Old Town Clovis packed for Big Hat Days

The Fresno BeeApril 5, 2014 

Big Hat Days, among the Valley's largest weekend festivals, got off to a little bit of a slow start Saturday with cool morning temperatures, but it wasn't long before the crowd began gathering in downtown Clovis.

Once the sun started warming Pollasky Avenue, the street quickly filled for the 76th annual Old Town Clovis event. Big Hat Days kicks off the city's Western Heritage Month and is capped off by this year's 100th annual Clovis Rodeo on the last weekend of April.

The two-day Big Hat Days event attracts about 130,000 visitors each year. They fan out over eleven blocks of Old Town Clovis to sample foods, climb on carnival rides or peruse products of 350 vendors.

Big Hat Days and ClovisFest, the Clovis chamber-sponsored large fall event, haul in about $6 million for the community -- money spent by visitors and also by vendors and employees, said Fran Blackney, the chamber's communications coordinator.

The best recipe for the two events is vendor variety mixed with limited competition so vendors will want to return, said Tammi Walton, events director.

That, in turn, creates vendor loyalty and a waiting list hundreds of names long each year, she said.

While some merchants come from outside California, most visitors are from the Valley and make the visit each year, Blackney said.

"People come up to us and say what a family tradition this has become," she said.

Big Hat Days continues today. There is no cost for parking or admission.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, mbenjamin@fresnobee.com or @beebenjamin on Twitter.

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