Sarasota Farmers Market a fantastic way to spend a Saturday morning in downtown Sarasota

The canine collection is as much an attraction as the bounty of food

Harriet Cuthbert. Contributed photo

The not so sotto voce rumor around town is that the best free event in downtown Sarasota is the Sarasota Farmers Market, held every Saturday. And I am here to confirm the rumor.

I am convinced that with everything wonderful and pleasurable that Sarasota has to offer, this is the greatest weekly social event of all. It is a sensory overload feast, with something for everyone.

I will admit it right now: I go for the doggies, the best parade of dogs in town. As a canine-obsessed person (who does not have her own dog), I marvel at the variety and unqualified beauty of the doggies who accompany their owners and peacefully parade along Lemon Avenue, sniffing other dogs and, of course, being tempted to grab bites of the incredible produce that abounds. In the end, though, they obediently remain with their owners. Occasionally, a small ruckus occurs, as different breeds and sizes check each other out, but I have never seen any harm come to any dog.

I love observing the huge variety of dogs. Many times, when I ask their owners if I can pet the canines, I am rewarded with a very friendly “Of course! He/she loves the attention!”

At that point, my day has been made, and I am ready to shop, continuing my excellent experience.

The Farmers Market is tremendously popular because it offers very fresh produce, i.e., just-picked corn, ripe tomatoes with their pungent aroma, beautiful berries, etc. Even the colors of all this bounty complement each other.

Scattered in between the produce stands are arrays of cheese, seafood sandwiches and my favorite: 20 varieties of just-made empanadas. The list goes on, including many booths with craftspeople offering handmade objets d’art. Did I forget to mention the guacamole booth? Four varieties are available, and you can sample them all with the crispy tortilla chips the vendors provide.

The Sarasota Farmers Market routinely draws crowds. File photo

Another fantastic event at the market is the free entertainment. As you saunter along Lemon Avenue, you first might hear a lady — who also looks cool with her platinum blonde hair — singing some jazz standards, or maybe a flamenco guitar duo that has always been well received. The bigger groups, such as Oceans 11 or Big Night Out, set up on State Street, complete with chairs and tables to make their audiences comfortable.

Many people are surprised to hear such excellent local bands playing at 10:30 a.m. instead of 10:30 p.m.

A modest tip is always recommended — and appreciated by the bands.

I cannot think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning, and I think the doggies would agree.

Did I mention there is dancing, too?