The Farmers Market of Historic Vincennes will open, but later in the year and at an alternate site.
Mayor Joe Yochum has decided the market can open this year despite concerns of COVID-19; it just can’t open at the open-air Riverfront Pavilion, 102 N. Second St., its normal venue for the last few years.
In an effort to better spread out vendors and allow more room between shoppers, the market this year will open May 30 — a week later than usual — at Gregg Park.
“It shouldn’t open until the 30th anyway,” he said, citing Gov. Eric Holcomb’s back-on-track plan, which allows for gatherings of up to 100 beginning on May 24 — a day after the market typically opens on Memorial Day weekend.
“I just don’t want it in the pavilion,” the mayor said. “I’m fine if they want to work with (the parks department) to set it up in Gregg Park, it’s a more open area.
“Once you get booths on either side of the pavilion, it just becomes too congested.”
The mayor said he envisions vendors setting up in the parking area near Rainbow Beach. And the vastness of the park itself, he said, lends itself to better social distancing.
Shirley Rose, a member of the alliance group that runs the market every year, drew up a plan she thought would keep people safe at the Riverfront Pavilion itself, one that received county health officer Dr. Alan Stewart’s blessing.
Essentially, it called for fewer vendors overall as well as dividing the pavilion into two one-way sides. Regardless of which end you entered the pavilion, you would keep to the right, Rose said.
But the mayor simply thought the park a better venue — at least for now.
“It’s temporary,” the mayor said. “Just for the first three Saturdays.
“On June 14, the governor’s plan allows for (gatherings of up to) 250 people. I doubt I’ve ever seen quite that many people at the market, so then, if they want, they can move it back (downtown).”
Rose, too, said she has limited vendors to only those selling produce, which this time of year are few.
“We normally have 40-plus vendors,” she said of the market’s opening weekend. “I’ve got it down to 14 — only those who sell food products, plants, flowers things like that. I’ve got someone selling radishes and lettuce, three selling strawberries and gooseberries.
“And I’ll allow for plenty of space in between them.”
Rose, too, said all of the vendors will be required to wear masks and gloves, and she encouraged shoppers to do so as well.
The local farmers market will join with several others that have already opened across Indiana, including ones in Indianapolis and Carmel.
But they, too, will experience changes.
New COVID-19 policies include everything from visitors being required to wear masks to the addition of hand-washing stations.
Shoppers, too, are encouraged to maintain social distancing, only touch what you’re going to buy and to properly wash all produce upon returning home.
Stewart said, for him, figuring out how such large outdoor gatherings can happen has been the next big hurdle for him to clear.
In recent days, he’s met with Rose as well as officials with the Knox County Fair and the Knox County Chamber of Commerce in regards to the Watermelon Festival.
Those two events are held in July and August respectively — after the Fourth of July target the governor has for a full reopening of the Hoosier state.
Stewart, too, said he is working on a plan to offer local food trucks guidance on how best to set up on the Riverwalk, a regular Monday evening event started last year by city councilman Brian Grove.
“Moving into these next stages of gatherings and so forth, the rules will be similar,” he said. “The goal will be in decreasing congestion and spreading out across a venue as much as possible.”
Stewart said he will likely suggest vendors be made to set up at least 20 feet apart and marked waiting spots at 6 feet apart.
When you do that, he said, you automatically decrease the density of people by half.
“And with warm weather coming, these events being outside, that’s all possible,” he said.
“I feel like we will be able to do these things safely.”