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Vendors peddle their wares at First Saturday Street Fair

September 01, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Most of the vendors at Martinsburg's First Saturday Street Fair sat patiently behind their tables as potential customers passed by.

They chatted with people browsing their wares, seeming to prefer easy conversation over the hard sell.

But 7-year-old Ryan Richards was having none of that.

"Hey! You want a snow cone?" Richards yelled as he ran out in front of passers-by.

Richards runs Yum-Yums snow cone and ice cream stand with his 9-year-old brother, Tyler. Their father, Robert Richards, said the boys have earned between $700 and $800 with the stand in the last eight months.

"They've turned into quite the businessmen," Robert Richards said.

The Richards' were just one of more than a dozen vendors lining the sidewalks of North Queen Street between Burke and Martin Streets for Saturday's street fair.

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The fair, which is held on the first Saturday of each month between April and October, was started this year as a way for local artists and craftspersons to sell their products, said Judy Jeffares, one of the event's organizers.

Jeffares said the fair, which is co-sponsored by the Heritage Craft Center and ArtBerkeley Inc., also is an attempt to draw people to downtown Martinsburg.

She said local businesses have suffered as people go to Martinsburg Mall and nearby shopping centers instead of supporting downtown merchants.

"It's a shame to let our historical districts die," Jeffares said. "We want people to see that things are happening down here, too."

Vendors ranged from jewelers and photographers to craft makers and painters. Most agreed with Jeffares that the event gives a valuable boost to local business owners.

"We need to make Martinsburg something more than an interstate stop-off," said Melanie Files, whose husband, Rick Lowman, was selling nature photographs at the fair.

Lowman said this was the first month he has participated in the street fair.

"It's something I really want to participate in," Lowman said. "It's a great thing for the city, and it's something artists like me really need in order to display their work."

The fair will be held again on Oct. 6 and Nov. 3 and will continue in April 2008, Jeffares said.

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