The first of two non-market Saturdays is now in the books for the farmers market facility on Morton Street in downtown Bloomington, next to city hall.
Substituting for the usual location yesterday were several alternate spots. Of those, probably the most prominent was the parking lot of the former Kmart location off 3rd street, behind the east-side Bloomingfoods.
That’s where around 50 vendors listed on the welcome table’s roster and booth map were selling fresh produce from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
At least a few hundred people were at the market when The Beacon dropped by around 10:30 a.m.
They’ll repeat that scene next Saturday, but return to downtown Bloomington the following week—if the City of Bloomington has been able to implement the safeguards it thinks are necessary to re-open the market.
Last Monday, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, announced a two-Saturday suspension of the downtown farmers market—citing threats to public safety: “[I]nformation gathered identifying threats of specific individuals with connections to past white nationalist violence, present the potential for future clashes.”
So on Saturday, the downtown market location on Morton Street was empty except for an A-frame sign saying the market was closed. The general area of downtown Bloomington was noticeably quieter than usual.
In contrast, the parking lot of the former Kmart location off 3rd street, behind the east-side Bloomingfoods, was teeming with a level of activity it likely hasn’t seen since the big-box retailer closed about a year ago. Chatter among vendors and patrons included talk about the good mood—the good “vibe”—that people were feeling about successfully scrambling to find a venue.
Susan Welsand tweeted at The Beacon, “I had a big smile on my face all day.” The yellow sign posted at her Chile Woman stall read: “Welcome! to all, including: people of color, LGBTQ+ people, Muslim people, Jewish people, people with disabilities, immigrant people. We are glad you’re here.”
The location behind Bloomingfoods was organized for Saturday by several volunteers, Bobbi Boos told The Beacon on Saturday, including Bloomingfoods staff. Boos, who is treasurer of the Bloomingfoods co-op board, said she talked with a couple other board members Tuesday night.
On Wednesday morning she talked through the location with some of her farmer friends. By Wednesday afternoon the Bloomingfoods location was settled. It was an operational decision by store managers of Bloomingfoods, she said, not a board decision.
The Kmart parking lot likely could have fit all of the market’s 118 vendors. Once that location was settled, some farmers who were making arrangements of their own, folded their efforts into the Kmart spot. Vendor Jeff Hanna had planned to offer up to 25 spots at the parking lot of Urban Air, a business he owns. But on Saturday his Wagyu beef was being sold out of a booth on the Kmart lot, because that’s where so many vendors had chosen to re-locate.
Uniformed but unarmed security guards circulated through the substitute market area on Saturday.
Increased security could be a feature of the city’s market when it re-opens. At Wednesday’s news conference, Bloomington’s chief of police, Mike Diekhoff said that when the market reopens, “it will hopefully have a much safer feel to it.”
At Wednesday’s news conference, Mayor Hamilton was asked if he thought two weeks would be enough time to make the kinds of changes to the market that would make people feel safer there. “It’s our plan to address it in the two-week span—that’s our plan,” he said.
Boos said if the City needed another week, it was possible that the Kmart location would be available for a third week.
Boos summed up her thoughts on Saturday’s substitute market by saying, “I’m glad the community rose up in support of local food producers.”
Here’s some additional photos from Saturday’s substitute market at the former Kmart location.