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Celebrating 40 Years of the Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market

In 2023, the Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market celebrates 40 years of operation! See snapshots and select news items from the storied history of the Market over the past four decades and discover the origins, growth, and impact of this iconic Market on the local economy and region.

How It All Began

Telegram - Tribune, July 1980 (via Mustang News)

Downtown Cruisin’

In the late 70s and 80s, teens began loudly cruising “the main drag” of downtown San Luis Obispo, Higuera Street, deterring shoppers and causing merchants to have trouble keeping their doors open late. Downtown shop owners called on the Downtown Business Improvement Association (BIA) — now known as Downtown SLO — to produce a way to stop the rowdy Thursday night cruisers. This led to the BIA barricading four blocks of Higuera Street; the trick was getting shoppers back downtown on Thursday Nights!

Thursday Night Activities

Originally called “Thursday Night Activities,” the Downtown BIA began arranging for special activities and entertainment in the street in early 1983. Downtown restaurants moved their setups outside to serve street food and, of course, barbecue. Then, in the summer of 1983, local farmers were invited to participate and “sell what they grow”, leading to the activities being known as “Farmers’ Market.”

Downtown Newsletter, August 1983

The Place to Be!

The Market quickly gained traction, received national and international press coverage, and earned the attention of city governments and main street programs across the country as an innovative way of using public space. The Market evolved into the nation’s longest-running year-round night market.

Although hairstyles and fashion trends have changed throughout the decades, many familiar faces remain the same. The most senior vendors are Hayashi Vegetable Stand and F.McClintock’s, though many of the farmers have been with the Market in some capacity for over 30 years.

F.McLintock's is one of the longest-running vendors at the Market. They've been with us since the first Market in 1983!

Over the Years

New York Times, December 1986

More than just fruits & veggies

What was once an incentive for locals to shop downtown quickly became a Central Coast must-see. The Market began incorporating information booths, entertainment, and more, turning Higuera Street into a street fair every Thursday Night. Today, thousands gather weekly to enjoy five blocks of over 100 vendors offering fresh produce, famous BBQ, delicious meals, crafts, baked goods, entertainment, and more.

Downtown Brown's Birthday, May 2004

Downtown Brown

As you wander Higuera Street on a Thursday evening, look above the crowds for a pair of fluffy brown ears — the official mascot of Downtown SLO, Downtown Brown, is a crowd favorite! The bear has gone through several iterations throughout the years.

Share Your Story

Have a favorite photo or memory from the Market? Share it with us via email ( or social media @DowntownSLOFarmersMarket.

Rib Cook-Off at the Market, July 1997

What’s Next?

Annual Events & Activations*

  • Fall/Winter — Halloween Festivities, Fire Prevention Night, Veterans Outreach Night
  • Spring/Summer — Bunny Trail, Farm City Nights, Law Enforcement Night, Public Works Night, Cal Poly Homecoming

*This is not an exhaustive list — Click here for details on upcoming events.

Recent Awards & Recognitions

Join Us!

Every week, we welcome between 5–10k people from around the world.

We're here every Thursday starting at 6 PM (except on federal holidays… or if it’s raining) on Higuera Street in Downtown San Luis Obispo. Learn more about visiting the Market.

Stay In-The-Know

Want to get weekly Farmers’ Market updates and downtown events in your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter!

With 40 years of history, it’s impossible to summarize all of the amazing vendors, community partners, and memories that have shaped this beloved event. Thank you!

Downtown SLO Farmers' Market, May 2023

In Partnership With

Thank you to our 2024-2025 sponsors!

Media Partners