By Allyson Haefke, Elizabeth Cichowski, & Jaclyn DeMeuse
The Green Bay farmer’s market is making its way back to Broadway Street for the summer of 2021. After the summer of 2020 was spent in Leicht Memorial Park for the first time because of COVID-19, the vendors and attendees will finally see things getting back to normal.
The downtown farmer’s market is best known for its vendors, performers, food, and other fun events. The vendors for the market use personal tents spread across a two-block portion of Broadway St. These tents often held vendors of produce, flowers, processed foods, art, clothing, restaurants, and promotional materials for local businesses. In addition to the tents, a guest at the market could view and listen to performers of all kinds. There were often musicians playing instruments and singing songs throughout the evening and balloon and street artists making their way through the crowds, showing off their talents.
According to Louise Pfotenhauer, Collections Manager at the Neville Public Museum, “one of the most coveted parts of the farmer’s market is the food they offer,” as she often stops by after work to enjoy a delicious meal. There were always food trucks present, providing a plethora of different food choices. In addition to the trucks, local restaurants set up tents offering their current specials. Beyond the traditional entertainment and food sources found at the farmer’s market, it is also a place to learn about local businesses and sample or view their goods. It is an attractive way to learn new things about the community.
Copper State Brewing Company is a local restaurant that has been affected by the change of venue for the farmer’s market. They are located right off Broadway street, in the hub of the farmer’s market’s location. They would get crowds of people outside Copper State since they have seating, and they offer beer outside. With the farmers market being in the park, there weren’t many outside, and Copper State got rid of handing out beer outside due to the pandemic. Mikay Martens, an employee at Copper State, says, “last year, when the farmers market was in the park and not on Broadway, business was super slow. It was sad to see how much business we lost because of the pandemic and the farmers market being moved.” Mikay Martens also says she is excited it is back on Broadway. Then there will be more business.
When COVID-19 struck, there was a change in plans for the farmer’s market in 2020. There was a greater need for social distancing the tents, personal protection equipment for vendors and guests, and a structured traffic flow to avoid back-ups at certain tents. On Broadway, the hosts and creators of the farmer’s market chose to acquiesce to these concerns by moving the market to Leicht Memorial Park. The park gave them more room to set up and a larger space for guests to use for social distancing. This move “drastically hurt the Broadway businesses,” according to Allie Thut, Director of Special Events for On Broadway. Thut mentions that the vendors had already applied for their positions before the pandemic hit. The farmer’s market could only keep “essential vendors” producing and processed foods, meaning they had to let down most pre-applied vendors. The market was no longer allowed to have arts, music, beer, and prepared food vendors. Allie explains that “not being able to sell beer hurt us as an organization since that is what allows us to fund the market and have it weekly.”
Ally Gorenchan, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, has been a regular visitor to the farmer’s markets’ downtown before the pandemic and during it. And last summer, according to Gorenchan, “There was about half the amount of tents there, but I was still able to get all the products I usually get. A few flowers stands [were there], and I think there was one food truck. The main difference was the lack of alcohol and music, that was the best part about Wednesday markets, and it was sad not to have that anymore.”
According to Thut, having the newly formatted farmer’s market at Leicht Memorial Park was “better than having nothing.” On Broadway was still determined to provide the best experience they could with the resources that they had. In addition to cutting most of the vendors from the venue, there was a significant drop in vendor participation because of the inability to both have a booth at the market and operate their store. Many vendors had lost revenue from the pandemic and lost the staff present at the market. There were fewer vendors with fewer product options, a new location, and strict safety protocols at the 2020 market, which undeniably meant fewer shoppers and guests. According to Thut, the number of customers was thirty percent less than in previous years, and they are hoping the move back to Broadway Street will increase the number of visitors.
Thut mentions that the farmer’s market’s return to Broadway Street is a huge symbolism for the community as it returns to normalcy. With vaccines available for anyone over the age of sixteen, there has been a push to allow more gatherings in the area. The 2021 farmer’s market, according to Thut, will encourage visitors to keep moving throughout the market, maintain social distancing policies, and highly recommend the use of masks throughout their stay. Signage and distancing markers will be located across the entire marketplace. There will also be more hand sanitizing stations located throughout the market and more space between the vendor booths. Food trucks will be back in action, and vendors’ food will be allowed if prepackaged. In addition, there will be small acts for music and other entertainment allowed, bringing life back into the market as Thut would describe it. “Only time will tell” what will happen in the future of the farmer’s market.