Pandemic leads to changes for downtown Appleton summer events

Shoppers gather on College Avenue for the Downtown Appleton Farm Market June 24, 2017.
Shoppers gather on College Avenue for the Downtown Appleton Farm Market June 24, 2017. (WLUK/Scott Hurley)

APPLETON (WLUK) -- The coronavirus pandemic will make summer in downtown Appleton feel much different this year.

The city's Memorial Day parade has already been canceled. So, have the Fourth of July fireworks. But there is at least one summer staple Appleton has not pulled the plug on – the Downtown Appleton Farm Market.

Farmers' markets are considered essential businesses under Wisconsin's "Safer at Home" order.

"Fruits and vegetables that are grown locally and eaten soon after harvesting retain more of their nutrients than those that are shipped from further locations and sit on supermarket shelves for long periods of time," Kurt Eggebrecht, City of Appleton Health Officer, said in a news release. "The Appleton Farm Market also provides economic benefits. The money that is spent in the local community is circulated within it, which has long term effects such as preserving and creating local jobs."

The summer Appleton Farm Markets will still go on, just two weeks later, and without some of its key players. The first day of the market is set for Saturday, July 4.

"The 2-week delay in the start of the Farm Market here in Downtown Appleton will allow us to make sure we have adequate time to put new regulations and safety measures into action," Jennifer Stephany, executive director of Appleton Downtown Inc., said. "Being able to still host our weekly Downtown Appleton Farm Market allows us to continue supporting the local farmers in the area, provide a safe food resource for the community, and keep engaging and sharing that Downtown Appleton is, and will be, here for you during this time of uncertainty."

You'll see fewer tents set-up there. That's because there will be no arts and crafts vendors this year.

“We are able to have our produce, prepackaged foods, and now we can actually have hot food vendors, as well,” said Stephany. “What we’re not going to be able to have, at this time, is our craft, non-food vendors.”

Vendors will be reduced to about 50 to 60 to allow for more space between tents and booths.

Stephany says about 40 arts and crafts vendors will be impacted.

“This has been a vital component to their livelihood, it impacts us financially, of course, as well, so we’re really hoping that we can find that opportunity, as we move through these phases, to bring them back into the mix,” she said.

A virtual "Shop Hop" lets customers visit downtown retail shops, without leaving their couch.

But store owners also got some good news from the state on Monday.

“They’re now allowed to have up to five customers in at a time, so that’s a huge change from them to have to have their doors locked,” Stephany said.

For now, concert crowds also have to stay home, but that doesn't mean the music won't happen.

Musicians are going digital, and Appleton Downtown Inc. has had to get creative. It has two ideas on how to bring live music to the community for the Heid Summer Concert series.

“One is a virtual format, where we’ll do a Facebook Live opportunity, and help to broadcast that through a couple of different venues,” Stephany explained. “The other is Jones Park, which is a much larger facility that’ll make social distancing much easier.”

The Thursday night concert series will start out as a virtual event on July 2. Music from the OuterEdge stage will be streamed live on ADI's Facebook page.

Concerts are scheduled through Sept. 24. The lineup of bands is expected to be announced later.

The farm market is set to run until Oct. 31.

“We’re looking forward to still bringing that vibrancy to downtown, that’s really important to us,” said Stephany.

Organizers say, while things may look a bit different this time around, they’re still glad to be able to feature some of the same vendors. They say, even those can change from one day to the next.