There’s something inherently valuable about a weekly escape to look forward to, a consistent destination you frequently visit to unwind and feel connected to your community. For many of us Logan Square residents, that destination has always been the Logan Square Farmers Market, which moves to a new indoor home at 2537 N. Pulaski Rd. starting Nov. 21. The last outdoor market for this season comes on Halloween, with a costume contest and other spooky attractions.
The shift inside comes after a successful summer season amid the lingering challenges of hosting an event during a pandemic. When COVID-19 threatened to take even the most resilient of events away, the market’s organizers knew they owed it to their vendors and community to persevere, they said. Organizers credit committed volunteers for keeping the market alive.
Volunteers Key To Market’s Survival
“We went from a 75 to 80 vendor market to 28 overnight,” Nilda Esparza, executive director for the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce, said. “In the 14 years of the market, we had never seen something like that. For a lot of these vendors, this market is their only source of revenue during the season, so staying open safely through the pandemic was definitely our priority.”
Unwavering in their commitment to keeping their vendors afloat, the market’s staff persevered with the help of a wave of new volunteers. These volunteers have always been the backbone of the market, and when times were toughest, new volunteers answered the call and allowed the market to continue its streak of remaining open. After a brief 6-week postponement, the market resumed operations.
“It was a huge loss of revenue for the organization,” Nilda said. “Staff started falling off, and services changed, but the market kept going. We couldn’t have done it without all of the volunteers. I, myself, joined the organization initially as a volunteer and encourage anyone interested to do the same.”
Summer Highlighted By Record Numbers
While the 2020 Logan Square Farmers Market faced a host of challenges to overcome, 2021 presented new opportunities and a thrilling return to normalcy, organizers said. This summer saw record attendance for a season and set a new single-day attendance mark, organizers said, an impressive feat considering the market’s storied history.
That record-setting day came on Sept. 19, when the Logan Square Farmers Market expanded onto Kedzie and Logan Boulevards, an initiative meant to encourage outdoor activity during the pandemic. The expanded space gave event organizers the opportunity to bring in new vendors and showcase local performers.
More than 10,000 people attended the market that day, a reminder that Chicago has persevered and thrived in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. Logan Square Farmers Market organizers said they hope to close out the season with an equally impressive showing, this time on Halloween. Attendees on that day can expect trick or treating, costume contests, and a craft table, so attendees should look forward to getting in the Halloween spirit.
Indoor Season Quickly Approaches
With the outdoor season coming to an end, it was time for Nilda and her team to find an indoor home for winter. Given the challenges of COVID restrictions, as well as the pandemic’s impact on many small businesses, this proved more challenging than organizers anticipated, they said.
“It was honestly us having to play real estate agent,” Nilda said. “We got leads from people all over and are grateful to have finally locked down a space.”
That space will be at 2537 N. Pulaski Rd., a warehouse that was to be turned into a concert venue before those plans fell through. The indoor market is set to begin on Sunday, Nov. 21.
“We figured if it was going to be a concert hall, it would absolutely be big enough,” Nilda said. “We couldn’t find a number or contact, so we actually had to contact the alderman’s office and got contact info from there. The gentleman who owns the space actually loves the market, and luckily it was available on Sundays, so we jumped on it.”
Given the size and incredible interior of the space, attendees can be confident knowing vendors will be given sufficient space to follow indoor COVID regulations, organizers said. All 31vendors will be spaced 6 feet apart or farther, and the team has plans to increase that distance to 30 feet should Chicago move back to phase 4 COVID regulations. This past year has taught Nilda and her team to always be prepared for the unexpected, she said.
While the space may seem farther from Logan Square than expected, the success of last year’s winter market, held at Rockwell on the River, should provide confidence that this year’s market will thrive, Nilda said. More than 10,000 attendees made their way to Rockwell on the River last year at 3029 N. Rockwell St., including dedicated Logan Square residents and market newcomers discovering the event for the first time.
“Last year at Rockwell on the River, we learned that the market is truly a destination,” Nilda said. “Visitors told me that they weren’t even looking to buy that day, they just wanted to get away and feel like a part of the community again. We were grateful to see the success that we did last winter.”
Want To Get Involved With The Farmers Market?
Applications for new vendors at the indoor market are now live on the Logan Square Farmers Market website. Space is limited to 31 vendors, so any potential vendors are encouraged to submit their applications as soon as possible!
For anyone interested in volunteering, you are encouraged to email [email protected] or complete the application on the Logan Square Farmers Market website. Volunteers and vendors are the two pillars of the Logan Square Farmers Market, organizers said, so if you have frequented the market in the past, please consider lending a hand this winter.
“For me, what I’ve learned in the year that I’ve been here,” Nilda said, “is that whether it’s a 300-mile drive, or it’s 60-mph wind, or it’s 10 feet of snow, or it’s a global pandemic, the Logan Square Farmers Market is open!”
Featured photo: Logan Square Chamber of Commerce