The annual Juneau Public Market, a much-loved local institution, is back this weekend after COVID-19 forced the market to go virtual for a year.
On Friday morning, vendors were busy putting the final touches on their booths. Organizer Peter Metcalfe rushed from place to place, delivering ladders to vendors, helping people connect to Wi-Fi, and reuniting with people he missed during last year’s break.
“A one-year lapse is kind of a big deal,” Metcalfe said.
This marks the 39th year for the Public Market. Its return comes with a mitigation plan approved by the City and Borough of Juneau Emergency Operations Center. Public Market personnel are checking vaccine cards at the door and masks are required for entry. However, beyond standard fire regulations, no capacity limits are in place.
Metcalfe said about 30 vendors dropped out in the final weeks leading up to the market — some because of the market’s vaccination requirements and some over nerves about being inside with a crowd for three days.
As a result, the market is consolidated into Centennial Hall rather than spread out across Centennial Hall and the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.
“Setting up used to be like musical chairs,” Metcalfe said. “This year it was more like a puzzle.”
The labor shortages plaguing other businesses also hit Public Market. Metcalfe said he could only find four people to help set up rather than the usual six.
“We were nailing in the last booth panel as the vendors started to arrive Wednesday,” he said. “But it all worked out in the end, it’s always good.”
Gifts, food and shots
This year Public Market features more than 100 vendors from throughout the state and the West Coast.
Shoppers can peruse a wide range of hand-made goods ranging from pottery to bespoke fishing poles, locally forged knives and interesting jewelry. Clothes, stationery, pet products and a variety of other items suitable for gifting are available. A food court is open for those feeling peckish. Vendors are selling specialty foods to take home. Artists often work their booths and are available to answer questions and chat.
Nell McConahey, of Spiral Studio, said the market is one of the busiest sales of the year for her. She said she’s been coming to the market as a vendor for 21 years.
“It feels good to be back,” McConahey said.
Rebecca Paulson, a longtime vendor who sells handmade stationery, praised the “good vibes” at the market and said she hoped for a big crowd.
“It feels nice. You feel so grateful for little things like this and the relationships,” Paulson said.
Shoppers in need of a COVID-19 vaccine booster can get one from Capstone Clinic in the central area of Centennial Hall. A curtain is available for privacy.
“That’s a brilliant way to get people in,” said Mark Kelley of Mark Kelley Photography.
Know & Go
What: Juneau Public Market
When: Vendors are open for business 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. today.
Where: Centennial Hall, 101 Egan Drive.
Admission: Weekend admission to Centennial Hall is $7.50 per person, according to the site.