When Big Hat Days comes around every year, Old Town Clovis comes alive.
Occupying 15 blocks in Old Town, Big Hat Days is the largest two-day festival in Central California. More than 140,000 people come, visiting booths that have everything from clothes to toys to food — even dogs are available for adoption at the event.
People from all over can be found at Big Hat Days. Whether they are visiting family for the weekend and just happen to be in town for the event or they come to town specifically for Big Hat Days, it is not surprising to find plenty of out-of-town visitors talking and browsing alongside the locals.
While the people make the event successful, it is the vendors who make the event possible. From first-time vendors to those with a long track record, the vendors are the unsung heroes of Big Hat Days.
Clovis native London Adame of AlternaKids is a first-time vendor. She sells children’s clothing of an alternative variety: they have fabric tattoo sleeves for children of parents with tattoos like herself. She models the clothes off of what her son likes to wear. For Adame, Big Hat Days is perfect timing.
“My son has autism, and April is Autism Awareness Month,” Adame said. She sold puzzle piece pins at her booth along with the clothes to support a cause dear to her heart.
The event went well for Adame, increasing the visibility of her new brand. She was disappointed with her sales, however, saying she had a lot of window shoppers.
“For our location and booth size it was $300 to attend,” Adame said of the vendor fee for the event. “I’m wondering if it was our location that contributed to our low sales.”
While disappointed, Adame says she still plans to attend other street fairs and has not given up on selling her alternative children’s clothing. It is a passion, and she said that Big Hat Days was a learning experience that she plans to take advantage of.
Adame was not the only one with a cause. David Plassman and Michelle Beyer were just a few booths down from Adame with a booth promoting City Without Orphans. Their organization is based around foster care, and though they were not selling anything, they were excited to be out in the community making their cause visible.
“There are a lot of good conversations,” Plassman said, garnering a nod and smile of agreement from Beyer.
Jackie Garibay of Peace of Mind — her business that sells natural soaps and body lotions — said a conversation is what brought her to Big Hat Days. It was her first year at the event, and she heard about it from a fellow vendor at another event in Roseville. Her company is based out of Victorville, but she travels all over for events just like Big Hat Days.
“I love it here,” Garibay said. “The other vendor in Roseville told me ‘it’s a small town but it’s a good event and the people are great.’ He was right.”
Giving credence to Garibay’s statement is Randall Cromer of Glendora. Cromer and his wife own Arlene’s Boutique and Maui Sea Glass. They have been attending events like Big Hat Days for 10 years, and for the last five they have been regulars at the Clovis event.
“We have family here,” Cromer said. “This is a hobby since we’re both semi-retired. We come up here and get to visit with family for a couple days and enjoy each other’s company while we’re here.”
Many of the vendors at Big Hat Days do not have brick-and-mortar stores, and are more like Cromer and his wife: attending events all over the country with pop-up booths and merchandise. Those that do have brick-and-mortar stores use events like Big Hat Days to increase their visibility and sales.
The event brings people from all over to Clovis, and alongside the Clovis Rodeo provides a boost to the local economy. The influx of visitors translates to an increase in sales for the vendors. It also means a boosted economy for Clovis. According to Shawn Miller, the business development manager for the City of Clovis, Big Hat Days has a great impact on hotels and local businesses.
“According to standard multipliers, every out-of-town resident who stays in Clovis will spend an average of $95 per day during a visit that includes an overnight stay and includes an event,” Miller said. “Each out-of-town resident who does not stay in Clovis will spend an average of $45 per day during a visit that includes an event. Each local person will spend an average of $22 per day during a visit to an event. These are direct numbers and do not reflect the tremendous ripple effect that takes place during or after large events.”
The exact numbers of Big Hat Days speak for themselves, showing the impact of the event on Clovis’ economy. The Chamber calculated that tourism spending during this year’s event was $5,077,400.
“The average number of times a dollar circulates within Clovis before leaving is three times.” Miller said. “This makes the overall economic impact of Big Hat Days on Clovis $15,232,200.”
The event has been around for 73 years. It started as a one-day hat and shirt dress up event on March 25, 1939.
On April 8, 1950, the event was announced as “Big Hat and Bright Shirt Day.” Along with the big hats sporting the red or gold bands that were available at local stores, people were also encouraged to wear bright shirts, jeans, western boots and other cowboy apparel.
In 1992, Big Hat Day became plural as it became a two-day event. From a festival of a dozen craft booths taking up one block, the event now encompasses 13 blocks and needs more.