Fox Cities’ farm markets prepare for modified openings

Posted on May 12, 2020 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive
Posted by of Insight Publications

Farm markets in downtown Appleton and Neenah will go on this summer albeit with a few changes.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has deemed farm markets an essential business since they are a critical food source. But once open, they’ll need to comply with a few changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Downtown Appleton Farm Market will open Saturday, July 4 from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and will continue every Saturday through Oct. 31. The market is starting two weeks later than normal to “allow us to make sure we have adequate time to put new regulations and safety measures into action,” said Jennifer Stephany, executive director of Appleton Downtown Inc.

In Neenah, the farm market is held in Shattuck Park from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.  This year’s market begins July 13 and will run through Oct. 17.

“For now, we are operating the market as purely an essential food source, but we hope to add to the event as restrictions are lifted throughout the summer to bring back the warm, welcoming gathering space that our community loves,” said Nikki Hessel, executive director of Future Neenah, which organizes the event.

The Future Neenah Farmers Market will look different than in years past as only farmers and local vendors will be there selling fresh produce and prepackaged foods. To discourage gathering in groups and limit time spent at the market, the season will begin without craft vendors, music and activities.

Other safety measures include one-directional signage for navigating the market, signs to assist with social distancing, hand sanitizer stations and other safety guidelines provided by the Winnebago County Health Department for market vendors and staff. Dogs also will not be allowed unless they are service animals.

In Appleton, ADI and the city’s health department have been working side by side to put in place the necessary regulations to ensure the safety of not only customers at the Downtown Appleton Farm Market, but also the precautions needed for the safety of staff, volunteers and farm market vendors.

Some changes being put into place will include:

  • Vendors: At this time, only produce and prepackaged foods vendors are allowed at farm markets. Those at the market will be following additional guidelines for cleaning/disinfecting their booths, using tables as barriers from customers to limit contact. No arts and crafts vendors, hot foods and entertainment activities are permitted at this time.
  • The total number of vendors will decrease to about 50 to 60 vendors each week, but the footprint of the event will still stretch four blocks of College Avenue to allow at least 10 feet of space between each vendor.

ADI is also asking people to practice social distancing at the market and limit the number of family members attending the market.

“We are getting creative with a few online platforms to support the arts and craft vendors and others that cannot join us at the start. As new changes occur throughout the summer, the farm market will adjust to have others join us,” Stephany said.

Heid Music Summer Concert series: The popular Thursday nights featuring live music in downtown Appleton also will take on a different look the summer. The series will begin a month later than normal with shows every Thursday running July 2 through Sept. 24.

The series will begin with virtual livestreamed concerts. ADI will produce these concerts with the band at OuterEdge Stage. Viewers will be able to rock out from their homes and backyards but still support and enjoy live local musicians from the area by tuning to Appleton Downtown’s Facebook page.

As restrictions on group sizes are lifted, small audiences will be allowed in to the OuterEdge to enjoy the bands live, while still livestreaming with the rest of the community. The final phase will be moving the concerts outdoors to Jones Park and allowing concert-goers to join the band live with social distancing still in effect. Most likely, entry points would be limited so crowd numbers will be controlled to fit within the required crowd gathering size.