March 25, 2005
Maybe you’re a newcomer to the East Valley. Who isn’t? Maybe you’ve been here awhile but haven’t had time to explore.
From the Farmers’ Market held Saturdays at The Farmhouse Village to the old Gilbert Historical Museum located in the town’s first elementary school, there are places waiting to connect you and the family to Gilbert’s past and future.
Wildlife species at The Riparian Institute are in constant flux, especially this time of year. Need some peace and quiet? A good place to escape is Freestone Park, an urban retreat offering play opportunities for children and reading quiet for you. At the Hale Centre Theatre, sit back and enjoy live shows as presented by a family that has been doing it for more than 60 years.
Farmers’ Market, The Farmhouse Village, 397 S. Gilbert Road, (480) 892-5750. Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Cost: Items individually priced.
"When the farmers leave, it’s kind of hard to have a farmers’ market," says Heidi Beaubriand. While growers are on the wane in this onetime agricultural hub, a farmers’ market is being reintroduced in Gilbert. Organized by Beaubriand, proprietress of The Giving Tree at The Farmhouse Village, the Farmers’ Market began in February and has since increased in sellers and buyers. Expect to find seasonal produce, grown locally, as well as fabulous breads and pastas. Goats milk bath and body products can be purchased in addition to art, crafts and jewelry. If you have time, stroll around The Farmhouse Village shops and nibble in the eateries. Many of the structures were brought to the site from other Gilbert locations. An exception is the Gilbert House Restaurant, which still sits where it was built. The kit for this building was purchased from a Sears and Roebuck catalog in the 1920s.
Freestone Park, 1021 E. Juniper Ave., (480) 503-6200. Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Cost: Free. Freestone Railroad, within park, (480) 632-2702. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Railroad includes train, wave runner, miniature Ferris wheel and carousel. Cost: Individually priced, $2-$3.
Freestone Park (at least 65 acres of it) opened in 1989. With 115 acres dedicated to park development, there is still room for growth. But that won’t happen in the near future, says Kenny Martin, Gilbert Parks and Recreation Department superintendent. "Beyond five years" is his prediction for the development of the remaining 50 acres. Freestone has a 22,000-square-foot skate park, miniature railroad, paddle boats, baseball diamonds and ramadas.
But Martin says the thing people appreciate is the park’s "open spaces and the pastoral setting. It is someplace people can go to escape." It’s a good place to go and do, but also to rest.
Gilbert Historical Museum, 10 S. Gilbert Road, (480) 926-1577,
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Cost: Donation.
If you’re lucky, Robert Gamble, 75, will be there when you visit. Gamble was born and raised in Gilbert, a descendant of a homestead family. Not that museum displays don’t explain town history well, but it’s nice to have personal insights into pictures and artifacts. (See if you can spot Gamble in his 1948 high school picture.) Rooms of this elementary school/museum, known fondly as "The Alamo," are dedicated to themes that have run through Gilbert’s past — the town, schools, jobs, families, home life and military. You’ll learn who filed Gilbert’s first homesteads and when. And why alfalfa moved the town to prominence during World War I. In one room you can watch quilters hand-stitch coverings.
Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Ave., (480) 497-1181,
Performances: 7:30 p.m. Fridays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. matinee Saturdays. Cost: Musicals $20-$22, comedies $16-$18.
The Hale Centre Theatre opened July 25, 2003, and now is an entertainment destination for people looking for live theater. The first Hale Theatre was started in Glendale, Calif., by Ruth and Nathan Hale during World War II. Now grandchildren run operations in California, Utah and Arizona, with the Gilbert theater being the newest of the family chain. With 390 seats, the Hale Centre Theatre is operated by Corrin and David Dietlein and, until April 2, the venue will be alive with "The Sound of Music." From April 7 to May 14 "The Curious Savage," a comedy by John Patrick, will be playing.
Joe’s Real Barbecue, 301 N. Gilbert Road, (480) 503-3805, www.joesrealbbq.com. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Closed Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The Tone Building, housing Joe’s Real Barbecue, is a key historic building lending much to Gilbert’s downtown. Built in 1929 by Albert Tone, the building sheltered a variety of failed businesses, including the Safeway Pay’N’Takit, before native son Joe Johnston opened Joe’s Real Barbecue in 1998. Folks travel far for the pecanwood smoked meats. Joe’s is also known for its side dishes such as potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and baked beans, and homey desserts. The root beer also gets raves. But in addition to the food, Joe’s is about atmosphere and honest-to-goodness service. And, if you are lucky, the 2 Under Par barbershop quartet will stop by when you are having your scrumptious meal.
The Riparian Institute, 775 N. Greenfield Road, (480) 503 -
Hours: Dawn to dusk. Cost: Free. Special programs: $5, $3 for students.
The 110-acre preserve, opened in 2000, welcomes 90,000 visitors annually. And that’s just the people. Because right now the birds at the institute are phenomenal, says Scott Anderson, director of the Riparian Institute. "We are seeing a huge variety of shore and water birds," says Anderson. So good is the birding, in fact, that the Audubon Society is about to designate the institute an Important Bird Area. Dedicated to the creation and preservation of the riparian habitat, the institute has become a regional destination. While some people visit to sit and watch, others are attracted by programs such as the Family Bird Walk, Dragonflies and Digging Dinosaurs. The institute also offers prepared activities for small groups, such as families, if reservations are made. Biodiversity Scavenger Hunt, Butterfly Research Detective and Incredible Plants are three examples costing $5 per person.