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Great farmers market found in Maple Valley | Wally's World

This column has frequently showered considerable praise on Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle.

Justifiably so. This rambling story-teller has never run across another farmer's market quite as impressive anywhere in the U.S.

But there are, of course, many other worthwhile open-air markets all over western Washington. And just in case you haven't heard about or visited the one in Maple Valley, it's highly recommended if you're into such places. It's on the campus of Rock Creek Elementary School, a few blocks north of Four Corners, and it's open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday, from the middle of June until early October, so you still have a few weekends to stop by.

Being rather slow to pursue local rumors about the operation, I went there for the first time last week. It was a splendid, sunny day, the vendors were out in force, and Bob Dylan's "I'm so much younger now" washed over the entire venue from a couple of large speakers. (Unfortunately, someone complained about the "loud" music, so they turned it off.) For an hour or more I walked through the market, talked with various vendors and admired their stalls.

The place has a broad and wonderful selection of produce, crafts, flowers and other delightful displays. For instance, the Hayton Farm from Skagit Valley offers a collection of certified organic, seasonal berries of all types, whether strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc. --- some I've never heard of --- and many verities of specific berries, like seven types of strawberries. There are several flavors of honey at the Bees In the Burb stall; a splendid and wide selection of produce from the Bautista Farms in Yakima; custom-made cupcakes, cookies and brownies from The Cupcakery; blooms from Lavender Valley Farm in Maple Valley (the fragrance will knock your socks off); hand-crafted silver and precious stone jewelry by Angela Ramsey; Chelane's jellies and jams from Black Diamond; Gradwohl's all-natural, organic beef; Ms. Margie's Sweet Potato Pies (the first sweet potato pies I'd seen since I was in New Orleans 10 years ago); and various flavored Straus Bavarian nuts. Emily's Sunshine Room specializes in unusual, hand-crafted thread work; Corey Markus makes beautiful wooden bowls, cups and bottle-stoppers; and Elva Thompson offers her embroidered work. There's food from Eric Elmer's Catering Service and, of course, an espresso bar.

And finally, there are the flowers. My God, you won't believe how incredibly colorful and gorgeous the bouquets are. It's worth a trip through the market just to see them.

All in all, it's a marvelous little event. But I might suggest they crank up the music again. A little Bob Dylan never hurts.

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