The Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP) has a long list of accomplishments and highlights since its founding in 1974. The group has been active in promoting and preserving the historic Riverside district, including the Five Points and Avondale areas. RAP is one of the entities most deserving of credit for Riverside appearing in the American Planning Association's "Greatest Neighborhoods" list in 2010.
It's difficult to select a top contribution, but one of the association's greatest gifts to the community has been the weekly Riverside Arts Market (RAM), a massive collection of artists and performers, and local vendors, including a farmer's market.
The Riverside Arts Market is held beneath the Fuller-Warren Bridge on Riverside Ave. every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine.
RAP organized the first market in April 2009, and it's grown considerably since, now attracting over 5,000 visitors each Saturday -- a considerable amount, considering the organizing group's original projections aimed to attract about 3,000 weekly visitors.
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Attendance is free, as is parking. RAM also offers free bike valet, public restrooms and free WiFi.
Expect to find live music in the rear edge of the complex, right on the edge of the St. John's River. Other musicians, such as saxophonists, are also found scattered throughout the complex. Performers such as belly dancers are also quite common, depending on the week.
Children attending RAM can take advantage of the free children's creativity center located near the front of the lot. The center includes art activities such as painting and drawing.
Other typical activities include palm readings, yoga and massage, although specific activities and vendors vary weekly.
Like Downtown Jacksonville's Art Walk, some Riverside Arts Market events follow a theme. Past themes have included "The Arf Barket (Dog Themed)," "Octoberfest" and "Literary Day," featuring local authors and poets.
Pets are welcome at RAM, but should be restrained by a leash.
Vendors, artists or performers interested in renting a booth during RAM can apply online to become an approved vendor. Only original arts and crafts are allowed -- RAM does not allow wholesalers or resellers to participate.
Booth fees range from $35 to $101 per Saturday, plus tax, depending on the booth size and location. Local non-profits can reserve a booth for free.
Get to RAM early if you want to catch all the action. Some vendors begin packing it in around 2 p.m., a couple of hours before RAM closes. Most of the vendors, including fruit and vegetable dealers, also have a limited supply -- another reason to arrive early.
The idea for RAM came from the Portland Saturday Market in Oregon, a similar event that has become one of the state's largest attractions over the years, according to Wayne Wood, one of the original RAM organizers and promoters.