CHARLESTOWN — A new outdoor market in Charlestown will provide a space for the community to gather while maintaining a safe distance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the closure of large events such as Founder’s Day in Charlestown, but starting this Saturday, the city will be offering the “Saturdays on the Square” weekly pop-up market to allow for smaller gatherings. The market will take place in the city square starting at 10 a.m. each Saturday until Aug. 1.

The market, organized by the Charlestown Parks Department, will include a limited number of craft and food vendors, and part of the street will be reserved for food trucks. Charlestown Mayor Treva Hodges said the city always welcomes vendors at Founder’s Day, and since the annual festival was canceled this year, the city wanted to find another way to support small businesses and civic groups.

”Since we had to cancel our Founder’s Day festivities, we’re trying to find ways to allow for the community to be engaged with one another and have those themes from Founder’s Day but without the large crowd that Founder’s Day itself would attract,” she said. “This is our way of being adaptive and having small groups of people still have that community feel.”

Charlestown already has a Saturday morning sing-a-long with local musicians at the city square, so the city decided to block off the other half of the square for the vendors so people can enjoy music as they shop.

“I’m just looking forward to having people fill up the square and being able to see familiar faces and meet new faces and being able to give those folks who have the opportunity to sell a space to do that,” Hodges said.

Saturdays on the Square will support vendors who haven’t been able to sell at their usual events this year, she said.

”You’ve got people who’ve lost their jobs who have turned to alternate ways of earning an income, and a lot of these festivals have been canceled, so a lot of these folks who are craftsmen or make their own goods lost the opportunity to attend festivals,” Hodges said. “This gives them a way to earn some money for themselves and recover a little bit from that economic downturn, but also to have people in smaller groups hanging out and getting out of the house to see each other.”

This summer, the parks department also has been offering another program called “Chalked Up Charlestown” to get families out of the house while maintaining social distancing. Each week, the department is setting up chalkboards at various spots around the city informing about Charlestown and Southern Indiana and encouraging them to explore the city on foot through an interactive activity.

“One of the things that I want to encourage people in our community to do is to walk,” Hodges said. “Not just to promote a healthy community, but Charlestown really is a beautiful little city, and when people are out walking and waving at their neighbors, it can really foster a sense of community, and I wanted to find ways to encourage that community pride.”

There is currently a board placed at the library about Jonathan Jennings, the first governor of Indiana and nine-term congressman who lived in Charlestown. A previous board encouraged people to visit the historic Thomas Downs house on the square. Another included information on indigenous plants, and the parks department provided seed packets for people to take home.

Outdoor activities like Saturdays on the Square and Chalked Up Charlestown provide some “relief” amid the pandemic, Hodges said.

“It’s been a tough year, and as mayor, you don’t want to be the one to shut down all the fun stuff,” she said. “But I think we have a responsibility to our citizens as well, and we certainly don’t want to create a situation where we’re opening and inviting a potentially dangerous situation where people get sick either. For me, this is a nice bridge between the two that we can offer to the community.”

Booth space is available for reservation on a week-to-week basis. Vendors can contact ChevFan2000@yahoo.com or fill out a form athttps://bit.ly/CtownPopUpto express interest in the market and join the vendor contact list.

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