How will the sale feel (be) different?
We've described a lot of ways the 2021 sale will be different in the Doing the Sale section, but what will it be like to shop at the sale this year, compared to the usual sale at the Grandstand?
None of us really know for sure because we haven't run a sale this way before, but here's how we think it will be compared to past sales.
Size of the sale
The plant sale, even in a normal year, is very large and physically taxing. We think this year's sale may be less taxing in a few ways:
- Because it's outside, the noise level will be greatly decreased.
- The sensory overload from the number of people at once will be substantially less. There will only be 25% as many people at once, spread over a much larger area.
- The wider aisles between the plant tables (25’ minimum), combined with fewer shoppers, should mean easier movement through the sale at your own pace. For comparison, the aisles will be as wide as many houses on a typical city lot.
- The surface we all have to walk on will be a bit more forgiving to our legs and knees. The Grandstand floor is concrete, while the Midway parking lot is mostly asphalt, which is easier on our legs.
- Because there are fewer shoppers at once, it’s likely the average person driving to the sale will be able to park closer to the entrance than usual.
However, there’s no getting around the fact that the amount of area to cover in the Midway will be larger than at the Grandstand.
We estimate that shoppers usually have to cover about 2 miles from the time they enter the edge of the Garden Fair until they leave the main part of the plant sale at curbside pickup.* This year, we think it will be a minimum of 3 miles from the time a shopper is scanned into the sale at their entry time until they leave past curbside pickup. (Both of those distances are based on a shopper who goes past every plant, and we know not everyone will do that, but we have to use something for a base comparison.)
Here's the general map of this year's layout, showing — for scale — that it’s the size of five football fields laid side by side. In our usual sale, the Grandstand and the outdoor plant area together are about the size of 2.5 football fields.
The total sale area, including the cart corral and curbside pickup area, is about the size of five football fields laid side-by-side. In this illustration, the three alternating light yellow and two white areas are each the size of a football field.
Weather, and generally being outside
Almost everything at the sale will be open to the elements and the fresh air, which is good for COVID reasons and keeping air flowing. If it's nice outside, that will be really great. For shoppers, it means:
- Dress for the weather, and for possibly changing weather over the time you could be at the sale. (Even more so for volunteers, who are there for longer than shoppers.) That means sunscreen AND rain gear, maybe.
- If you're bringing your own writing implement (and please do!), pencils work the best in all weather. Ballpoint pens are second best.
- We'll have tents covering the cashiers and tallyers, as well as the Info Desk, Volunteer Desk, and some smaller pop-ups to protect boxes and other areas. But all of the plant areas will be open to the elements, so be ready for that.
- The only restroom access will be portapotties, with one smaller set right by the entrance area and a larger set near the checkout line entrance. Both sets will include a fully accessible portapotty.
- The combination of COVID and being outside means there will be no food or drink for sale, and no drinking fountains. Bring your own water bottle! We hope to have touch-free water dispensers for refills in a few locations and will update maps with that information as we know more.
- We plan to run the sale only while it’s daylight, but if your shopping time is later in the early evening, please bring a headlamp or flashlight, or plan to use your phone as a flashlight in case the day gets dark earlier than projected, as it sometimes does on cloudy days. There will be lighting in the tented areas but not over the plant areas because they are too large.
There will be no rain checks for shopping: the sale is on regardless of rain, shine, wind, or snow (hahaha, right?).
If there is a declared severe weather event, we have a plan in place with the Minnesota State Fair and in that case will have a way for shoppers to make up their lost shopping time, depending on circumstances.
As we continue working on the plan for the sale, we'll add more to this post if things change. Last updated on February 18, 2021.
* While writing this, we learned that in the 2019 sale we had a full linear mile of plants on tables (counting the bulb/bareroot shelves and hanging baskets as if they were tables). The shrubs/trees and fruit that are not on tables add another 750 feet to that length. Plus all the aisles between things to get from one section to another, the checkout line… and more.