Return engagement

Melissa Miller, owner of Morey & Me dog treats, makes a sale during the Greater Watertown-North Country Farm & Craft Market held along Washington Street on Wednesday. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

Representatives of the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce found a way last year to keep their popular farmers market going, and the event has returned for another season.

The novel coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of numerous events over the past year. But the Greater Watertown-North Country Farm & Craft Market adapted to safety protocols in 2020, drawing crowds back downtown. The market opened Wednesday and will be held weekly until mid-fall.

“Held along sections of Washington and Sterling streets, the farmers market will be back for its 45th year when it opens for the season today,” according to a news item published Wednesday in the Watertown Daily Times. “The farmers market runs from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Wednesday through Oct. 6. The farmers market is returning to pre-pandemic normalcy like much of society, but market-goers must still follow social distancing protocol and other state COVID guidelines for large events. People who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 are not required to wear masks, while unvaccinated people are encouraged to have facial coverings. Lunchtime musical performances will be back, although they will be held under the overhang at City Hall instead of on the building’s front lawn like in years past. This is being done to help with social distancing, according to Kylie S. Peck, chief executive officer of the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce.”

It’s good that musical entertainment has returned to the farmers market. Performers were not allowed last year to comply with mandates from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

This and other rules implemented last year were necessary to protect the health of people visiting farmers markets. But at the same time, they dampened spirits to some extent and likely reduced attendance.

We hope organizers are able to entice more people to Washington Street for this year’s farmers market. In 2018, they expanded the event’s presence. Additional vendors wanted to participate, but there was no room to wedge them in along Washington Street on days the event was scheduled to be held. It’s nice to be so popular that more merchants want to join in.

Chamber officials initially approached the city of Watertown about moving the farmers market to Public Square. This would have required closing the south side of the street, which would have impeded traffic flow through this area. There was no way that such a plan could be approved in time to open the farmers market that year.

So the city offered a better idea: Close Sterling Street to vehicular traffic and allow vendors to use the available space. This worked out brilliantly.

Customers perusing vendors north and south of, as well as on, Sterling Street no longer had to worry about cars traveling eastbound. This arrangement provided the flexibility to sign up more vendors and expand items for sale.

Beginning each year in late May, the weekly market has become a wonderful Watertown tradition in the warmer months. This is believed to be the longest-running farmers market in the north country; it began in 1977.

We’re pleased that the Greater Watertown-North Country Farm & Craft Market has returned for another season and that coronavirus rules have been eased. It’s a terrific annual event, and we encourage everyone to visit the market and support local vendors.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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