TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s another devastating blow to businesses at the heart our community. Wednesday night, the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association announced the annual Winter Street Fair has been canceled.
Organizers are unable to obtain the proper permitting in time. The Pima County Health Department released its guidelines for festivals and events this past weekend.
“Pima County has issued new protocols,” said Monique Vallery, the Creative Director of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association. “So, in the past when you applied for a special event, you would apply first through the City of Tucson. Those protocols have now changed. Now, we are going to apply first through the county and then go through the city. I respect that because the City of Tucson has said, ‘We are not the health experts, lets defer to Pima County’. So, the whole process has changed and part of that is just timing. It’s hard for some people to understand because it’s not what’s happening in other places in Arizona and that’s very confusing to our artists and guests because our county and our city is following a specific set of guidelines.”
Originally scheduled for December 11th – 13th, the Winter Street Fair was a beacon of hope for more than 130 mom and pop shops on Historic Fourth Avenue.
“This has been by far the most tough year for myself, for my coworkers, for everybody on Fourth Avenue that I talk to,” said Ben Sattler, the Manager of Mr. Heads. “[The cancelation] hurts business; there’s no other way around it. Our biggest days of the year generally at our restaurant are the Spring Street Fair and Winter Street Fair.”
“It’s been a huge financial struggle,” said Vallery. “We’ve lost businesses; businesses have been closing down since March. On the flip side of that, we have seen this creativity come out; we have seen our businesses switch to online or to curbside. Has that saved businesses? For now.”
Each year, hundreds of vendors participate in the Winter Street Fair, drawing in more than 250,000 shoppers right before Christmas.
“It was to be expected somewhat, but it was unfortunate to hear the actual news, ‘Hey, it’s going to be canceled’,” said Sattler. “It’s definitely going to hinder financial plans as far as the rest of the year.”
The Fourth Avenue Merchants Association encourages everyone to shop local this holiday.
“We can still save these businesses,” said Vallery. “They add such value to the community and they are so diverse. That’s what’s amazing about Fourth Avenue; this place isn’t like anywhere else. We don’t need to go to the box stores, right? We don’t need to get our groceries at the box stores, we’ve got the Co-op. We’ve got amazing bookstores and we have just got these creative artisans and restaurants like no other. Stay here! Our merchants will treat you like family.”
“Maybe you won’t be able to go to the street fair unfortunately, but that clothing store that you used to go to or that restaurant you love to go to at the street fair is still there,” said Sattler. “We are all struggling out here to make it beyond this so that when we do have a street fair again, we will be here for all of you.”
The Winter Street Fair will be going virtual (like it did in the spring). For information on how to support local shops and restaurants, click HERE.
The Fourth Avenue Merchants Association recently received CARES Act funding, which will be distributed to qualifying businesses in the coming months.