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Street fair draws crowds downtown
Stilt walker Tip Cameron stands at a height of 12 feet as he towers over the street fair crowd Saturday while making balloon animals. - photo by HIME ROMERO


• WHAT: Crossroads Street Fair
• WHERE: Downtown Manteca
• WHEN: Today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Warm weather only helped make the crowd of festival-goers at the 13th annual Crossroads of Manteca Street Fair grow even larger on Saturday.

Not long after public works crews cordoned off the side streets of the new fair route that had been extended along Yosemite Avenue for 2009, residents and visitors alike flooded the blacktop by the thousands to take advantage of the warm weather and the unique community atmosphere.

It was just the sort of afternoon that Al Thompson was looking to enjoy while kicking back in the grass at Library Park listening to Group W jam through a few songs.

“It’s just good to get out here and see what’s going on with all of the people and enjoy a delicious tri-tip sandwich,” Thompson said. “With weather like this it’s a good day to be outside and take advantage of it.”

The Street Fair continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

From the rock climbing wall that had been erected just kitty-corner to Vinnie Bhan’s Ironhorse Café all the way down to the railroad tracks that mark the end of downtown Manteca, pedestrians browsed the hundreds of booths that were peddling everything from tie-died T-shirts to miniature replica guitars – complete with the authentic designs and markings of the musicians that played them.

“This is our first time to Manteca for the Crossroads Street Fair, and so far business has been really steady,” said Axe Heaven Owner Jason Kline. “The people have been great and the weather has been absolutely perfect – this is what you want when you come out for a weekend like this.

“It’s definitely an event that we’d love to come back to again.”

And according to event organizers – some of whom started their Saturday as early as 3 a.m. making sure than the more than 400 vendors make it into their appropriate places without any problems – things couldn’t have gone much smoother.

Manteca Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Linda Abeldt said that the response from the vendors was overwhelmingly positive, and as many as 100 had already inquired about returning next year or sought the necessary paperwork to secure their spot.

The new layout of the fair which extended the Yosemite Avenue stretch and closed off one of the side streets to help improve the overall traffic flow, Abeldt said, was a big hit with vendors and festival-goers alike who appreciated being able to hit the booths in a straight line rather than zigzagging back and forth.

 “That’s probably the biggest compliment that we’ve received today was the new layout – it’s something we didn’t know how people were going to respond to and it’s nice that it’s been so well accepted,” Abeldt said. “We have a volunteer right now that’s out collecting statistics from vendors on how they like the event this year, and we’ll start compiling all of that data tomorrow so that we can start preparing for next year.”

Even though some vendors didn’t have the throngs of crowds that some exhibited Saturday afternoon, other merchants like Charlie Halsell used the experience to build relationships with those in the community that he’ll be able to tap into later.

With a table full of elaborately carved wildlife scenes including large mouthed bass and rainbow trout set on ornate stones, Halsell did the majority of his business selling jewelry from around the world made out of exotic materials like whale bone, ebony, mahogany, and teak.

While he was once tapped to donate one of his sculptures to the Bass Pro Shop prior to its opening – something he couldn’t financially commit to – Halsell was pleased with the conversations he was able to have with the large number of sportsmen here in Manteca and develop contacts that he’ll hopefully be able to call on later.

“When it comes to selling on a daily basis, it’s probably at a loss, but I was meet a lot of fisherman here and talk about places all over California, so it’ made it worthwhile to come out.”