News that the state is expecting to ease pandemic restrictions soon had Homewood officials looking forward to the possibility of returning the farmers market to its pre-pandemic mode soon.
Homewood Events Manager Allisa Opyd said the village would continue to follow all state and county safety guidelines, and the return to normal operations might take some time, but she was encouraged by the possibilities.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker is hoping the state can enter a bridge phase this week. Barring any resurgence of COVID-19 infection rates, the state could enter Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan by June. That essentially will reopen business and social activity in the state to pre-pandemic operations.
Homewood’s pre-pandemic farmers market was seen by village officials as a kind of mini-festival, designed to do more than provide fresh produce and hand-crafted goods. It was a regular opportunity for residents to come together to eat, listen to live music and socialize.
Pandemic safety precautions, which were in place for the opening of the market season on Saturday, have allowed people to buy their favorite goods, but the social aspect has been hindered by the need to control capacity and maintain physical distance between patrons.
Opyd said once the state is securely in Phase 5, the village would consider the possibility of reintroducing market favorites, including live music and the Wednesday evening market sessions.
Despite the limitations still in place on Saturday, the season got off to a good start, Opyd said. She estimated about 600 patrons attended.
“It has really worked well,” she said. “Everyone has followed the guidelines. The vendors did great. It’s just so refreshing to see.”
The market introduced one pre-pandemic feature on Saturday — a safely separated seating area — which was absent all last year. Two picnic tables, two small tables and the permanent benches at the south end of Martin Square provide a place where patrons can rest and converse.
The market procedures have patrons checking in with the seating section attendant before entering.
Market Manager Kate Duff also reminded patrons to enter and exit the market at the Chestnut Road entrance on the north end of the market. The single entry/exit point is necessary to manage capacity and ensure all patrons wash their hands and wear masks.