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Small Business Saturday thrives with strong turnout

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By Terry Hagerty – Contributing writer/photographer

Area residents and out-of-towners turned out in impressive numbers Saturday to help support local merchants during the annual Small Business Saturday. “I always shop locally – do all my Christmas shopping in downtown Bastrop,” said Alice Traufott, who held up a blouse she had purchased earlier at a Main Street store. “I have many gifts I bought around town.”

Downtown merchants enjoyed a multitude of shoppers on Small Business Saturday. (Photo by Terry Hagerty)

Husband and wife Pam and James Wright said they traveled from Austin after hearing about Bastrop’s event through Austin media. “The importance of Small Business Saturday is to keep communities like Bastrop alive. The people who run businesses downtown here are extremely friendly – it’s more enjoyable to shop in places where it’s a friendly atmosphere,” said James Wright, as he and Pam enjoyed viewing paintings and sculptures inside Art Connections Gallery on Main Street.

Small Business Saturday, held across the nation each year between the bookends of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, helps support small local businesses that create jobs while maintaining their locations – often in historic downtowns and neighborhoods. In Bastrop, the event centered around shops on Main Street and also at the 1832 Farmers Market on east Chestnut Street. Downtown businesses offered free wassail – a hot mulled fruit cider – to shoppers as part of the inaugural Wassail Fest. Sippers got to cast a ballot for their ‘favorite’ wassail among the participating stores.

Customers enjoy wassail served up by Barbara Bridges. (Photo by Terry Hagerty)Launa Eckert said she was voting for her favorite wassail after tasting a sample doled out by Barbara Bridges, owner of the Bridges Building on Main Street. “This is my third one, and I like this one the best,” Eckert declared as she dropped her ballot into a voting box while Bridges smiled. Merchants participating in Wassail Fest included Art Connections Gallery, artists in the Bridges Building, Caledonia Cottage, Liberty Glenn, Liza Jane, Lost Pines Art Bazaar, Main Street Café, artists in the R.A. Green Mercantile Building, Relics, and Sugar Shack. More than a few also set up sidewalk displays of their goods.

The 1832 Farmers Market hosts the annual Harvest Art Fest. (Photo by Terry Hagerty)

At the 1832 Farmers Market, merchants in outside covered stalls and produce vendors inside the main building were the focus of the 30th Annual Harvest Art Fest, held Friday and Saturday in conjunction with Wassail Fest. “We have a nice turnout here today, and expect even more in the afternoon,” said 1832 Market manager Robert Fajkus as he surveyed the crowd. Vendors at the market said they especially appreciated the local response. “This 1832 Market has been a successful outlet for my wool sculptures. I have repeat customers every year,” said fiber artist Lee Charlton, who drew several onlookers as she sculpted her delightful tabletop figures including several long-bearded Santas.

Sherri DeLeon seemed to nicely sum up the importance of Small Business Saturday. “It’s buying into our community (and) supporting our local community – and it’s also a great opportunity for (buying) Christmas gifts,” she said.