The Riverwalk Market Fair won’t open until at least early July due to COVID-19.

The decision, made by the Market Fair’s Board of Directors last month, came with the hope that pandemic conditions could shift and allow for a decreased risk to the vendors, participants and community. The Board of Directors is scheduled to meet again in a couple weeks to discuss the possibility of opening while allowing time to submit registrations.

“We continue to closely follow the advice of the public health authorities as well as keeping our mission in the forefront,” according to a board statement.

Fair Manager April Kopack said the board isn’t optimistic conditions will change enough within the next two weeks to allow for the Fair to open. The weekly Saturday event draws tourists from outside of the community and are considered a summer staple in the city. 

Organizers are grappling with the potential loss of the average 700 to 800 people who visit the Market Fair each week, bringing in $220,000 in customer purchase revenue along with $14,000 from vendor fees.

Kopack had been anticipating $2,000 to $3,000 in donations for the Power of Produce program, in which children between the ages of 4 and 12 receive market vouchers to make their own fresh produce purchases from vendors.

“I’m very disappointed,” she said. “I’m very sad. I was really looking forward to this season.”

Last year, the Market Fair had 20-25 food and farmer vendors. This year, the pandemic has essentially stopped registration since the end of March, and there has been no new vendor applications because of the uncertainty.

Kopack said organizers have asked vendors whether it would be feasible to open as just a farmers market with extensive safety measures, such as increased hand-washing, undergoing a different setup process, roping off an area where customers could walk in only one direction, or allowing for online ordering and in-person pickups.

Kopack, who is entering her second year as manager, told many vendors that those options didn’t seem feasible.

Only 14 vendors reportedly said they would like to open June 15. The remainder said the requirements said opening was not in their best interest.

“We considered what the vendors were saying,” Kopack said.

She added even if the Market Fair season is canceled this year, next year’s event is still planned.

The Northfield Farmers Market is open from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays at Riverside Park.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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