Trade Days could draw 400,000 visitors

CANTON (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Pat Mullin, owner of Cherry Creek Bed and Breakfast in Canton, planned to get up at 4 a.m. today, just as she does every morning to prepare breakfast for her guests. But with a full house and 27 mouths to feed, Mrs. Mullin said she is going to have a busy weekend ahead.

The final First Monday Trade Days weekend of the year started today, and city officials are hoping it will be the biggest and busiest of the year.

Mrs. Mullin said reservations for all five of her rooms were booked a year in advance.

She said making a large breakfast is a routine that has become almost robotic, beginning with grinding coffee beans and preparing Thursday's breakfast tacos. She said folks start trickling in for coffee at 5:30 a.m. and by 7:30 a.m., most of the good stuff is gone.

"You want to be shopping by 8:15 a.m.," she said. "You're in a race."

November was a busy weekend, with an estimated 300,000 visitors swarming the normally populated town of about 2,600 over the entire weekend, said Mercy Rushing, Canton's executive director for economic development and marketing and president of chamber of commerce.

Based on November's estimations and a beautiful weather forecast, city officials are hoping for a record-breaking weekend in December, or about 400,000 visitors. Ms. Rushing said November and December traditionally are the town's busiest months, followed by March and April, when the weather is nice, and June and July, when people take their vacations.
The trade business is large in Canton, and comes with a special set of challenges to accommodate such a large monthly influx of people. During First Monday, the city becomes the 10th largest in the state, Ms. Rushing said.

According to a 2010 economic study done by Dr. Ray Perryman, a Texas economist, the city sees about 2 million visitors a year and receives some $2.8 million in sales tax revenues from purchases made.

Ms. Rushing said the economic development portion of sales tax revenues comes to about $800,000 annually, and most of that goes right back into infrastructure projects to support the tourism industry.

She said the small city has to have the underground support of a large city, so there is never a time without water or electricity. Ms. Rushing said the EDC is currently using its funds to help the city with a new water well to expand its capabilities and add water pressure.
"We are always trying to improve our internet Wi-Fi capabilities," she said. "We are always putting money into those kinds of things. The city is always spending money on roads and maintenance."

Ms. Rushing said the police and fire departments also have learned to accommodate the influx of people.

"We always have extra police officers, we have extra fire department (personnel) and of course we have extra staff … because of safety," she said. "We make sure we clean everything and they are ready for your guests."

The city coordinates with TxDOT to ensure road projects are finished up the Tuesday before the weekend so traffic problems will not be a concern for shoppers, Ms. Rushing said.

"The money we make goes back into investing in it (the infrastructure to accommodate 300,000 people)," she said. "If you have tourists, it doesn't take long for them to quit coming if you have really (bad) roads."

The shopping industry also helps to support six hotels, one resort and 29 bed and breakfasts in the city, as well as 47 eating establishments.

Mrs. Mullin said she has had a blast running her bed and breakfast for the past two years in Canton.

"There are some amazing stories you hear from these groups," she said. "Every weekend is a unique weekend. You never know what you are getting each weekend."


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