West Point Farmer's Market to open June 4

The West Point Farmer's Market will have new guidelines to promote social distancing. (DTL File Photo)
Daily Times Leader

The West Point Farmer's Market is returning to the Mossy Oak Pavilion at 4 p.m, June 4.

There will be some new restrictions, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, to keep everyone safe and healthy while shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables grown by Mississippi farmers.

"The Farmer's Market is going to look different this summer," Lisa Klutts, director of the Growth Alliance, said. "The vendors will be under the pavilion. We will be utilizing the entire space. We'll have to keep from having the lines with everyone being so close together. We will spread out the vendor tables. We want to be able to maintain social distancing while shopping."

At this time, there are 12 vendors who will be at the first Farmer's Market of the year.

"It's going to be fruits and vegetables this year," Klutts said. "We aren't having the craft vendors or the musicians."

Klutts said she is observing the guidelines set out by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture, the Mississippi State Extension Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I took all the recommendations under consideration," Klutts said. "That was the only method to come up with a plan to keep everyone safe, and still have the Farmer's Market."

There will be a hand sanitizer station and the bathroom will be open for hand washing.

"We are not mandating the wearing of a facial covering," Klutts said. "But if you wish to hear one, by all means do. We know that those who want to take this additional precaution, will feel better about being in attendance. There will be masks for sale for those who would like to purchase them."

These past few months have been difficult for everyone, we hope the Farmer's Market will bring back a feeling of normalcy to life, Klutts said.

"The bell will ring to signal the opening at 4 p.m.," Klutts said. "The Farmer's Market will be every Thursday from June 4 through July 30. It is a little shorter this year. But we hope everything will return to normal by next spring."

The other farmers markets in area counties opened a few weeks sooner, and Klutts took some cues from how they are promoting Mississippi farm-raised products.

"There was no way to have the Farmer's Market begin on schedule," Klutts said. "But we are very happy to let everyone know that it will start next week."

Having freshly grown fruits and vegetables available is extremely important to the community, according to Klutts.

"We need to be cautious, mindful and careful while at the events that are taking place," Klutts said. "We are learning as we go. We can't encourage people to hang out and visit with each other, as we have in the past. We are still trying to keep from spreading the virus."

There were many events that normally take place in the spring that have been cancelled because of the pandemic.

"With things being so different, I was extremely disappointed to have to cancel so many events that are hosted by the Growth Alliance," Klutts said. "We know a lot of young entrepreneurs who were looking forward to Lemonade Day. There was no way to be able to sponsor it this year."

The Growth Alliance is the recipient of the tourism tax. Klutts said the taxes in March 2020 were down 31 percent from March 2019, marking a difference of $8,000.

The Prairie Arts Festival will be Saturday, Sept. 5, Labor Day Saturday, as it has always been.

"There will be changes to the festival," Klutts said. "We will not have the 5K run. After much consideration, we think it is for the best, at this time. We will not have bands performing. We are thinking about having a few carefully placed street musicians."

Klutts said they are still considering changes to the layout of the festival. Having vendors line Commerce Street, having food vendors on Broad Street.

"There is always a lot of foot traffic in certain areas of the park," Klutts said. "We'll have to have everything more spread out with space between each vendor booth."

Klutts said they aren't canceling, just redesigning and rethinking. She plans to only advertise the festival locally, instead of statewide. Hopefully some of the changes will be for the better and can be adopted for future festivals.

"We don't want people from all over the state and Alabama this year," Klutts said. "We don't need the normal 30,000 people at this year's festival. We are doing some streamlining that will keep our people safe. Hopefully everything will get back to normal soon. This festival is good for West Point, but we have to do what is best for everyone who lives here. Planning has been stressful, but exciting."

In previous years, Klutts has attend the National Main Street Association Convention. It had been set in Dallas, Texas.

"I have become tech savvy over the past few months," Klutts said. "We had an 'unconference' this year. It was really nice, everyone was watching the same presentation at the same. We could ask questions and receive answers in real time."

She said they had video conferencing on "Re-opening Main Street," Klutts said "We learned what other towns and cities are doing during COVID-19, and things we can do to help promote those businesses that have been impacted."

Several ribbon cuttings have been postponed and rescheduled. After businesses re-open, Monday, June 1, Klutts will be in touch with those new businesses to discuss a date and time to celebrate their openings with a ribbon cutting.