[Elfsea] A DallasNews.com article from Morgan Cain

morgancain@earthlink.net morgancain at earthlink.net
Sun Jun 1 06:47:56 PDT 2003

Morgan Cain [morgancain at earthlink.net] has sent you a link to an article from DallasNews.com.

  For those who have not seen the article that starts on page 32A of today's Dallas Morning News.  Misspelled our seneschal's surname, unfortunately.  The paper version leads with a photo from one of our events.
Page at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dallas/tsw/stories/060103dntexcanton.12709.html

 Little town built on selling markets itself

 New businesses, rentals help keep Canton busy all month


 CANTON, Texas -- On most weekdays, much of Canton looks like a ghost town.
 There are acres of sun-baked concrete and deserted businesses. Much land
 is free of development and dotted by trees -- but deeply rutted. Empty
 metal sheds line a stretch of the main highway into town.

 Weekends, though, are different.

 For nearly 150 years, the town of about 3,500 has hosted trade days on
 the weekend preceding the first Monday of the month. Vendors pour in to
 sell their wares and visitors line up to buy them. On the best weekends,
 250,000 visitors snarl traffic and clog the grounds north of downtown.

 First Monday has been good to Canton. And while town officials are
 appreciative, they also are trying to broaden their economic base.

 During the last decade, Canton has been marketing the First Monday Trade
 Days grounds to other groups, helping to increase the city's income.
 It's done so well that Canton is one of the few cities in Texas without
 a property tax.

 Town officials also have been aggressively recruiting businesses with no
 connection to the flea market. John Stephens, economic development
 director, boasts that a food company is relocating its headquarters to
 Canton. And a candy company and cleaning products company already in
 town are expanding.

 "We're trying to create more jobs and keep more people here," city
 manager Johnny Mallory said. "We want our youngsters when they graduate
 from high school, if they are not going to college, to have jobs. We
 have to look at economic development as a whole."

 Mr. Mallory said the city doesn't know exactly how many jobs First
 Monday-related ventures bring in, but most of them are part time and
 seasonal. New businesses provide more stable employment, he said.

 "First Monday is really the golden egg. But nearly every week we have
 something on the grounds," said Jim Stephens, the Canton Chamber of
 Commerce's director of economic development.

 Activities range from RV rallies, to bluegrass concerts, to Cub Scout
 day camps to the Society for Creative Anachronism, which celebrates the
 Middle Ages.

 "It's like bringing a small city in," said Al Campbell, the First Monday
 general manager. "The money comes in and flows around."

 There are several distinct marketplaces in Canton along State Highways
 19 and 64, but the city owns the original market and has built a
 convention center next to the grounds.

 Vendor fees and RV hookups from that property bring in about $3 million
 a year, half of the city's $6 million budget. Mr. Mallory said Canton's
 proceeds from the event are increasing about 5 percent a year.

 "That's directly attributable to the marketplace," he said.

 Trade Days began in the mid-1800s in downtown Canton around the Van
 Zandt County Courthouse. Farmers would bring their horses, produce and
 other wares on the first Monday of the month when the circuit judge came
 to town.

 The city got involved formally in 1965 and has had some measure of
 control since.

 "It began on the first Monday, then they started letting them set up on
 Sunday, then Saturday, finally it was the whole weekend," Mr. Mallory
 said. Now the market is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the actual
 first Monday devoted to cleanup.

 There's a little bit of everything at the market from antiques to fine
 furniture to junk.

 "I've thrown away better stuff," Mr. Mallory said of some of the wares.

 The city has no idea how much the visitors actually bring to the area,
 or how many jobs the flea market supplies. Mr. Mallory said that a
 number of Canton residents help vendors and direct parking.

 There was a boom in First Monday growth in the 1980s that ended about
 1995, Mr. Campbell said. Then the city built a 30,000-square-foot
 convention center and began marketing it and the adjacent grounds to
 other groups.

 "We put out more feelers and you might say chased the events," Mr.
 Campbell said.

 Some events are as small as family reunions. At the other end of the
 spectrum, RV rallies may bring in as many as 600 campers.

 While much of the marketplace is bare concrete dotted with metal sheds
 or pavilions, a portion near the convention center off State Highway 64
 has a creek, grassy areas and trees. These provide shady spaces for

 Bathrooms are one of the biggest draws.

 "There's not a lot of facilities [convention center and grounds] that
 large around. And we have restrooms with shower facilities," Mr.
 Campbell said.

 Ann Atape, leader of the Barony of the Steppes group of the Society for
 Creative Anachronism, said the society holds several events a year on
 First Monday grounds, including one in May that drew more than 700
 participants to pavilions patterned on those from 16th century Europe.

 Because many group members camp on the grounds, the restrooms and
 showers are key attractions. She said they are clean and well stocked.

 The First Monday area is also one of the few places in the area that can
 provide shaded RV hookups next to a climate-controlled convention center
 for artisans and large flat areas for equestrian and archery events, she

 The regular events have been a boon to other businesses in town, even
 though many participants camp on First Monday's grounds.

 Doris Hardin, who runs the Canton Square Bed & Breakfast just blocks
 from the First Monday grounds, said she has seen an increase in business
 as other events have grown.

 "We are picking up more and more business on other weekends," she said.
 "We like it, it's great."

 She said the Society for Creative Anachronism and family reunions have
 been particularly good for business.

 Ash Shorff, manager of the Luxury Suites at Interstate 20 and State
 Highway 19, said his motel exists because of First Monday. However, he
 said business has been picking up throughout the month because of the
 other events.

 Mr. Shorff lives in Canton. Like many residents, he has a love-hate
 relationship with First Monday. He loves the business, but hates the

 "The people that are involved think it's a great thing, said Mr.
 Mallory. "There are some people who buy their groceries ahead of time
 and just don't get out. They know when to come and when to go."

 Karel Holloway is a Terrell freelance writer.

 karelholloway at dallasnews.com


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