2012 Connoisseurs’ Marketplace fills up downtown Menlo Park today and Sunday

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on July 21, 2012

Michael Barnett at 2012 Menlo Park Connoisseurs' Marketplace

We headed downtown to Santa Cruz Avenue this morning to check out the 26th annual Connoisseurs’ Marketplace taking place today and tomorrow, and were struck with how much of a mini county fair the event is — minus the livestock, of course — as well as the loyalty of the artisans who come back year after year.

“I do a lot of Bay Area street fairs, and people come by and say hello to me,” said Michael Barnett (pictured top), who hails from Creston, CA, and makes what he calls handcrafted slumped glass. “They remember me, and it feels good.”

Dave's Killer Bread booth at Menlo Park Connoisseurs' MarketplaceSprinkled amidst the artisans are purveyors of specialty foods and companies touting the latest in home and garden products, such as artificial grass and solar polar. Many of the foods can be sampled; you can taste custom-infused vinegars and oil and pomegranate products, among others. One new-to-us vendor was Dave’s Killer Bread, whose founder gave up a life of drugs and crime to create a line of healthy bread now sold in eight Western states. (You can read about Dave’s transformation online in a video called The Good Seed.

We tend to be overwhelmed by the art at downtown street fairs, and our impatience hinders our ability to examine the jewelry with the attention needed. We did observe that there was plenty to buy if you have young children or grandchildren, including lots of cute clothes and unique toys. Given the good fortunes of the Giants of late, a wonderful, whimsical wooden airplane pulling a Giants banner caught our eye, the creation of The Woodsman.

wooden plane for sale at Menlo Park Connoisseurs' Marketplace

There’s a lengthy lineup of chefs and bands appearing today and tomorrow. Most of the chefs, like LB Steak chef Ryan Ellison (1:30, Sunday) and Chuck Courtney (2:15 Sunday) of Menlo Grill, are local. There is an after-hours concert today from 5:30 to 8:00 pm in Fremont Park, which features a 12-piece R&B/funk band called The Big Dig.

Connoisseurs’ Marketplace, which includes “thrill rides” designed for young kids, runs to 6:00 pm today and from 10:00 am to 6:00 tomorrow (Sunday, July 22).

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