There’s a moment in May when the crowd at St. Petersburg’s Saturday Morning Market vanishes.
Right around noon, the sun bears down, and the asphalt parking lot by Al Lang Stadium starts to sizzle.
“There’s an oasis of people huddled under umbrellas and people running from tent to tent,” said market manager Gail Eggeman.
“You don’t hang out and visit.”
Like the snowbirds who leave the Florida heat for the winter, many of Pinellas County’s outdoor markets disappear during the stifling summer months.
Several, though, push through the 90-degree temperatures from June through September utilizing shady spaces in hopes of attracting a smaller but loyal local customer base.
Markets from Palm Harbor to Gulfport remain open during some or all of the summer months, often with shorter hours and fewer vendors.
The Saturday Morning Market this weekend moves to smaller, oak-shaded Williams Park downtown for the summer, paring down its vendors from more than 100 to about 35.
Fresh produce, hot food such as Brooklyn Knishes or Belgian waffles and crafty jewelry will still be offered, just in a smaller variety.
“It won’t be our regular market, for sure, but if you want to come and get something to eat and get your vegetables and spend a few minutes in the park, it will be here,” Eggeman said.
The Saturday Morning Market moved into the Mahaffey Theatre’s parking garage for several years before the new Dali museum opened. This will be the market’s third year in Williams Park.
This regular season may have been the best in its 11-year history with consistently sunny, moderate weather, a full vendor list and about 10,000 people each weekend, Eggeman said.
Several new outdoor farmers markets have cropped up across Pinellas County in recent years, hosting an event nearly every day of the week.
Markets in west St. Petersburg and the city’s Edge district near downtown have opened within the past year.
Attendance has grown at the Clearwater Gateway Farmer’s Market on the outskirts of downtown on Saturdays since the market started in January.
Staying open on a stark stretch of Cleveland Street during the summer is not an option, though, market manager Howard Warshauer said.
“It’s too hot. A lot of the vendors either go somewhere else or they’re really not interested in being in the heat with their product,” he said.
The new Azalea Community Fresh Market, near the Pinellas County Science Center on 22nd Avenue North in west St. Petersburg, looks to offer a place for vendors to keep working through the summer on Saturdays.
“Other markets close during the summer, so we want to cater to those vendors who have no place to go,” said market manager Joe Irizarry.
Dunedin’s downtown Green Market seeks to capture both part-time and year-round residents by hosting a Friday market that ends in April and a Saturday market with a different set of vendors that runs through July.
The trees and the breeze coming off the Gulf of Mexico onto Beach Boulevard help make Gulfport’s Tuesday Fresh Market bearable into the summer, except maybe in September, market coordinator Laura Garrison said.
The market has stayed open year round for several years now, relying on locals and a smattering of out-of-town customers to keep vendors in business during off-season.
“We have a lot of folks that go home during the summer, and it is warm and our traffic flow is down,” said Garrison, who coordinates the market and sells vegan and raw food there.
“But I will say our community is very, very supportive.”