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LODI, Calif. (KTXL) — Saturday will mark another step toward normalcy when the Lodi Outdoor Market opens for the first time at Lodi’s Grape Festival Grounds. 

The staff at the fairgrounds and events center eagerly marked out spots for over 75 vendor booths for Saturday’s Outdoor Market. 

The annual Grape Festival normally held in September became a COVID-19 casualty, along with many other events held at the site. 

It is the main source of income for the facility, drawing 70,000 visitors over a four-day run. 

The Lodi Outdoor Market is more modest in size, featuring craft and food vendors, as well as live music. Still, it is the biggest event held on the grounds in nearly a year. 

“We’ve been dead here for almost a year,” said Grape Festival CEO Mark Armstrong. “So, it’s good to have people back coming in here and seeing the place hopping again.” 

The fairgrounds are usually booked 200 days out of the year. But with the introduction of vaccines and a loosening of health restrictions, the Lodi Grape Festival and National Wine Show Association is betting on a decent turnout with safety protocols in place. 

“They’re happy that things are starting to open back up because I felt, we felt trapped within our inner circle, and it’s nice to get outside and socialize again,” Armstrong told FOX40.

Saturday’s marketplace not only benefits the Lodi Grape Festival but also outdoor vendors who have been out of commission for over a year and are anxious to get back into action. The response was so good the event closed off vendor applications on Wednesday. 

“This is what I do for a living,” said Brian Garlough, who runs County Fair Amusement and Novelties.

While there are part-time crafts and food vendors at fairs, Garlough said he really felt the economic impact of not being able to sell items at the fairs on his schedule. 

“I need this to get going to start up again or I simply have a business I built up that won’t go anywhere,” he told FOX40.

He said more fairs are planning to reopen, although attendance restrictions may still hamper a full recovery. 

Two more Outdoor Market events are scheduled, one in May and another in June, and more vendors are lining up to get spots. 

“And we want to roll that momentum into the fall when we have our Grape Festival,” Armstrong said.

The Lodi Outdoor Market is open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Lodi Grape Festival Grounds.