A couple of thousand people were expected to attend the launch of the Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market on May 2 at University Place and Oak Avenue with 36 vendors.
Due to its size and 45-year history, the City of Evanston’s municipal market is considered a traditional launch to the summer farmers’ market season in the Illinois Midwest.
Saturday’s start and scene were different with social distancing amid COVID-19.
“The snapshot is, we’re doing it,” said Myra Gorman, market manager. ”I’m excited but I can’t wait until the day is over.”
All people are required by state mandate to wear personal protective equipment facial masks or coverings like a bandana or scarf in public.
“You do what you have to do,” said John Amici of the Arcadia Terrace neighborhood in Chicago.
Arriving at 7 a.m., Amici was first in line for the 7:30 a.m. opening and had a message for all.
“If you’re not coming here, stay home,” Amici said with a laugh from behind his Navy blue PPE mask.
Vendors formed a tight square around the parking lot so that patrons, who stood six feet apart, had to enter one gate through a designated corral. This entrance was staffed by personnel who paced each patron’s entry so as not to crowd the interior of the market.
Wrapping around the market was a line of shoppers who stood six feet apart. One patron noted that the wait was significant.
Inside the market, people who wanted to buy something at a certain stand had to wait six feet apart in a queue before approaching the vendor. Vendors had roping, markings or identified space so that purchases were made without the buyer being allowed to touch items.
“It’s going to be different for sure,” said Frances Lyons, a plant vendor from South Haven, Michigan. “Pretty much this is our first market of the season for a lot of us, so we’re going to be starting some different techniques and trying a few things out and hopefully it works,” Lyons added.
Produce and products were handled by vendors only until the point of sale.
“We are making it a no-touch kind of market today,” Gorman said.
Farmers’ markets are essential businesses per Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Stay at Home Order.
“Well, it is an essential business, it is for me,” said John Brandell of Northbrook, a vendor who sells products with honey.
The City of Evanston’s Health and Human Services Department had requirements which also included no handling of reusable bags by market vendors.
Hand sanitizing stations were available. There was no free sampling of products and no food consumption on-site.
“The farmers’ market is one of the safest places to purchase food in the whole country and the world,” said cheese vendor Joe Klinedinst of Walkerton, Indiana. “Farmers are naturally quarantined.”
The Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market is open from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through Nov. 7 at University Place and Oak Avenue behind the Hilton Garden Inn.
Free parking is available in the 1800 Maple Self Park Garage with ticket validation at the City of Evanston tent in the parking lot.
Each week up to 60 vendors sell goods, including fruits, vegetables, meat, flowers, cheese, milk, eggs, garden plants, hanging baskets, baked goods and more.
LINK cards are accepted at the market. LINK customers receive a match of up to $25 per Saturday.
Live animals and pets, other than service animals, are not allowed at the market.
Learn more about Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market at cityofevanston.org/market or call/text 847-448-4311.