By Ben Olson
For more than 30 years, the first Saturday in May has held a special place in Sandpoint residents’ hearts: opening day at the Sandpoint Farmers’ Market. This year, market goers will have to wait a little longer, as market staff announced April 29 that the projected Saturday, May 2 opening date will have to be pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We wanted to go with a modified market,” said Market Manager Kelli Burt, “but then we found out the space on Oak Street wasn’t big enough to accommodate enough vendors and customers to make it a feasible option.”
Burt said that while she and the market board have been putting in a lot of hours to find a solution to open on May 2, the right decision was to put the health of the community first and push back the start date — which is now set for Saturday, May 16, provided conditions don’t change.
“The problem is the crowding,” Burt said. “We want to avoid lingering and crowding on the sidewalks, which, on a normal day [is] impossible to avoid contact with other people.”
The board is now looking into an alternate location to hold the market until social distancing guidelines loosen. Burt said the space at Farmin Park is too big to monitor customers coming in and out, while the adjacent location on Oak Street is too small to maintain social distancing.
“We are an essential business, so we need to be open,” Burt said. “But, we have to play by the rules. We’re also a special event.”
Burt said that because of Gov. Brad Little’s reopening plan, crowds of more than 50 people aren’t permitted until mid-June.
“We more or less fall in that category,” she said.
To help serve customers, Burt said several market vendors have offered online ordering, sales and drop-offs. Visit sandpointfarmersmarket.com to see which vendors are currently selling online and where they’re available for pick-up or drop-off.
“We’ll have our Farmers’ Market online platform up and running on our website soon,” Burt said. “Vendors will upload their items and customers will be able to order and pick up in a physical location. … It’ll be very close to a contactless method of shopping for the time being.”
Burt hopes the market will open up gradually along with the state, which is embarking this week on the first of four phases of loosening COVID-19 restrictions as outlined by the governor.
“I’d love for people to start shopping through the online platform,” she said. “This is a big hit for our farmers now. They make all their income in a very short period of time.”
To see which vendors offer online sales, visit sandpointfarmersmarket.com.
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