RIPLEY • First Monday Trade Days in Ripley has not missed a month of operation since the flea market opened in 1893 until COVID-19 concerns shut down the April market earlier this month. The May market will be this weekend, and owners are taking extra precautions to keep patrons, vendors, and employees safe.
Vice President Allison Windham said that First Monday would be following CDC guidelines for mass gatherings. Employees will give material stating the recommendations to patrons as they arrive, and large signs placed in the aisles will display the CDC guidelines as well.
Trader's Inn restaurant will be curbside only, offering hamburgers and hot dogs for customers to carry with them around the market. People will not be allowed to sit and eat at outside tables during the flea market.
"All staff will be wearing masks, and we have asked the vendors to please wear a mask and to use hand sanitizer. Don't let people in your booth, don't let people pick up things, and put items in bags for customers," said Allison Windham.
The flea market has ordered hand sanitizer from Cathead Distillery out of Jackson, and staff members who typically work in the restaurant will be walking the aisles dispensing the sanitizer to those who need it.
"With the restaurant closed, we will not require as much staff, but we wanted to work as many people as we can," said co-owner Jerry Windham. "We are going to have the rest of the staff issue hand sanitizer. I think we're going to offer a much safer environment having people out in the aisles with the spray sanitizer. The average person should get sanitized three to four times just based on the traffic flow that we've seen."
The flea market originally planned to stay closed in May but changed those plans after a national press briefing last week featured a lab study indicating that sunlight and heat can kill the virus. The study, conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, stated that "increased temperature, humidity, and sunlight are detrimental to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) in saliva droplets on surfaces and in the air." According to the laboratory results, at 70 - 75 degrees and 80 percent humidity, the virus has a half-life of two minutes.
The forecast calls for sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-80s this weekend.
The governor's initiative to reopen retail businesses this week also contributed to First Monday's decision to proceed with the May market.
"Small business retail helps draw people out of the big box stores because that's where people are congregating. First Monday has a bunch of small businesses. Booths are 20 feet apart, in 25-foot wide rows, and we're on 52 acres of ground which should provide for plenty of social distancing," continued Jerry Windham.
"The governor stated that providing food and shelter for your family is a pretty essential business, too. We did shut down for April. That would have been our largest market of the year, according to our records. That was 18 to 20 percent of our total annual revenue. First Monday is economically important for the families that work there and for the vendors that go there. I think it's important to all the customers that depend on it as well."
The Windhams don't expect a huge crowd this weekend. They ask those who are sick, who are in a high-risk group, or care for those in a high-risk group to "sit this one out."
"We want everyone to stay safe. If you feel like your at risk in any way, stay away. We will miss you, but we'll see you on the other side. But those that are stir crazy and wanting to do something, we're trying to offer the safest environment to do that. We want anybody that's in that vulnerable population to stay home. We love you, but we'll see you later. Stay safe and healthy. That's the big thing."