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Crowds flock to Custer Fair

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Local artists, businessmen and performers will be back in action today around Main Street and Chicago Avenue for the closing day of the 37th Annual Custer’s Last Stand Festival.

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Exhibitor Wonderland Marketing was promoting a line of logo t-shirts with the word “give” on the front and, you guessed it, “back” on the back. Each color shirt supports a different local non-profit.

Visitors flocked to the event Saturday for jewelry, purses, buttons, stuffed animals, sculptures, music, photographs and paintings — and, of course, food.

A woman at one stall shoved kettle corn in a plastic bags and handed it the latest customer. Nearby, a man chomped down on a juicy foot-long sausage.

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A crowd gathered around acrobat Dizzy Lizzy Delicious as she twirled on a bar yards off the ground. Scores of entertainers like her juggled, flipped and performed magic tricks.

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“It’s hot as Hell out here,” one woman griped. Girls with faces painted white, blue and purple waited in a line for lemonade that was 23 people long.

For the vendors, however, things were less lively. Sales are down from last year, they report, pointing to national financial problems. Some customers are just less willing to spend money on art and crafts.

“It’s time to be careful,” said Evanston resident Jill Schacter, 47. She stopped herself from buying earrings and settled for a T-shirt instead.

Vendors also face greater competition. This year’s fair has 407 stalls – 65 more than last year, according to organizers.

Susan Todd of Chicago sold handmade dresses, jewelry, scarves and tunics. Sales at her booth were more than 50 percent down from last year.

Although such sales make up her livelihood, she remained unconcerned with the economic situation.

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” she said. “I’m still enjoying the fair.”

More Custer Fair photos

(Click on any image to see a larger view.)

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