SALT LAKE CITY — A new international market will launch at the Utah State Fairpark this weekend, offering new foods to sample, arts and crafts, and entertainment.
If it's successful, the market could also help to kick start some big changes for the fairgrounds.
"I invite everyone from Salt Lake City to come enjoy the diversity of foods and cultures that we have to offer," said Salt Lake City Council member Alejandro Puy.
The international market will launch on May 28 from 2-8pm in the historic barns just off the Fairpark Trax Station. There will be food trucks, arts and crafts vendors, a beer garden and entertainment. Admission is free.
"Food from all the countries represented on the west side, crafts, artisans are going to be present and hopefully just a really great time getting to know our neighbors and bringing the city in to see just how wonderful the west-side is," Salt Lake City Council member Victoria Petro-Eschler told FOX 13 News on Monday.
Local artisans and food vendors are being recruited for the effort.
"It gives those who are emerging the chance to find their voice. It’s a proof of concept thing," Council member Petro-Eschler said.
The concept is similar to the popular Living Traditions Festival that Salt Lake City puts on every year. The plan is to start small and hold the international market monthly, but Council member Petro-Eschler said she would like to see it become a continued attraction, likening it to Boston's Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
"We want it permanent all days. I want people to be able to take their lunch breaks here and come and get the most delicious food imaginable and enjoy not only the ethnic diversity and the deliciousness of our ethnic diversity, but also the history of these buildings and the hidden gem that is our fairgrounds," she said.
It could also provide another attraction for an area that is growing.
"Visitors coming to the state of Utah can hop on Trax and literally get off 50 feet from the gate and be experiencing something they didn’t anticipate to see in Salt Lake City whatsoever," said Larry Mullenax, the executive director of the Utah State Fairpark Corporation, which oversees the state fairgrounds.
The international market is a part of a much larger plan to transform the fairgrounds into a year-round destination. Development around the fairgrounds has led to new ideas to lure people to the property. At a recent presentation to the Utah State Legislature's Natural Resources Interim Committee, Mullenax discussed a master plan for the fairgrounds that includes a new skate park, a permanent Ferris wheel, a mixed-use development across the street and eventually a hotel on the property.
"We're looking at adding an aerial adventure course, we’re looking at adding a rock climbing wall that people could enjoy. We’re going to program the river again with canoe and kayak rides," he said.
The Utah State Fairpark already has a rodeo arena, hosts concerts and other events, in addition to the annual state fair. Mullenax said the entire project could cost as much as $200 million to create by the time it would be completely done in 2036 (though most of the important parts would be finished by 2028).
If the international market is a success, they would ultimately relocate livestock from the Utah State Fair to new barns to make room for a permanent marketplace. Councilmember Puy said the entire project would be a welcome addition to the area.
"It’s always been the place that connects the urban with the rural and brings it all together," he told FOX 13 News. "But now bringing the culture of this community here, too? And making this place have a new life? I’m so excited about it."