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Great sale hosts robust crowd, state cracks down on vendors

WARRENSBURG For two days this past weekend, bargain shoppers engulfed the town for the Worlds Largest Garage Sale. As garbage was being collected Monday and residents put away remnants from the sale, town officials reflected on this years event thats brought fame to the town and put crucial cash into residents pockets. The sale was considered a success, regardless of high gas prices and an economic downturn both which threatened attendance. Vendors surveyed at the sale, local shoppers and those renting out spaces, said the crowd that swarmed through town was moderately thinner than past years, however. Although the sale was deemed successful and provided a bargain-hunting extravaganza for tens of thousands, some vendors ran into problems with the law. While shoppers were browsing, various state agencies were busy arresting some vendors or shutting them down for various violations, Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty and others said. A large number of community groups, individuals and church organizations selling home-prepared food including cookies and brownies, Geraghty said, were told by the state health department inspectors to halt their sales because the food wasnt prepared in inspected commercial kitchens or presented in sealed packages. State police arrested and handcuffed a man selling bootleg cigarettes that had no tax stamp on the packages, Chamber President Lynn Smith said. Also, seven people from New York City and New Jersey were arrested for selling counterfeit designer handbags, wallets and other fashion goods. One vendor tried to flee into the crowd as state police investigators photographed his phony merchandise, witnesses said. Police said they confiscated 1,500 handbags and wallets and more than $19,000 in cash. New Town Code Enforcement Officer Matt Securo also got in on inspecting vendors. He advised one vendor who annually sells miniature pet turtles, to halt such sales, which violates a town ordinance, Geraghty said. But it was the state shutdown of those selling homemade food that was most widespread. State Health Dept. spokeswoman Beth Goldberg said her agency had two inspectors on duty from Thursday through Sunday this past week, asking commercial vendors, community groups and individuals to produce valid permits if they were offering any food for sale. She said a full 40 percent of those asked didnt have permits, and they were either invited to apply for one, or told to stop offering their food to the public. This included individuals offering food in their front yards, porches, or garages, she said. The main problem was on the side streets, with people selling food on their property, she said. Our main concern is peoples health and safety. Reports indicate dozens and dozens of people were told to stop their food sales, a traditional feature of the event. Smith said a new ban on parking along Main St. between the bandstand and Stewart Farrar Ave. during the sale relieved the congestion and allowed shoppers more contact with vendors. The ban allowed for a larger walking lane and for access by emergency vehicles, she said. It worked out really well. Fewer vehicles than in years past parked at the county fairgrounds, she said, guessing that shoppers sought to park in town in yards and lots where residents were selling parking spaces. Smith, who toured the town Saturday and Sunday on a small motorized vehicle, said the crowds were robust. We had gorgeous weather all weekend, but we had more people on Saturday than Sunday, she said. Jane LeCount, one of three founders of the Worlds Largest Garage Sale in the late 1970s, said the event was a rousing success, despite crowds being slightly less robust than in recent years. She rented out several spaces on her Main St. property this year, and sold a lot of household goods too. Some people told me because of the money they made off the sales, theyll be able to pay their fuel bills and pay their property taxes, she said. Thats one of the main reasons we started the event in the first place besides that its fun and a beautiful time of year for people to visit.

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