BRADENTON -- Don't be too surprised if you bump into Darth Vader on Saturday at Bradenton's first farmers market of the season.
People dressed in Star Wars costumes or as Japanese anime characters may be walking around Old Main Street as they celebrate Mana-Con Comics Convention for Teens and then make an appearance at the farmers market.
The library is partnering with Realize Bradenton to promote each other's events Saturday, says Ericka Dow, adult services supervisor at the Manatee County Central Library, which is sponsoring the convention.
Convention artists will be at a special "Family Activities Booth" at the farmers market doing art demonstrations and providing coloring sheets for children, she said.
The Family Activities Booth is a new weekly addition to Downtown Bradenton's Farmers Market designed to introduce families and children to fresh, healthy eating and to connect them with the community, said Kevin Webb, farmers market manager for Realize Bradenton.
This will be the third year Realize Bradenton, a nonprofit that promotes down
town Bradenton, hosts the market. The nonprofit expects 30,000 to 40,000 will attend the Saturday events this season. Attendances was up 40 percent last year, says Webb.
"We would really like to do that again," he said. "The more we grow the attendance, the more vendors we can bring in."
About 45 vendors will be at the market each week.
Realize Bradenton will work with different organizations each week to feature a different family theme. There will be a historical scavenger hunt at the end of October, a hunger and homeless awareness event in November and hands-on science demonstrations in December through a partnership with the South Florida Museum.
At the season opener, visitors can also use "market bucks" -- vouchers that will be given to Mana-Con participants at the library and which can be redeemed at the farmers market for a $1 value.
The market spans three blocks on Old Main Street and is just a few blocks from the central library, making it "a really good fit" for the library, Dow notes.
"We are really happy the farmers market is down there because it's even more options for food, because we don't want people to bring food into the library," she said. Free parking will be available for event participants at the library and at City Hall.
The once-a-month "Mainly Art" section featuring handmade arts and crafts by local artisans will also return this year.
"I'm retired so I started doing this as a hobby," said Elaine Dennis, who will set up her booth every third Saturday of the month in the "Mainly Art" section of the farmers market. "It's a good way to get started. There are some months that are better than others, but people there are very nice and very helpful."
Dennis' favorite thing to paint are birds, she said, but she also sells watercolor paintings of flowers, nature and other animals.
Last year was the first time she set up her booth "Watercolors by Elaine" at the downtown market.
"I'm coming back, so that should tell you something," she said.
The farmers market booths are set up along 12th Street West (Old Main Street), north of Manatee Avenue West. The market runs 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturdays from October to May.