HELENA — After the Helena Farmers Market had to close this weekend, the Capitol Square Farmers Market closed early after reaching the maximum number of attendees for a county event.
The Capitol Square Farmers Market is unrelated to the Helena Farmers’ Market, which was closed this past weekend following a restraining order at the request of Lewis and Clark Public Health.
COVID precautions were being strictly followed at the Capitol Square Farmers Market Tuesday.
Everyone over the age of 5 was donning a mask, and ground markings indicated 6 feet social distancing.
General Services Division (GSD) were carefully counting each person attending, and closed the market after reaching 250 people in just under two hours of being open.
“Our agreement with Lewis and Clark Public Health is once we hit 250 people, the market stops,” said GSD Administrator Steve Baiamonte.
Baiamonte told MTN their farmers market will be open next week, but will close again once 250 individuals have been reached. Some vendors are looking at alternatives to help still provide products to customers if that happens next week.
The Capitol market is relatively small compared to the other farmers markets across the state, with less than 20 total vendors present Tuesday.
In addition to handmade items, attendees were be able to find fresh produce like potatoes and raspberries, fresh eggs including duck eggs, baked goods and beef cuts.
Market manager Julia Gustafson says a lot of work has gone on to make sure the event can operate safely during COVID.
“We’re pretty small so it was relatively easy for us to make adjustments so the market feels spacious and we can make social distancing and COVID restriction easy for both our vendors and customers,” said Gustafson.“It’s a little different this year, we definitely miss our state employees stopping by on their afternoon break, but the time seems to be working. We have a lot of families coming and enjoying the shade of the big trees by the Capitol.”
There was also one-way traffic moving counterclockwise through the market and hand washing stations throughout the area.
This is the 4th season of the Capitol Square Farmers Market, running from June 16 to September 29. The market runs every Tuesday from 2:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Both attendees and vendors MTN spoke with said they had no issue wearing a mask, and just hope the market is allowed to continue.
“Everybody really supports this market and our vendors work really hard to keep it, so they all tend to comply,” said Baiamonte.
GSD say they’ve been working closely with Public Health since March and want to do what’s best for the safety of customers and vendors.
Public Health has approved the Capitol Square Farmers Market plan, and provided MTN with this statement: “We have reviewed a plan for the Capitol Square Farmers Market. This plan includes specific strategies to manage the crowd, ensure there are no more than 250 people present, 6ft distancing between vendors and shoppers, requiring mask, sanitizing, etc. If we find that the market staff are unable to operationalize their plan through our normal complaint driven process, we will follow-up using our 3 step enforcement protocol.”
Editor's Note: This story has been update to reflect the events of Tuesday afternoon.