Rick Early pulled on a Godzilla T-shirt before heading to the first ever City mARTket Fair in downtown Raleigh on Sunday. And he’d barely been there an hour when he found Godzilla’s eye staring at him, courtesy of spray-paint artist Talena Chavis.
He had to have it, of course, paying $12 for the 10-by-8 inch painting. He and his wife, Eleanor Johnson, came back for it after brunch in Battistella’s, a restaurant devoted to New Orleans-centric food. During that time, they both plotted out a new story for the giant radioactive reptile, involving a puzzle that once solved would lead to the nest of Godzilla’s offspring.
“This inspired the next Godzilla movie,” Early said in jest. But it was fun imagining it just the same, and just the kind of experience the event founders hope will bring even more life to downtown and the cobblestone-lined City Market during the warmer months.
The City mARTket Fair is the brainchild of Artsplosure, the nonprofit behind the city’s annual Artsplosure arts festival and First Night, and Hakan Properties, which owns the century-old market at Martin and Blount streets. Michael Hakan, the company owner, pitched the idea of an arts festival to Artsplosure officials about four months ago. Even though it’s a much smaller-scale event for the group, they decided to give it a try.
“I think City Market is like a hidden jewel,” said Terri Dollar, Artsplosure’s program director. “A lot of people really don’t know about it and it’s a fun place.”
So they invited roughly 25 vendors to take space underneath the extended roof at the market’s centerpiece, a broad brick building that used to house a brew pub and now is used for weddings and other events. That space features dance during the fairs; Dollar said next month’s will feature ballroom dancing.
The fairs come as City Market is about to benefit from a big infusion of nearby residents, part of downtown’s continued renaissance. Three new large apartment buildings are opening around the market, including the SkyHouse that’s adding another tall building to the city’s skyline.
Cooler air breezed through the market Sunday as temperatures eased back into the 80s. A few dozen people could be seen strolling from vendor to vendor in the early afternoon.
Vendors said they were pleasantly surprised by the turnout and the interest.
“Oh my God, it’s a success,” said Ann Holmes, who came from Raeford with her daughter, Miche’le, to sell jewelry and other pieces they made by capturing flowers in a clear resin. “We’re really, really enjoying it.”
In less than three hours they had made 17 sales, as customers peppered them with questions about their pieces.
It was good for the several restaurants housed within City Market, too. Most of the tables at Woody’s just across the street from the fair were occupied Sunday afternoon. Many of them appeared to be occupied by families grabbing lunch.
“It’s been a lot busier today than what it usually is,” said Tiara Wilson, a bartender.
Dollar said Sunday’s fair was more of a “soft opening,” with subsequent fairs expected to bring more vendors, music and dance. The fairs will continue on the second Sunday of each month at least through October, though Hakan would like them to be a permanent monthly event if they are successful.
“If they take off, why not keep it going,” said Kara Guido, Hakan’s marketing director.
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