What happens when masses go to market
SUMPTER — Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day don’t mark a day off work for the town of Sumpter in eastern Baker County. Three weekends a year the town, population 171, hosts a flea market and transforms into a whirlwind of commerce. This year’s Memorial Day weekend saw 257 vendors set up all over town and drew approximately 7,500 people. Even the Fourth of July market, July 6-8, which was considered a miserable failure due to astonishing heat and confusion about the date, drew close to 100 vendors and a crowd estimated around 2,000.
Hobbyist as well as “professional” vendors come to the markets from as far away New Mexico and sell everything from crafts and antiques to food and kitchen supplies. Toni Tomson, Sumpter’s city recorder says, “Anything you can think of, someone is selling it.”
To handle the influx of people, any spare space is turned into parking and a shuttle runs through town constantly. Another constant is garbage pickup. The May flea market weekend generated 100 cubic yards of trash. The city pays for services such as portable toilets and garbage removal through vendor fees ($60 for food vendors, $30 for all others) and property rental fees.
The economic impact is significant: Without the flea markets most of the town’s businesses would have a tough time surviving. Tomson says she can’t think of a single business that doesn’t benefit. “Gas station, motel, restaurant, souvenir shop, you name it. They all need this to get them through.”
— Brooke Matschek
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