Vendor camping back at Kiwanis swap meet in Williams

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The Williams Kiwanis Club's annual street market will return this summer to the BNSF property at the west end of town, with the city allowing vendors to dry camp again this year.

The Williams City Council unanimously approved the swap meet and dry camping for a period of three years at its March 13 meeting.

This year's street market will start on Memorial Day weekend and continue every weekend throughout the summer. Instead of calling the event a swap meet this year, Kiwanis has changed the name to "The Kiwanis Club Route 66 Street Market."

Kiwanis' street market has helped provide more than $20,000 in scholarships and support for local youth programs in the past four years, according to a letter to the mayor and council from Kiwanis President Cookie Nicoson.

With the loss of dry camping last year, Kiwanis member Bud Parenteau said the organization only raised about 27 percent of the amount it usually does during the swap meet.

"Because of what happened last year, our revenues were down, and the only ones who got hurt with that are the kids," he said.

Last year, when people found out dry camping was no longer allowed, several vendors left after the first weekend, Parenteau said.

"Dry camping is only somebody sitting there in front of their stuff and watching it and staying overnight at that site. They're not building any camp fires, they're not doing any of that other kind of stuff," he said. "They want to put their wares out, but if they have to put their wares out and take them down each night, then it takes a couple hours sometimes to do that."

The dry campers would only stay Friday night and Saturday night most weekends, and possibly Sunday night if a holiday falls on a Monday.

Councilman Don Dent said the issue in the past has been people staying throughout the week between weekend market days.

Kiwanis would require dry campers to set up in the back of the market area so they would not be visible from the street. Officials also said they were willing to put up a temporary fence to improve the appearance of the market.

Kiwanis member Pat Schlecht clarified that Kiwanis would prefer to put on the street market without the fence, because it would cost about $750, plus additional money to assemble and install it, after last year's revenues were already down.

"We addressed it simply because we were trying to come up with how could we put lipstick on the pig," he said. "So if we can have the dry camping without the fence obviously that would be our first choice, but we will do what's necessary to bring back these dollars into the community for the kids, because that's our purpose."

Dent said the dry campers would not be visible if they were located in the back of the market area and recommended not requiring the fence.

"The $750 is probably one more scholarship," he said.

Mayor John Moore said he wanted to make sure the dry camping would not violate the city's non-camping ordinance, and if it did the council could change the ordinance to allow for this situation, which helps students.

Councilman Frank McNelly said he thought the scholarships were great, but asked if the city would be locked into the three-year deal if any aspects became unsatisfactory in the future.

Parenteau said it would be a gentlemen's agreement and if something came up they could terminate the agreement with 30 days notice.

"But if something does come up, we'll address it," he said.

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