By Richard Rourk
With summer weather finally hitting the area, it’s the perfect time for area Farmers Markets to open up for the season.
In Unicoi, the Unicoi Farmers Market and Community Yard Sale is scheduled to open June 2 in a new home – the Buffalo Pavilion at the Unicoi Visitor Center.
According to Town of Unicoi Communications and Programs Director Ashley Shelton, the pavilion, which was completed a little over a month ago, was designed specifically for the market and will be a treat for vendors in the coming months.
“We are actually holding a ribbon cutting to introduce the public to the new pavilion on June 2 at 10 a.m.,” Shelton said. “The market is held every Tuesday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Tourist Information Center at exit 32 (off I-26), June through October.”
Shelton said the town is taking measures to protect attendees during the current pandemic.
“New COVID-19 regulations will be in place to protect the public. COVID prevention measures include required masks, hand-sanitizer at entrance, one-way traffic, disposable food-gloves for testing ripeness of produce, additional space between vendors and customers, and request for exact or small change,” Shelton said. “We won’t be able to use the new pavilion exactly as intended right now because of COVID restrictions. We will have vendors face outward to create a one-way flow of traffic that helps maintain social distancing, but it will still be nice for the vendors to be under roof.”
According to Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch, the market will include fresh fruits, vegetables, and baked goods, as well as local craft vendors, trade-craft demonstrations and yard sale bargains. “The combination of the farmers market and yard sale was a big hit for us last year,” Lynch said. “The variety is what sets us apart from other markets and it’s a treat for travelers that stop to use the visitor center’s facilities.”
The Town of Unicoi will also be featuring numerous additional events to coordinate with their farmers market. The Tanasi Art Gallery, located inside the Tourist Information Center, will also be open each week and features work from local artists. Picnic tables surrounding the area will be spaced well more than six feet apart so visitors can browse the booths, grab some fresh food then enjoy lunch with a view.
For Unicoi, vendor pricing is based on categories. Farm products, prepared food and handmade crafts require a $5 annual market fee. Yard sale booths and demonstration spaces are free but an application must be submitted. Only one application per season is required and vendors may then call each week to reserve their space by phone. Booth spaces are assigned on a first come, first served basis. Tents, tables, chairs and other equipment will not be provided so please make necessary arrangements prior to the market opening.
For more information or to become a vendor in Unicoi, please email [email protected] or contact Patricia Bennett at 735-0517. Vendor applications are available online at unicoitn.net under the event tab. The Unicoi Farmers Market and Community Yard Sale is held at the Tourist Information Center located at 106 Unicoi Village Place, in Unicoi.
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The Town of Erwin will follow the Town of Unicoi in opening it’s farmers market in July.
“We will hold our Farmers Market every Tuesday 5-8 p.m. and it will run from July until September,” Town of Erwin Communications Specialist Jamie Rice said. “We generally have between 150-200 per night visit the market.”
Rice acknowledged that the town is ready to operate in a safe manner in the age of COVID-19, while still delivering fun programs for the whole family.
“We will be practicing social distancing with reminders throughout the market,” Rice said. “We will have food trucks every Tuesday night. Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will be accepted again this year and we have special kids programming featuring activities about nutrition and exercise presented by the Unicoi County Health Department.”
For more information on Erwin’s Farmers Market, please follow RISE Erwin and the Town of Erwin on Facebook.