By Lethbridge Herald on May 24, 2020.
With a delayed start for Exhibition Park and many of its vendors, the Lethbridge Farmers’ Market opened Saturday for the season for families to get out of the house and shop many local vendors and producers.
With uncertainties of when Exhibition Park would be able to open for the market, organizers prepared as quickly as possible to set up social distancing standards and prepare vendors for their opening weekend.
“It feels fantastic to open it up,” says Mike Warkentin, chief operating officer of Exhibition Park. “Obviously as always, with the case with our May markets, we are a little shy on the food vendors, they tend to pick up towards June, so this week we have about 39 vendors. We are doing 50 vendors next week and then 56 the following week and up into that 70 area as we get into June.”
Limiting the number of shoppers inside the market at any given time, Exhibition Park has taken steps to ensure that when guests go to the market to shop that social distancing and proper sanitization is followed and encouraged.
“When guests first come to the site, they will notice that we have line controls outside and capacity controls on what we are allowing in the building, and those will vary on how many vendors we have and how much space we have within the building, and how the measures go as we evaluate over the next couple weeks,” says Warkentin. “As soon as you walk in you will notice the hand sanitizer stations that are set up within the market, as well as we have line controls at every vendor location. We are encouraging people to wear masks, although it is not mandated at this point it is personal preference. Many of our vendors have been as well as wearing gloves and have protective shields set up.”
Part of the issue when they were officially allowed to open was seeing if they were able to include all aspects of the market, instead of just food vendors, as many of them would not be participating until mid to late June.
“Part of the reason for the delayed opening was that we were really trying to gauge the best way to incorporate all the different regulations that were seemingly ever-changing from AHS, with good reason, and were we going to reopen with just food vendors, but with the reopening strategy, we were allowed to include non-food vendors,” says Warkentin.
During Saturday’s opening, people lined outside the doors to get back to handpicking and connecting with local producers and entrepreneurs.
“We started off really strong with a lineup outside this morning, but it has slow this afternoon, but that is a product of an early season,” says Warkentin. “The online response that we have received for the Farmers’ Market has been outstanding, incredible numbers of engagement with the market. This is 50 years strong of supporting local producers and local entrepreneurs. This is such an important piece not just to agriculture but to independent small business, so Exhibition Park is exceptionally proud to support the community in this way and allow the consumers a place to engage with these businesses.”
Over the Farmers’ Market season, Exhibition Park says it will continue to keep up to date with health protocols and procedures to ensure the safety of staff and community members at the market. For more information on vendors available visit exhibitionpark.ca.
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