The Downtown Farmers' Market has announced it will return in 2021, but with some changes. File photo by Duane Tinkey

After the live market was canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was announced Thursday that the Downtown Farmers’ Market will return this year with changes to help keep patrons and vendors safe.

The 2021 season will begin on May 1 and will be scaled back to only include local vendors providing fresh produce and farm and artisan packaged food. It will return to the Historic Court District with social distancing guidelines in accordance with Centers for Disease Control recommendations.

According to a news release, about 110 vendors are expected, about half the number of a traditional Saturday market before the pandemic. Vendors will be spaced farther apart, and patrons will be encouraged to maintain a 6-foot distance from one another. Masks will also be required for all vendors and customers. Customer traffic will also be limited to one-way paths to ensure a safe shopping process.  

“This may not look and feel like the typical Market experience we are all used to at the beginning of the season, but we want to ensure we are providing important nutritious options to … residents and supporting local farmers and artisan food producers,” Kelly Foss, the market's director, said in the release.

Arts, crafts and prepared-food vendors will not participate, nor will there be seating areas, children’s activities or live entertainment.

Vendors who will not appear at the in-person market will still have the opportunity to sell their products on the Downtown Farmers’ Marketplace Online.

Market officials say they will continuously evaluate protocols and programming in response to COVID-19 infection levels and vaccination rates.

The live market, which typically draws about 25,000 people and 300 vendors each Saturday morning May through October, was canceled last year as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the country. In its place, organizers initially offered market meet-up events on its Facebook page to keep vendors and customers engaged before launching the online market in June. They extended the season with winter drive-thru events that went into December.