MILFORD — Saturday will be a very busy day in downtown Milford: In addition to opening day of the Riverwalk Farmers Market, a popular pet store will have its official grand opening and a plaque will be dedicated to a recently deceased Downtown Milford Inc. volunteer who was instrumental in forming the organization.
“I certainly am (excited),” DMI President Peggy Reilly said when asked about the opening of the market, organized by the group each spring. “People look forward to it every year.”
This year, COVID-19 restrictions will still be in place but won’t be as stringent as they were in 2020.
“The two main points that really affect our particular market is that we’re not required to have a perimeter and we’re not required to navigate one-way traffic,” said Lang Redden, one of the DMI volunteers in charge of the farmers market.
Last season, volunteers had to set up a perimeter around the site and monitor the number of people going in and out to ensure they were staying within the state’s guidelines.
“We’ll be doing a head count every 30 minutes just to make sure we are meeting the restriction,” Ms. Redden said. “In previous seasons, when we’ve tracked out numbers, we’ve never even come close to the maximum occupancy.”
But that doesn’t mean the event is free of COVID-19 regulations. Six-foot social distancing and masks will still be encouraged, and there will be plenty of hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations available.
“We’ll still be at a lower capacity,” Ms. Redden said. “Part of the COVID regulations require us to have our vendors spaced a certain distance apart, so that limits the amount of vendors we’re allowed to have in the park.”
The number of people allowed into the market will fluctuate based on the number of vendors present, Ms. Redden said. The Department of Agriculture’s guidelines for the farmers market allows four guests to be present for each booth.
So if Milford has 20 vendors, the greatest number of sellers they could fit into their space within the DOA’s guidelines, they could host up to 80 people at a time.
Ms. Redden said DMI has been tracking attendance at the farmers market for years and that even before the pandemic, there were never more than 50 people in the market at any given time.
Also this year, the market will be available to a more diverse array of vendors than it was in 2020.
“The type of vendor we’re allowed to have has changed. Whereas last year, it was kind of essentials only — agricultural and food-based products but not prepared food — this year, we’ll be allowed to have agriculture, pre-prepared food and craft vendors,” Ms. Redden said.
The farmers market will begin at 9 a.m. and run to 1 p.m., as it has in the past. But the season will be extended out to the end of October instead of the first Saturday of that month.
“They decided to extend it because I think we still have produce to sell, and people love it,” Ms. Reilly said. “It’s one of the No. 1 farmers markets in Delaware.”
My Sister’s Fault, a Puerto Rican-style restaurant on Southwest Front Street, will also be holding a picnic event Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sisters Angie and Rous Robles had to temporarily shutter their business earlier this month when they both came down with COVID-19, but they’re planning to reopen Wednesday. Saturday’s event will include a picnic on the lot they own next to Jesus Love Temple on South Walnut Street. For more information, check out the eatery's Facebook page.
Also on Saturday, at 10 a.m., Fur Baby Pet Resort will begin a grand-opening celebration for its new building on Northeast Front Street. Two ribbon-cuttings will take place, at 11 and noon.
This year is the business’s 10th anniversary. The new space was designed by Ms. Redden’s husband, Mark, and their Milford-based architecture firm, Archology.
“My dog has been going to Fur Baby for nine out of those 10 years,” Ms. Reilly said, adding that owner Sherry Shupe “deserves the credit for what she’s done. It’s been a real pleasure to watch her grow.”
Last week, Ms. Shupe’s husband, state Rep. Bryan Shupe, R-Milford — a former Milford mayor — said he was thrilled about the grand opening.
“The building and property we purchased in 2019 were supposed to be done in four months, but the pandemic hit the United States and Delaware hard, so we could only have one construction crew in at a time,” he said.
Rep. Shupe said he was happy to be able to host a community event like this again, given how challenging that has been through the pandemic.
“We’re excited to start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. Finally, at noon Saturday, DMI will unveil a plaque in honor of Walter Hepford, a Milford resident who was very influential in the organization. The plaque will go on one of the benches behind the Milford Public Library. Mr. Hepford passed away in August.
“He ran our economic vitality meetings for years. He was the chair,” Ms. Reilly said. “He was on the board for years, and he was very instrumental in the farmers market.”
Ms. Redden said Mr. Hepford was the one who got her involved with the market.
“Walt was like the sweet old guy you could never say no to,” she said. “He invited me on to the board, and then, I got to see more and experience more of Milford.”
Ms. Redden remembered him as quick to volunteer his time.
“If anything was ever needed, Walt was never hesitant to step up,” she said. “He was on almost every committee. Every time I turned around, he was active somewhere in the community.”
Rep. Shupe remembers him similarly.
“He was the gentleman who proposed the Milford Aquarium,” Rep. Shupe said. “He had a lot of heart behind that project. It’s something I hope, as we continue to grow, starts to get some more attention. I think as we start to see big players like Bayhealth … and more families moving into the area, that could potentially become a big attraction down the road when that investment can be made,” he said.
Ms. Reilly said DMI has high hopes for more events this summer but doesn’t want to make any promises prematurely.
“We’re trying to do some events. We’re hoping the governor opens things up,” she said.
“There have been some announcements of some festivals the state is working with, so we are working to see if we can do something like that,” Ms. Reilly said. “We’re thinking about it, looking into it and hoping that we can do something, but there’s nothing I can tell you that’s definitively going to happen.”