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Tammy Swift, Published July 19 2009

Street fair attendance hits an all-time high

Temperatures that felt more like mellow June than sweltering July seemed to bolster crowds at this year’s Downtown Street Fair.

And not just rubber-neckers, either. They were there to buy.

“I would say 80 percent of the artists say (their sales) are up from last year,” said Stephanie Holland, membership and events coordinator for the Downtown Community Partnership, which coordinates the popular annual event.

Duly Mitchell, a Tucson, Ariz., potter who specializes in “crystalline porcelain,” said daytime sales were slow but seemed to pick up after 5 p.m. “You can see people are under more pressure, having to debate their expenditures,” he said. “But this time, when they told me, ‘I’ll be back,’ they meant it.”

Although Holland didn’t have official numbers yet, she ventured that street fair crowds were “easily

20 percent up” from last year’s estimated total of 120,000 fairgoers.

One of her longtime helpers, Gen Eidem, has worked as a fair volunteer for 10 years. Eidem estimated this year’s numbers could be as high as 175,000.

“I have never seen such crowds at the intersections,” said the volunteer, whose duties included working as a crossing guard.

Holland attributed the excellent turnout to the unseasonably temperate weather, which lingered in the 70s Saturday afternoon. In past years, crowds deserted the fair from 1 to 5 p.m., deterred by the prospect of pounding black pavement in 90-plus-degree temperatures.

Mona Dockter, owner of Copper Kettle Korn, agreed. A Downtown Fargo Street Fair veteran, the Mandan, N.D., resident said, “People stayed around because of the cool weather. What I’ve heard from mostly everyone is that they did really well – except for the vendors who were selling cold treats.”

Right next door, Melissa Warzeka of Baja Smoothies echoed those sentiments. “Today was a great day,” said the Gull Lake, Minn., vendor as she polished a stainless-steel smoothie machine. “Thursday and Friday? Not so great.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525