It’s been a Saturday staple in downtown Pensacola since 2007, and on May 14th Palafox Market will celebrate its 15th anniversary with an anniversary block party, complete with live entertainment, giveaways, face painting, chef demonstrations, local beer on tap, a coffee bar, cornhole and much more. The free event starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m., at Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza on Palafox Street just north of Garden Street.
People from all around the world come to Pensacola for the history, the culture, and of course, the beach. But for locals, and anyone who wants to truly see, taste, feel, and smell the diverse beauty of Pensacola on a Saturday morning, nothing fills the senses better than Palafox Market. The aromas of fresh flowers, exotic plants, and freshly carved wood fill the air. Whiffs of delectables from France, Syria, China, Italy and local kitchens and gardens scintillate the taste buds.
What was started by the Downtown Improvement Board (DIB) 15 years ago as a small farmers market has sprouted into a flourishing must-visit adventure for gardeners, foodies, crafters, artists, pet lovers, and music lovers. “We are fortunate to have the world’s best vendors as well as the support and loyalty of the community,” said Emily Kopas, Palafox Market manager and DIB chief operating officer. Our market started out small and seasonal and has grown into a beloved, year-round event spanning multiple blocks downtown.”
Though the exact economic impact of Palafox Market is difficult to measure, community markets provide opportunities for small farmers and businesses to sell their products, and they help meet the growing demand for locally produced food and materials. Studies have found that farmers’ markets impact state and municipal economies as well as vendors, local businesses, and consumers, and lead to economic development and job creation.
“The DIB has been thrilled to see the success of this event over the past 15 years and the economic driver it has become for not only all of our vendors at Palafox Market, but also to the businesses downtown,” said Walker Wilson, DIB executive director. “Emily has done an outstanding job ensuring that each week we provide a diverse selection of vendors to give shoppers the best experience possible.”
Milan Brunet Sabastian moved from Paris, France in 2013 to open one of the first food trucks in Pensacola, Mimi’s Crepes. “I love meeting new people and being in such a friendly environment! I love that people can bring their pets, kids, and friends to a safe place and enjoy their experience,” she said. Sabastian has been a part of Palafox Market for six years.
Amy Wadzita is a physical therapist by education and a natural health enthusiast by choice. “I love that all of the vendors are local, and that it is a one stop place to support local businesses, get fresh produce, and meet new, friendly people,” she said. Wadzita sells elderberry syrup, fire cider, elderberry syrup DIY kits, and tea blends through her small business, Thrive Health. “We use organic ingredients and East Hill Honey (another Palafox Market vendor), and we don’t use any preservatives or thickeners. Everything is locally made here in Pensacola!”
Palafox Market vendors are not limited to plants, foods, crafts, or produce. Barbara Fletcher sells children’s imagination play clothing, and accessories. “Awesometropolis was started over 13 years ago due to not being able to find quality imagination play for our grandson. Now, 11 grandchildren later, we are specializing solely in children’s play, reading pillows and custom clothing. We enjoy watching our Palafox families growing with their little ones.”
Maria Pena brought her homemade soap and other handmade goods to the Palafox Market in 2009-10 after she and her husband retired. “At the time, we were at the end of Palafox Street in a little lot,” said Pena, whose booth is called Lady Bug Natural Soaps. “There were eight, maybe nine, vendors, mainly a lot of vegetables and produce. I was the only one making soap at the time. We’ve been doing it ever since. We’ve met so many nice people.”
On any given Saturday, Palafox Market draws over 8,000 visitors and friends. Laughter and chatter fill the atmosphere as old and new friends meet to tell stories, listen to music, learn about local and international culture, and share food and fun. From fewer than 20 vendors just 15 years ago to the largest community market in the area, and now supporting more than 200 vendors in 2022, the Palafox Market is the core gathering spot to kick off a Saturday in downtown Pensacola.