The Chattanooga Market will open on schedule this weekend at First Horizon Pavilion with the usual assortment of winter and early spring produce, arts, and crafts, and you will even be able to get a meal from a food truck or a glass of beer or wine, something you couldn't do last year.
However, there will be no live music and none of the weekly special events patrons have come to know. At least for now, though they might return sometime in July, Public Market's Executive Director Chris Thomas said.
Thomas said he and his staff are operating under the requests of former Mayor Andy Berke regarding COVID-19 and large gatherings on city property, and until he hears differently from new Mayor Tim Kelly, "We will operate under the city's previous request and the last instructions given.
"We will ease into the experiences people are accustomed to, and hopefully as the summer proceeds and we pass this vaccine period and we go into fall we will get back to normal."
Thomas said that before the pandemic the market featured as many as 240 vendors, but this weekend he expects around 160.
Last year's market was scaled back quite a bit with no prepared foods, beer and wine sales or live music allowed. All of those appeal to marketgoers who like to take their time and linger while they shop, something that was greatly discouraged at the beginning of the pandemic.
Thomas is glad to have those vendors back.
"Having some food is a big deal and we might be able to introduce music sooner depending on what happens," he said. "We've lost some food trucks and some owners went out of business, but there are some new entrepreneurs buying them, so that is kind of bittersweet."
Among the new vendors Thomas is excited about is Mojo Burrito, which will be selling a take-home version of the "Papa Bear's" vegan chili owner Eve Williams makes based on her father's recipe.
"It's a pretty cool story, and we are the first people outside of her restaurant to sell it," Thomas said.
Williams said her father, Bill "Papa Bear" Watkins, was an accountant by trade but had years of restaurant experience. His main job, however, was "keeping seven boys and two girls fed and healthy," and the chili was one of his most popular dishes.
"It is an homage to him," she said. "I tweaked it a little, but it's been on our menu for 20 years through all seasons. It's all veggies and beans and spices and vegan, vegetarian and gluten free with less than 100 calories."
Public Markets also operates the River Market on Fridays in the Tennessee Aquarium Plaza and the Collegedale Commons Market on Sundays. Both have been open for several weeks, and Thomas said both are experiencing solid sales every week.
"It's interesting, the River Market is seven years old and last year was the best year ever and it is on pace to do even better," he said. "Downtown is a place to hang out and people enjoy it. Our markets are family friendly places, and we work hard to maintain that."
Public Markets also will host four special events in the coming months with three at First Horizon and a fourth in Collegedale.
The first festival will be the inaugural Chattanooga Beer Fest at First Horizon on Saturday, May 29, from noon-3 p.m. A $45 ticket gets beer connoisseurs unlimited tastings — along with a commemorative glass — for the entire event. The event will be limited to 1,000 tickets with no walk-up tickets being offered.
A portion of this event's proceeds will benefit the Chattanooga Market. Tickets must be purchased in advance at chattanoogabeerfest.com
Also scheduled is the SipTN Chattanooga Wine Festival on June 5, during which patrons can sample and purchase regional wines and food, and Chattanooga Oktoberfest on Oct. 9-10. Public Markets also will present the Collegedale Freedom Celebration & Fireworks on July 1 at the Collegedale Commons.
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.