[Elfsea] A DallasNews.com article from Morgan Cain
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
"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
The city got involved formally in 1965 and has had some measure of
"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
"We put out more feelers and you might say chased the events," Mr.
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.
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
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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