MOUNT VERNON — Much of the activity of the Dan Emmett Festival in downtown Mount Vernon involves the vendors and the booths along South Main Street. Many of them have food, beverages, ice cream, custard and ample amounts of meat, and some are crafts and arts.
In previous years, the permanent downtown business were allowed to set up booths in front of their respective stores, but for a fee. This year, one of the things decided for the festival was to allow businesses to have the tents and booths outside their own businesses free of charge. That decision was welcomed by the vendors and merchants along the street, but sent some of them scrambling.
Several of the businesses took advantage by having booths outside their doors, which attracted passersby and helped the merchants.
Two of the stores that have seen significant increases in traffic thanks to the booths were locations that featured artwork from multiple artists.
Kudos is a artist co-op store that features art from more than 20 people collectively in the same location. The booth outside on Main Street routinely caught the attention of people who walked by, then stopped, asked some questions and either purchased small items or went into the building – or both.
“We have 21 artists total, right now, and in here (the booth) we have, at this point, three artists,” said artist Becky Sigler, who was working the booth and had art in it also. “The people are looking in here and we’re directing them, if they want to see more of our artists, they can go in to our store. Our foot traffic in the store is very good.”
Sigler said that the booths were beneficial in attracting attention.
“Whether they buy or don’t buy right now, the big thing is getting people into our store to see what we have,” Sigler said. “Because they come in and go, ‘wow, this is great.’”
She also added that in previous years, other vendors set up booths in front of stores, which then took away business from the native merchant.
“With a lot of merchants, your store is here and there’s all these vendors and there’s no connection to your store – and they can’t even get to you,” Sigler said. “This is really good because it opens everything up and it’s good for the businesses because people know that yes, you have this wonderful booth AND you have this wonderful store.”
Cindy Sperry of Crickets agreed with the increase of attention and foot traffic to her store, which is on the same block as Kudos.
“(The booth) is definitely helping the foot traffic because they are seeing items that we brought out from inside and we’re featuring them outside. And we have a partner vendor outside manning that area,” Sperry said. “(The booth) does stay out there overnight, but we put items out there that are appropriate.”
Both Sperry at Crickets and Sigler at Kudos indicated that they had signage for the booth but were rushed, with the Crickets’ tile sign just making its debut shortly before the festival and Kudos not getting one made quickly enough.
The Crickets sign, located between the booth and store, came from tiles from one of the original stores in that spot – Milton Lewis Men’s Furnishings that was there between 1912 and 1933. The sign and the booth attracted plenty of attention for Crickets.
Vendors from the entire area attended merchants meetings prior to the festival and many voiced their concerns about having booths.
“Everybody wanted (the booths),” Sperry said. “It was hard when it was like a food venue or another business. It was easier to have us out there and then you could tell people to come in.”