By Woodard, Dale on July 30, 2020.
There were a few masked folks looking for a good deal in downtown Lethbridge Wednesday.
Under sunny skies, the Downtown Farmers’ Market was open for business in its second week of operation.
In the morning, the spot set up between 4 and 5 Street on 2 Avenue South was already starting to bustle with shoppers looking for everything from fresh vegetables to oil and ointments, and even fresh fudge for those with a sweet tooth.
And as per COVID-19 pandemic protocol, many shoppers donned masks, utilized the hand sanitizers, maintained a little distance if they could and followed the arrows laid out on the concrete.
“It’s going really well. We had a lineup this morning just before 10 a.m. waiting for the market to open. It’s been busy so far today,” said Emily Chong, marketing co-ordinator for the Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization Zone.
The Downtown Farmers’ Market opened last Wednesday with the goal to run it weekly until Sept. 9.
“It was a success last week. We had almost 800 people come throughout the day,” said Chong. “We were hoping for it to be similar to previous years. We didn’t really have a number in mind. We wanted to see what people were feeling and how safe they were feeling coming down. It was about the same as last year. So it was good to see.”
To keep the shoppers safe, the Downtown Farmers’ Market provided all the COVID safety measures, including clearly marked entrances and exits as well as the sanitization requirements.
“We have lots of hand sanitizer and free masks for people who don’t have them,” said Chong. “So people have felt really safe. They like the selection, so we’ve had really good feedback in that sense.”
Masks were optional for shoppers, but certainly urged, said Chong.
“All of our vendors and everyone working here have a mask, they are highly recommended. We have them for people at the entrance who don’t have them. There’s a separate entrance and two exits. They have to come through one way. There are hand sanitizers and there are arrows on the ground directing people.”
Those taking in Wednesday’s market were also urged to try and stay six feet apart and by the late-morning Chong said the most people in the market area had numbered around 60.
“So it’s pretty easy to social distance. The aisles are very wide, so you have lots of room.”
Alberta Health Services has set a maximum capacity of 200 people.
“People are doing a really good job of coming staggered throughout the day,” said Chong. “Our maximum has been 60 and if we feel like there are too many we’ll make people wait at the entrance.”
At the Broxburn Vegetables & Cafe table, employees Amber Vande Merwe and Barb Farrell were enjoying some steady traffic.
“It’s been busy,” said Vande Merwe, adding a little more than 50 per cent of her customers had donned masks.
The business located between Lethbridge and Coaldale has kept busy at other southern Alberta farmers’ markets.
“We’re also at Farmers Markets on Saturday and we have multiple Farmers Markets in Calgary which we go to,” said Vande Merwe. “We have our store just outside of Coaldale that’s open Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.”
Even in a pandemic, business has been brisk.
“It has actually been busier than normal and as a result we have no strawberries left,” said Vande Merwe. “Our strawberry patch will be open again, hopefully in mid-August.
Meanwhile, the Farmers’ Market at Exhibition Park will continue on Saturday running from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. COVID-19 protocols will also be in place.
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