November 30, 2011 11:56:00 AM
David Miller -
STARKVILLE -- Shoppers, keep swiping cards and passing bills.
Following positive retail reports on Black Friday and during the Thanksgiving weekend, area vendors are hopeful the trend will continue during the 39th Annual Starkville Holiday Bazaar today and Thursday at the Starkville Sportsplex. The bazaar is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Admission is free.
"I think everyone is aware that small business runs the country," said vendor Pat Vaughan, former owner of Occasions boutique in Starkville and Columbus. "People realize that and are trying to shop locally. I'm expecting big crowds. From all the reports I've heard, both nationally and locally, business has doubled. The sales reps, too, are saying they've doubled what they've sold to retailers"
Vaughan is one of 92 bazaar vendors from Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana. Vendors will sell a variety of handmade items, including monogrammed items, food products, Christmas decorations and jewelry.
Vaughan is selling handcrafted jewelry and expects her handcrafted Pandora-style beads to be a popular item.
"I sold a lot of those at the (First United) Methodist Church bazaar, so I expanded the beads for more variety," she said. "The itch is still there (to sell boutique items), evidenced by the amount of inventory we have here. This kind of satisfies it, and it gets everyone in the Christmas spirit."
The bazaar is organized by the Starkville Main Street Association for the second straight year. Vendor fees will be added to the Main Street budget, which helps fund Main Street and Russell Street landscaping, among other downtown activities. The bazaar generated $5,000 last year, and Main Street Manager Jennifer Gregory expects to make $7,500 this year. Additionally, all sales tax revenue will go back into the community.
The bazaar was previously organized by the Mississippi State University Campus Activities Board. Gregory said the bazaar's transition to Main Street's control has been fluid and has grown this year due to excellent parking and facilities at the Sportsplex. Gregory said she hopes to exceed the 4,000 shoppers the bazaar drew last year.
"All of our vendors have increased inventory and have the same expectations we do," Gregory said. "What sets us apart is there is no admission, which is kind of outside the norm for holiday bazaars. We've also added a center aisle and four feet of walking room around the edges to try and make the shopping experience better. That meant having 10 less vendors, but we think it will create a better shopping experience."
The bazaar debuted Tuesday night with a sneak preview for a $15 admission fee.