Flowers, masks and health warnings were just part of the scene April 4 at Salem's Saturday Market. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

As the early opening of the Salem Saturday Market approaches, Lisa Sherman has been busy making signs directing foot traffic and figuring out where to place vendors selling goods such as leather, pottery, nut butters and jerky. 

The outdoor market, held at 865 Marion St. N.E., normally begins in April. But this year it’s beginning on Saturday, March 6, to allow people receiving SNAP or other benefits to access foods sold at the market and give vendors more time to boost sales, said Sherman, the executive director of Salem Community Markets.

Sherman said it will be scaled down this first month, with less than half the vendors the market would normally see because some are still waiting to harvest produce and others had their crops affected by last month’s winter storm. As berries and other produce become ready for harvest, more vendors will set up shop, she said. For now, there will be an assortment of booths selling donuts and other baked goods, coffee, bison, honey, pottery, bath and body products, among others.

Like last year, masks are required by customers, vendors and staff, said Sherman. Lines will be socially distanced and handwashing stations spread throughout added Sherman. Similar to last year, there won't be a food court or live music, but hot food will be available to go, she said.

Last year, the market had about 80 vendors a week, said Sherman. She hopes to be closer to its capacity of 150 vendors this year with signs the pandemic is subsiding.

“I think with the vaccines rolling out (vendors) feel a little more comfortable,” said Sherman.

Although Salem Community Markets had to cancel its holiday markets last year because of the pandemic, she said the Saturday market, which runs until October, went well overall.

“We transitioned like any other business,” she said of complying with Covid requirements. “But vendors did very well and we are happy with the support from consumers.”

The market’s current capacity is 688 people, said Sherman, much smaller than the thousands that would trickle through before the pandemic.

Beginning May 3, Salem Community Markets will open its Monday market at Salem Hospital, located at 755 Mission Street. May 6, it will open its Thursday West Salem Farmers Market at 1260 Edgewater St. N.W.

While Covid cases are declining in Oregon and more people getting inoculated, Sherman said she isn’t making plans for restrictions being relaxed.

“We just go week by week, honestly,” she said.

In the meantime, she said the market is large enough for customers and vendors to have enough space to shop safely. She asks that customers pay attention to the signs and follow them accordingly.  

 Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.

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