Patrons who visit the 2012 St. Clair Route 66 Farmers Market will be treated to a new and improved event every Saturday through October.

The 2012 market is set to open on Saturday, May 5, on the grassy area near Health Mart Pharmacy, 855 N. Commercial Ave. Its hours are a little different this year — from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We’re hoping the different hours (an hour later from last year) will help draw more people, especially being open until 1 o’clock,” organizer Paula Dace said. “We’re trying these times to give people more opportunities to stop by.”

After taking a hiatus, the market reopened last year and was deemed a success, said Dace, who is an area farmer. This year, additional vendors have signed up to participate with more expected to sell their wares as the year progresses. Additional special events throughout the season also are planned.

“I’m really excited about the farmers market this year,” said Dace, who also is a member of the St. Clair Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors, the organization that oversees the event. “We’re anticipating a bigger and better year.”

Dace said so far seven vendors have signed up to be a part of the market every Saturday. Additional booths will come and go depending on the time of year and the interest, she said, adding that anyone interested in becoming a vendor may contact the Chamber at 636-629-1889.

“It’s so important to know your farmer and where your food comes from,” Dace said. “And we all know we need to eat healthier. Every week, we’re going to have fresh, homemade items available. That’s a requirement to be a part of this.”

Fresh eggs, breads, jams and jellies and other produce will be available during the season. As the year progresses, different produce items, such as honey and vegetables, will be sold at the market. In addition, homemade soaps, homegrown plants and crafts will be available.

“With us starting at 8 a.m. this year, some of the produce could even be picked earlier that morning,” Dace said. “How can you get any fresher than that?”

Opening Day

On May 5, special activities to coincide with the opening day of the market are scheduled.

Double Diamond D Farm will sponsor a petting zoo at the site, face painting will take place, a one-man band is scheduled to perform and various attendance prizes will be presented. In addition, free coffee will be served.

The Chamber will conduct a ribbon-cutting ceremony shortly after 8 a.m.

Also, the opening Saturday will kick off the season-long quilt raffle. The homemade quilt is being donated by Dace Excavating, and tickets will be sold until October, when the winner will be drawn. Money raised will go toward market expenses.

Also, the market again will be a collection site for used shoes that can be donated. The shoes will be sold and money used from their sale to help drill water wells in underdeveloped countries.

About 250 pairs of shoes were donated last year.

Old, unused cellphones also will be collected in 2012.

Throughout the season, other activities will be planned including a yoga demonstration on Freedom Fest Saturday, June 23.

“I think the market is going to be an awesome thing this year,” Dace said. “Our theme is Meet Me at the Market, and that’s what we want everyone to do.”