COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Local stores weighed in on the economic impact of Territory Days as thousands of people packed the streets of Old Colorado City Saturday for its 38th annual event.
The event is dubbed the largest and longest-running street fair in the U.S. Southwest. Organizers estimate 150,000 people will attend the event during its three-day run.
Bruce Vanderpool said thousands of people will stop by his tent this weekend. He uses a scroll saw to create intricate designs on dead wood from the Hayman fire.
"This is probably one of our bigger shows of the year," said Vanderpool.
Some Old Colorado City store owners said they won't reap the benefits of heavy foot traffic this weekend. The two store owners didn't want to be identified. They said holiday weekend sales would be higher without the festival. The vendors hide their storefronts, hindering sales.
Lisa Johnson works at the Artists Gallery of Old Colorado City. She said most festival attendees stay on the street.
"Most of it is in the street. People will come in to get cool and say, 'I didn't know there was an art gallery here, we'll come back,'" said Johnson. "But, most of it is in the street."
Johnson said Territory Days helps generate new business for the gallery.
"It does get us known and people see us," said Johnson.
It's difficult to see Molly Smith's Republic of Paws pet boutique from the street. A food vendor set up shop directly in front of her front door.
"We say it's the nature of the beast because it is kind of a double-edged sword. We want the traffic here. We want people to visit us. We know they are largely here for the festival," said Smith. "But, unfortunately, the 2400 block we are on, we are back-to-back with the smoky food vendors."
She said her store would benefit more from the event if visitors could see her store more easily from the street.
"If you walk down to the 25th block [of Colorado Avenue], all of the stores, at least on the north side, have no vendors in front of their stores so they get everyone walking by," said Smith. "It's as if they're the other side of the actual vendor traffic so they get double exposure, which is great."
Smith said sales for her store this weekend might be smaller, but the event gives her store invaluable exposure. She thinks Territory Days will bring more people back to her store later, helping its bottom line in the future.
Smith has offered suggestions to the organizing committee that she believes would help stores benefit more from the festival.
"It would be nice if they would rotate so we aren't always back-to-back with the food vendors because we have to do a lot to de-smoke and make the smell go away afterwards," said Smith.
Admission the Territory Days is free. The event is going on in Old Colorado City through Monday. Colorado Avenue is closed from 23rd to 27th streets through 10 p.m. Monday. 23rd Street, 24th Street, 25th Street, 26th Street and 27th Street are also closed for one block on either side of Colorado Avenue.