produce and creations, it’s hard to leave the market without a bag of something new and fresh. Vendors include major local farms such as Snow’s Bend and B&S Farms, but artisans such as Left Hand Soap Co. and Earth Works Jewelry and Painting have tables set up as well, selling their creations.
On Saturdays, customers are greeted at the entrance with Tea Town Alabama’s tea truck, which starts their morning with a refreshing drink. Vendors selling different types of plants and garden additions also set up outside. Many people bring their pets to the River Market, and vendors like HipPies even bake homemade dog treats to give out to furry visitors. Many times Clark brings in live music performers, even a man that plays the didgeridoo, to engage visitors as they come and go, and peek the interest of people who walk by.
“The farmer’s market itself is probably the best event we have here, and we’re lucky enough to have it every week,” Clark said. “It doesn’t matter what week you come, you’re gonna have such a wide variety of life to experience. It’s a great cross section of the culture of Tuscaloosa.”
Public events coming up at the River Market include Death by Chocolate, an event sponsored by Publix Super Market Charities to raise money for Family Counseling Service, on April 21 and the 2016 West Alabama Food and Wine Festival on April 28. Tickets are available for each of these events online.
“Our goal is to continue to grow and add life to this community,” said Clark. “Eat local, buy local, grow local, stay local.”