People flock to food. Whether it’s Thai street cuisine or free Costco samples, food exists at the nexus of human interaction, culture, and pure survival instinct. This explains why people of all ages, nationalities, and creeds seek out organized eating experiences, from food festivals to Thanksgiving reunions.
For sixteen seasons, the SoWa Open Market has been fostering community largely through food. Its name is a tribute to the market’s location, south of Washington Street in Boston. Artisan beverages, fresh produce, and homemade baked goods are sold on the streets around SoWa’s vintage market, local shops, and art studios every Sunday from May to October. If you were to attend every week over that period, you would still find something new to sample on your last day. This is the core of what makes open markets like SoWa so refreshing and appealing: they’re dynamic. Many people tout the importance of shopping local for sustainability reasons, or to support the local economy. While these are undoubtedly important considerations, the real appeal of SoWa is in its sense of community and energy.
It’s impossible to leave SoWa having only had a conversation with the people you came with, as the entire concept all but requires you to involve yourself with other visitors and vendors. The long, communal tables, reminiscent of cafeteria lunches, encourage visitors to bond over the ritual of eating, one of the few universal human experiences. Furthermore, there’s something special about purchasing food from the same person who harvested, cooked, or artfully arranged it in a booth. SoWa exudes this kind of pride from all angles. Not only are the vendors proud of the products they are offering, but the shoppers are proud to be a part of it—to be participating in their community. While at first glance you may be attracted to SoWa for its warm apple cider donuts, homemade pesto, or craft beer garden, the reason you’ll return for the next sixteen years is because it is participatory in a way many restaurants and groceries can only attempt. In essence, go for the delicious food, but stay for the community.