EASTON, Pa. – Easton's Farmers' Market moved to Scott Park from Centre Square in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that change may become permanent.
A majority of city council expressed support for the move at a meeting Wednesday night, after Megan McBride of the Greater Easton Development Partnership reviewed how the forced move has turned into a blessing for the market. Going to the park allowed the Farmers' Market to expand, and it may have outgrown Centre Square.
McBride, director of the Easton Market District for the partnership, and others including Mayor Sal Panto were worried early last year that the move to the park along the Delaware River could be a bust.
"We were concerned about being on the riverfront and whether folks would find us," McBride said. The folks did find the market, and it has flourished.
Scott Park, located along Larry Holmes Drive, provides more space, scenic river views and safety. Patrons can walk about without worrying about traffic in the downtown circle, McBride said.
On the negative side, the park does not have the historic atmosphere of Centre Square, where the market started in 1752.
Some downtown businesses may be hurt, McBride said during her presentation to council. The Carmelcorn Shop and the Easton Antiques Emporium reported big declines in Saturday sales, she said.
McBride said the city could hold other activities in Centre Square, such as concerts or flea markets, to draw shoppers. The farmers' market is only open for a few hours each Saturday, while a festival downtown can attract people all day.
Market vendors have seen sales increase, McBride said. Ben Scholl, a third-generation farmer of Scholl Orchards, said the success of the Scott Park market has changed his mind about the location.
"I was really against it in the beginning," he said. Scholl now sees the park as the better location after two years along the riverfront.
"We've been asked to other farmers' markets," he said. "We want to stay here."
Loading and unloading is easier and safer at the new site, and produce sellers can keep cold-storage trucks at the park, boosting inventory and sales.
Councilmembers agreed that the park is a great spot for the market.
"Attendance has gone up, and I'm seeing more and more families," Councilman Kenneth Brown said.
David O'Connell, who does volunteer work at the market, added, "I'm certainly in favor of the market staying on Larry Holmes Drive." With 32 and sometimes more outfits, "You probably couldn't fit all the vendors in the circle," he said.
"I've done a 180 on this," Mayor Sal Panto said, describing his change of mind about the market returning to Centre Square.
Councilwoman Sandra Vulcano is also in favor of the move.
With construction due on Centre Square, a formal move to keep the farmers' market at Scott Park would not come until next year. Mayor Panto said the decision will be up to city council. No action was taken Tuesday.
Council also discussed parking problems, and Councilman Peter Melan and City Administrator Luis Campos argued about Easton's progress in automating systems, such as parking administration.