MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Some residents raised concerns Wednesday because the Madera Flea Market chose to open despite state and federal guidelines for canceling large gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The management team later announced plans to open again on Sunday before temporarily shutting down starting March 25.
Vendors and customers say they rely on the flea market to provide for their families, but critics argue the event is putting people across the Valley at risk.
The Madera Flea Market is typically filled with hundreds of vendors and thousands of customers every Wednesday and Sunday.
The crowd was much smaller on March 18, but many people still showed up to shop, eat, and explore.
Gilbert Gonzales says, "I just had to do some business here in Madera so I figured I would see if the swap meet is open, stop by and walk around and get some exercise you know?"
One vendor who did not want to be identified wore gloves as a precaution and offered them to her customers. She says she must make money to buy groceries, even though her own children did not want her to be here.
She says, "my kids are very conscious about this and want to put me in quarantine away from my grandkids, and I will understand because I know I'm being exposed here."
The flea market manager did not want to speak on camera but told us he made the decision to open because this is an essential service for the community, similar to the grocery stores and big-box retailers where people continue to shop.
He also pointed out that signs are displayed encouraging social distancing and other safety measures.
The market is located on Madera District Fair property. CEO Tim Mitchell says he recommended a closure but can't require one because current state guidelines only say gatherings "should" be canceled or postponed, and there are exceptions that create some ambiguity.
Mitchell explains, "unfortunately we haven't been given the authority from the state to actually enforce closing down events like this."
Mitchell says the Madera Speedway and the roller skating rink on the property did choose to shut down. All fair-run events have also been canceled, along with venue rentals.
Mitchell says, "Weddings, quinceaneras, baptisms... this a very, very difficult thing to cancel because people rely on the fairgrounds to come here and hold these family events where people get together."
The fair is working to reschedule those for a later date, and the flea market just announced late Wednesday that it will be voluntarily closing starting on March 25. This is a full statement from the management team:
"Our management team from the Madera Flea Market would like to update everyone on our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We took many things into consideration about how COVID-19 is affecting our state, community, and nation. Since our market attracts 250 customers or more, for the safety of our community, we have decided to comply with California health officials and Governor Newsom's request to close our market starting Wednesday (3/25/2020) until the virus subsides. Our team will keep our vendors and customers updated by posting on our social media platforms and our website at www.maderafleamarket.com. You can also call our General Manager, Ramon, with any questions or concerns regarding our temporary closure at 559-213-4554. Our management team understands this may be difficult for our vendors and staff at this time, but your health is of utmost importance to us during this difficult time. All vendor spaces, reservations, and auction applications will be held until our return. Information is constantly changing about how to handle this virus, so we understand any frustrations this may cause. We will be open on Sunday (3/22/2020) to give our vendors plenty of notice on the upcoming closure, and to give them one last chance to sell their goods. Please remember to practice social distancing, keep your hands washed, cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, and stay safe! Madera Flea Market will see you soon!"
-Madera Flea Market Management Team
For more news coverage on the coronavirus and COVID-19 go to abc30.com/coronavirus/.
Madera Flea Market now plans to close amid COVID-19 concerns
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