Many events and activities have been postponed or canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, but at least one Grove City tradition will go on as scheduled, although in a different format.

The Grove City Area Chamber of Commerce Farmers Market will kick off its spring season on May 16 as a drive-thru event.

Customers will be able to order items in advance online from market vendors via the website gcchamber.org and pick their orders up on Saturday market days, chamber executive director Shawn Conrad said.

"The vendors themselves won't be on site, except perhaps for some of our meat vendors who need to keep their items refrigerated," she said.

Customers will drive into a staging area located on Park Street past the railroad tracks and near Sound Communications, 3474 Park, to pick up their orders in bags the vendors will deliver Friday evenings or early Saturday mornings, Conrad said.

"We'll have pickup stations set up alphabetically by the last name of the customer," she said. "They'll just drive up, show their ID, pop open their trunk and we'll put their bags of produce and other items they've ordered in the trunk and they'll be on their way."

Vehicles will exit via Park or Grant streets, Conrad said.

All orders will be prepay only, events manager Marilyn Reiner said. No cash or other payments will be accepted at the pickup site.

A list of vendors, products they offer and a link to an order form will be available on the chamber website, she said.

The process is expected to continue throughout the spring market, which will run Saturdays from May 16 through June 20, Conrad said. The summer market will begin the following week and run through Sept. 12.

"It's really all one market," she said. "There are more vendors participating in the summer market as some of the later season produce starts coming in."

At least 30 vendors will participate in the spring market, although that number may increase as the start date approaches, Reiner said.

"Most of your favorite vendors will be back," she said.

Along with early season produce, including asparagus, spinach, lettuce and strawberries, the spring market features vendors selling jams and jellies, coffee, honey, plants and flowers, fresh baked goods, mustard, natural skin-care products, chicken, beef and pork, Reiner said.

"We're still hoping and planning to hold the summer market as a traditional walk-up market, but that plan will change depending on what regulations are in place at that time," Conrad said.

If Ohio's stay-at-home orders and ban on gatherings continues, the drive-thru market will continue through the summer, she said.

While a final decision is still to be made, it's likely customers will be able to pick up their orders from 10 a.m. to noon on market days, Reiner said.

"We may adjust the schedule and extend the time depending on how many people we're getting and how many vendors are participating, especially if we continue this into the summer market," she said.

"We're just really thrilled that we're able to come up with a way to still hold our farmers market," Conrad said. "It's important in these times to have some continuity if we can until things can get back to normal."

Grove City resident Shelley Turski participated in the farmers market for the first time last year, selling the healthy sweets she makes for her Shelley's Simple Sweets business.

"I was waiting and dreading the phone call from Marilyn to tell me this year's market was going to be canceled," Turski said. "When she called and said the market was still going to be held in this new way, I was overjoyed.

"It's great for the customers and for the vendors," she said. "It's a great idea the chamber's come up with and I'm excited to see how it works out."

She will miss the chance to interact with customers who visit her booth at the market.

"I really enjoyed meeting people and talking to them about my products and all of that networking that goes on in the traditional market setting," she said. "It's a great atmosphere."

Turski said she expects she may see an increase in sales from this year's farmers market.

Additional customers may be drawn by the convenience of pre-ordering items and simply driving in to pick them up, she said.

The Grove City event is the sole farmers market at which Shelley's Simple Sweets participates, Turski said.

Her treats are also sold at Transcend Coffee & Roastery in Grove City's Town Center and The Hills Market in downtown Columbus.

Even if the traditional farmers market is able to return to the Town Center later this summer, Conrad said, it's likely a pre-order and pickup component will be included along with customers walking up and buying items from vendors' booths.

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