Downtown farmers' market returns with pandemic-imposed restrictions

The market will make its return this weekend with many new rules and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic — including no samples, no music and no sitting down to eat.

Chef demos, kids' craft corner will move ahead as pre-recorded videos

The Downtown Windsor farmers' Market won't look like it did in this 2019 photo. The 2020 market will have COVID-19 precautions to ensure safety. (Bob Becken/CBC)

If you've ever attended the Downtown Windsor Farmers' Market, a lot of your time may have been spent browsing for items or sitting down to enjoy some food and entertainment — but that won't be possible at the annual event this weekend.

The market will make its return tomorrow with many new rules and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including no samples, no music and no sitting down to eat.

"Instead of being a place where we can come down and hang out all day until 1 p.m., instead it's going to be [an event where you can] come on down and get what you need," said market manager Steve Green.

Normally, the market would feature an area where kids could work on crafts and chefs would demonstrate how to make some of their dishes. This year, those will be offered as videos.

Attendees can either watch the videos at the market or follow along at home, as they'll be posted on Facebook and YouTube.

Visitors of the market be required to browse in one direction. (David Horemans/CBC)

Entrances will be limited to just two — on opposite sides of the market on Pelissier Street. Visitors will be briefed on all the rules they need to know upon entering.

Expect to see hand-washing stations, portable washrooms and vendor booths sitting two metres apart from one another. Visitors will have to move in a one-way circle past the vendors while following physical distancing guidelines.

Vendors will only be allowed to assist one customer at a time, so visitors may have to wait before inquiring about products at a specific booth.

"I don't feel anyone should be rushed or feel like they have to be rushed to look at a certain vendor's booth," said Andrew Braithwaite, owner of Soap Chef, adding he hopes the new rules don't discourage people from coming to the market.

"I'm in no way going to push people along if they want to stay there for a couple of minutes and ask questions about what can help them with their mental health or their skin health. I"ll give them the time to get the answers they want."

The booths themselves will also look different due to the pandemic. At The Fruit Wagon, customers will be kept farther away from the products.

Booth operators will only be permitted to assist one visitor at a time. (Downtown Windsor Farmers Market/Facebook)

"Instead of piling everything in a big huge display so people can browse and shop as they normally would, you put a display out that shows what you have and then you're distanced from the shoppers," said Leslie Balsillie, co-owner of The Fruit Wagon.

"They'll be on the other side of the table and then they order what they want. We provide it and then we have one person handling the cash. Then, we have to sanitize our hands between each cash transaction.

Instead of being a place where we can come down and hang out, ... it's going to be [an event where you can] come on down and get what you need.- Steve Green, Downtown Windsor Farmers' Market manager

Food vendors at the market normally allow customers to sample their products and purchase them hot and ready to eat, but that won't be happening this year. Little Foot Foods, for example, will be selling its staple items — like perogies and cabbage rolls — frozen.

Masks will not be mandated for the public, but the market may have some to give out if visitors want one. There will also be a limit on how many people can be in the market at one time, but officials are still figuring out what that count will be.

The Downtown Windsor Farmer's Market starts Saturday at 8 a.m.


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