Owatonna’s Central Park came to life Saturday morning as the downtown farmers market celebrated the start of the season.
Vendors selling homegrown and hand made goods lined the outer banks of the park from 7 a.m. until noon as excited patrons enjoyed the sunshine and company. The park remained busy throughout the market's hours, which the organizer said was thanks to the wonderful weather.
“We have had some very cold first days,” said John Meixner, owner of Little Professors Bookshop across the street from the park and farmers market organizer on behalf of the Owatonna Business Partnership. In 2020, the farmers market opened a month later than usual in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and in order to allow vendors time to make appropriate adjustments to their booths.
Booths were still distanced more than they have been in previous years, but warm weather and the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines provided people with the confidence to be among one another again. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, roughly 59% of eligible Minnesotans have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. Data reported on Saturday shows 11,841 Steele County residents are fully vaccinated.
Looking beyond the pandemic, downtown construction known as the "streetscape project," scheduled to begin in June on North Cedar Avenue, could potentially be the next obstacle for the farmers market. Meixner said at this time he is not concerned about it impacting the market, but that they will make whatever adjustments necessary if the construction impacts vendors or visitors.
The Owatonna Farmers Market is free for vendors to sign up so long as they are residents of Steele County. Meixner said this was an arrangement made by the city in an effort to open the opportunity up to everybody and not just commercial businesses.
“Sometimes we will have kids who have been making crafts or baking who get involved until they’re done with school,” Meixner said. “Once people start coming here they usually end up coming for as long as they are able to.”
The farmers market is every Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to noon in Central Park. The season usually runs through the end of October depending on the weather.