If you were never quite sure where Mercado on Fifth in Moline was, you have no excuse now.
A huge new, colorful sign at the family-friendly outdoor market’s property (near 5th Avenue and 12th Street) was unveiled Friday morning.
Based on similar signs featuring gigantic letters that are popular throughout Mexico, Mercado’s new sign was made by Mexico-based E&E Letras Gigantes. The Mercado sign (which will be illuminated at night) will highlight the two Mexican states of Guanajuato and San Luis Potosi — Guanajuato is where many residents of the city’s Floreciente neighborhood are from originally and Mercado founder Maria Ontiveros’ family, from San Luis Potosi.
The project was made possible with $4,000 in grant money from the Moline Foundation, in-kind concrete work by QC Fixit and import and shipping logistics by Group O’s supply chain team.
“Arts and placemaking are part of the city’s plan and our agenda,” new Moline City Administrator Bob Vitas said at Friday’s unveiling, attended by leaders from Mercado, Quad Cities Chamber, Moline Foundation and Greater Quad Cities Hispanic Chamber. “We have a new Public Arts Commission being created. This is probably one of the finest examples of public art in downtown Moline today. Congratulations to everybody who was engaged in this project.”
The Moline Foundation approached Mercado to take advantage of funds from the Tom and Karen Getz Family Fund — an endowment established two decades ago to support community pride, youth engagement, and the arts, said Foundation president/CEO Paul Plagenz.
“I know they’d be very proud of this sign for Mercado on Fifth,” he sad Friday. “It represents all three roles of their legacy.
The project came up during Mercado director Anamaria Rocha’s first week on the job, in mid-March 2021. Her godson in Mexico connected her with the company that fabricated the sign.
“It was completely made, 100 percent for us,” Rocha said. The letters include the colors of Mercado’s logo, and each letter has a special significance for the area and its strong Hispanic population.
“We hope this increases cultural pride,” she said. “These letters and signs, you see them all over Mexico. It’s become a form of art – each letter, you can design and make it symbolize where it is. So these letters are representative of our community and the Latino culture here. This is pretty cool.”
In the sign, the purple M represents the lily from the Floreciente neighborhood (in northwest Moline); the navy blue E represents Mexican music; the yellow R represents corn in the Midwest; the orange and yellow C represents marigolds and the Day of the Dead; the red A represents Ballet Folklorico; the green D represents Guanajuato, Mexico, and pink O represents San Luis Potosi – where Bob Ontiveros’ grandparents were from.
“The design is representative of our community and it’s just wonderful,” said Rocha, whose own family moved from Guanajuato to Moline’s Floreciente neighborhood in the 1970s.
“This was really a team effort,” she said of the new sign. “It lights up and I hope all you guys enjoy it.”
Mercado on Fifth hosts vibrant markets every Friday evening in the summer on 5th Avenue in Moline. The family-friendly events feature food trucks, mobile boutiques and retail vendors, children’s activities, and live music and entertainment. The organization works with both English and Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs to help start and grow their businesses.
“The Mercado market is critically important in our ongoing work to promote entrepreneurship in Moline, particularly among minority communities and in this case, our Latino population,” Vitas said.
The final Mercado on Fifth event for the year is Friday, Oct. 8, with the last one in downtown Davenport (Quinlan Court) on Oct. 9.
Mercado is making progress on finishing the new outdoor patio next to its renovated building, in October, Rocha said, noting the indoor space will be completed by the end of December, with furnishings ready to open in the spring.
“It’s going to be a community space,” she said. “We are looking to the community to give us their feedback in terms of what they can use the space for. There will be workshops for businesses, programming for children, arts, crafts. In the past, Mercado had a cooking class, pre-Covid, and we hope to bring that back. Hopefully, we’re able to bring things like that back.
“Then private uses, for private events – hopefully corporate team-building meetings, things like that,” Rocha said.
Mercado and West Gateway, both managed by members of the Ontiveros family, are renovating the 6,300-square-foot building into a business incubator and event space at a cost of over $500,000, including a new outdoor patio.
Mercado hopes to open the new year-round indoor market in 2022. For more information, visit mercadoonfifth.org.