Who are the ambitious, early-rising golden people of Madison? And how much better is life for them at the Dane County Farmers’ Market? Being a garbage person, I typically only know it as a heel-to-toe snail race. I headed to the Capitol Square bright and early last Saturday. The simple goal? To learn just how long a lap around the Square fluctuates throughout the day. Below are my findings.
The rules: I entered and exited at King Street and did not stop to purchase items during timed laps around the Square. I simply walked at the group’s pace. When there was a clear opening to walk a bit faster, I took it. When I was pinned between strollers, I accepted my fate.
Lap 1 — 7:30 a.m.
Total steps: 1,490
I predict this initial lap would have been about three minutes faster if, at Pinckney Street, I hadn’t been on the bumper of a plant wagon, which is handy for people who need to carry a lot of plants and a burden for those who don’t. As expected, most stands were easy to access, samples were plentiful and you could probably snag some cheese bread in under a minute.
Lap 2 — 8:30 a.m.
Total steps: 1,468
8:30 is the time I always tell myself I’ll get to the Farmers’ Market, so it was nice to see what life would be like in a less lazy flash sideways. This lap was still relatively painless until I walked directly in front of two women conversing about how “nobody likes Megan’s boyfriend, and she’s kind of a bitch about it.” I honestly didn’t know people talked like that, or talked loud enough in public to let people know that they talked like that. Even without a wagon holding me down, Pinckney proved again to be the slowest street.
Lap 3 — 9:30 a.m.
Total steps: 1,713
I was expecting the real snail crawl to begin around 10:30, so I was saddened to learn that this was the beginning of the end. I was in a true-to-form Farmers’ Market Shuffle (watch out ’85 Bears). Steps were short, the back-up at Stella’s was long and the people who walked against the grain were truly my greatest enemies. I thought the story about Megan was a one-off until I was #blessed when two other women talked for two straight blocks about the trials and tribulation of their Snapchat replies.
Lap 4 — 10:30 a.m.
Total steps: 1,754
This lap was as brutal as expected. The State Street and King Street exits felt like Penn Station, except there was literally only two options of places to go: left or right. ALL ABOARD. The biggest surprise of the morning was learning that there was little time difference between this and the 9:30 lap.
Lap 5 — 11:30 a.m.
Total steps: 1,490
True peak-time market goers either powered through or gave up, letting up on the foot traffic — although I ended up behind a pack of children along Carroll Street which slowed things down since historically children have shorter legs.
Lap 6 — 12:30 p.m.
Total steps: 1,426
The official end time at the Saturday market is 1:45 p.m., but by 12:30 a number of stands were already packing up and dilly-dalliers were picking off the rest. This resulted in an almost completely empty left-hand walking lane. I thought I might match, if not break, some earlier lap times until the brisk pace came to a halt at the King Street bottleneck — but alas, I had made it!
While I still think the Farmers’ Market is a magical place, I wouldn’t recommend walking through it six times in one morning (unless you wanna accomplish 10k steps at a very slow pace). If you head there during peak hours — 9:30 to 11 a.m. — be patient, avoid abrupt stops and don’t talk shit about Megan.