Friday's downtown street festival marked the first time sidewalk vendors were required to pay a $25 fee to set up shop along Broad Street. But downtown officials say the new charge didn't seem to deter any new street business.
By the time First Friday kicked off at 5 p.m., more than 30 vendors had filed applications with the Main Street Augusta office, Executive Director Chris Naylor reported.
"I think it has actually created more interest," Mr. Naylor said.
The majority of registered vendors, which included artists, food peddlers and jewelers, obtained permission from Broad Street business owners to sell their wares on adjacent sidewalks, Mr. Naylor said. Several more were assigned spots on 10th and 11th streets by Main Street.
Raymond Wescott and his mother, Kathrena, who run the Lemonade Factory lemonade stand, happily paid the fee in exchange for a sticker that allowed them to sell drinks on the Broad Street plaza between Eighth and Ninth streets.
"If it goes to the city, I don't mind," Mr. Wescott said. "It's good business."
But because Friday marked the first time the fee was required, downtown officials said they were trying be flexible. Anyone found without a sticker was given an application and asked to pay the $25 charge, Mr. Naylor said.
Proceeds are being used to pay for trash collection, administrative costs and extra security from Richmond County Sheriff's Office deputies.
On the first Friday of each month, hundreds of visitors descend on downtown to shop, eat and look at art. As the event continues to grow in popularity, sidewalk vendors - selling everything from snow cones to silver - also are showing up in greater numbers.
Lou Ann Zimmerman, the owner of Gallery 1006 and the chairman of Artists Row, an alliance of art galleries along Broad Street, supports vendor registration. She gave the OK for a nonprofit Alzheimer's disease support group to set up outside her shop Friday.
"I think it's good because it had gotten out of hand," Mrs. Zimmerman said. "There needed to be some kind of order so people could walk down the street without falling over each other."
"I think it's good because it had gotten out of hand. There needed to be some kind of order so people could walk down the street without falling over each other." - Lou Ann Zimmerman, the owner of Gallery 1006 and the chairman of Artists Row
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