Salt lake city

The Utah State Fairpark International Market will launch in May, an effort to alleviate the West Side’s ‘food desert’

The town plan is a monthly event for food, crafts and entertainment, with a goal of a permanent market in 2023.

(Stefene Russell | The Salt Lake Tribune) Nicki Claeys, Director of Programs at Utah State Fairpark, shows attendees on Wednesday, April 6, 2022, during a press conference announcing the May 28 launch of the Fairpark International Marketplace.

After three years of feasibility studies and plans to set up a permanent, year-round market at Utah State Fairpark, the idea finally has an opening date.

The international market, designed to help bring unique foods and culture to the western part of Salt Lake City, will open May 28, officials said.

“We’re trying to create something special and unique in Salt Lake City, and also on the West Side,” Larry Mullenax, executive director of the fairgrounds, said Wednesday at a press conference. “We want to create a place where business owners can sell their products. It will be a collaboration to help young entrepreneurs. It will also be a place where you can find goods from all over the world and learn about other cultures and customs.

Mullenax stressed that the International Market is not a farmers’ market or a craft fair. Its goal, he said, is to address food insecurity on the West Side, provide culturally significant foods for surrounding neighborhoods, create a destination for Utahns to experience other cultures through food , crafts and arts, and to give immigrants and refugees the opportunity to start businesses.

The neighborhoods around Utah State Fairpark at 155 N. 1000 West – including Fairpark and Westpointe – are among the most culturally and ethnically diverse areas in the state. Many people in these neighborhoods also live in a “food desert,” Mullenax said, meaning they live at least half a mile from a grocery store and don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

It’s one of the reasons, Mullenax said, that the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency decided the Fairpark would be an ideal location for a permanent market. The Fairpark is also near a TRAX station and has infrastructure – including toilets, kitchens and permanent buildings – that were ready to be adapted to the needs of a market.

The city had planned to open a market in May 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic put those plans on hold. The market will open in two phases, starting with monthly events throughout this year – with dates set for May 28, June 19, July 18, August 21 and October 29. Doors would open at 2 p.m.; vendors are expected to be seated until 8 p.m., while music and entertainment will run until 10 p.m.

Larry Mullenax, Executive Director of Utah State Fairpark, speaks during a press conference April 6, 2022, announcing the May 28 launch of the Fairpark International Marketplace.

Food will be the main focus of vendors, Mullenax said, with food stalls, food trucks and niche products such as herbs, spices, cookies, candies and produce. A beer and beverage garden will sell beers and other beverages from around the world.

The goal is for 75% of products to be authentic and handcrafted, with as few mass-produced imports as possible, Mullenax said.

In phase two of the plan, the Fairpark will build barns 8, 9 and 10, to provide permanent spaces for vendors and to expand outdoor spaces. The indoor market would be open four days a week, year-round, and the outdoor market would be open once a week, weather permitting.

Entertainment will take place indoors and outdoors and will include live music, dancing, poetry and storytelling. Other offerings would include interactive activities for children, cooking demonstrations, workshops and dance lessons. The land will also be made available to surrounding communities for cultural festivals.

Mullenax said the Fairpark is always looking for vendors, interpreters and language interpreters, as well as people who can help with cultural sensitivity, idea sharing, planning and promotion. Those wishing to participate should visit the Fairpark website for information on upcoming public meetings, or contact the Fairpark at 801-538-8400 or [email protected]

Editor’s note • This story is only available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers. Please support local journalism.

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion