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Business owners reflect on cancellation of Fourth Avenue's Winter Street Fair

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Ana Beltran | The Daily Wildcat

4th Avenue, pictured in June 2019, is a historical shopping center for local businesses, attracting customers from all around. The SunLink streetcar allows for easier access to and from campus to 4th Ave.

The annual Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair in Tucson, Arizona has been cancelled in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The City of Tucson has relied on the guidance of health professionals to determine the safest course for the 2020 Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair according to the Historic Fourth Avenue website

This was disappointing news for not only the many guests who attend but for the artists, vendors, sponsors and local merchants who depend greatly on this event to boost their businesses. 

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Monique Vallery, the creative director of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association, was the one who had to make this difficult decision. Vallery said she was also in the position to put out communication to over 500 people regarding this cancellation.  

“The artists, vendors and sponsors are people I consider friends and it's hard to have to tell them that we cannot, at this point, safely be able to proceed,” Vallery said. 

Over 400 arts and crafts booths, 35 food vendors, musicians and other attractions would generally line the avenue for guests to leisurely enjoy. These customers travel from all over the state and not only provide business for the vendors, but also for the surrounding local businesses. 

Historic Fourth Avenue is home to over 140 locally owned businesses ranging from restaurants, pubs, bookstores and retailers. These businesses have already suffered economic losses as a result of the pandemic. Many locations were shut down for months starting in March of 2020 and some have not been able to reopen since. Owners have been trying to shift their business model to adapt to these changing circumstances. 

“We have sadly seen, almost on a weekly basis, the loss of a business here or there and we don't know if the businesses we still have here will be able to survive,” Vallery said. 

To combat these hardships, businesses have resorted to online resources. Curbside pickup has been used to benefit multiple restaurants and shops along the avenue. This allows for the safe practice of social distancing while still maintaining an income. 

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Tony Vaccaro, owner of the Brooklyn Pizza Company and Sky Bar located on Fourth Avenue, has increased efforts in online pickup and delivery through the use of apps such as GrubHub.

Vaccaro stated that as a result of the pandemic, his business has seen about a 25% decrease in sales and a loss in the number of employees. The street fair usually brought Vaccaro many customers and a valuable amount of exposure that would have especially benefitted the company during these troubling times.  

“It will hurt business but I see the need for the cancellation,” said Vaccaro. 

Although many of the local business owners recognize that this decision was made to protect citizens, some have had a difficult time accepting the news.

Rich Hopkins, owner of the local record store Hurricane Records, shared a post to Facebook voicing his opinion on the decision of the city of Tucson and the Pima County Health Department. 

“I for one am really disapointed and infuriated because regardless of how much grant [money] or bailouts are thrown at small failing businesses..all over the USA, not just Tucson, decisions like this are killing many businesses,” Hopkins said in a Facebook post

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Hurricane Records has seen a loss of nearly 75% of business throughout the past few months and Hopkins was relying on the tourism of the street fair to boost sales Hopkins said via email. 

Despite these burdensome times and the street fair cancellation, businesses will try to remain open and continue practicing social distancing and following the various safety protocols. Vallery encouraged consumers to still enjoy the avenue safely and check out businesses' online resources.  

“These are all locally-owned folks who need everyone in the community to support. They have come up with creative ways to help to provide to the community so we just need to take advantage of it,” Vallery said.  



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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (12/1)
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Total (8/4)
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Includes tests since August 4, 2020
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated December 1, 2020