Fest a boon for vendors

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 5, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

An eclectic blend of vendors lined Selma streets for Jubilee this weekend, selling a smorgasbord of trinkets, T-shirts, food, jewelry, prints and other march related memorabilia.

For food vendors, the bustling and hungry crowd kept the grills running non-stop. Derek Gann, going on his second year as a Jubilee food vendor, said that while this year’s crowd was a little thinner than last, their appetites made up for it. His sales totaled approximately $2,000 this year, about the same as he did last year.

Gann sells polish sausage, chicken fingers, fried fish, Philly cheese steaks and a host of other deliciously greasy culinary delights. Of those establishments that sell fried foods, residents have complained about vendors dumping grease and leaving debris in the wake of their mass exodus out of Selma.

Like many of the vendors, who set up their temporary shops for the event, Gann is not a local. He came from Russellville, Ala., which is about a three and a half-hour drive north of Selma.

While he doesn’t live here, he is conscientious.

“I don’t dump grease in the street,” he said.

Prior to opening, Gann said the health department did an inspection of his booth to ensure his operation is in compliance with state and city health codes.

He indicated that the health department did advise him not dump grease in the street, but to put it back in the containers he got it out of and place them by the garbage cans. Gann said he had already planned for handling the grease and will take it back home to dispose of it once he closes up.

Aaron Sheperd and family have run a food booth for about eight years during Jubilee. They sell similar fare to Gann. Last year, sales and the crowds were bigger, said Sheperd, adding, “I think it’s because they had better performers last year.”

Another regular to Jubilee, Julian Madyun of Atlanta, has set up his African-American art prints booth here for the last four years. He agreed that sales and the crowd were larger last year, but for him, it’s not all about the money.

“Last year it was bigger because it was the 40th anniversary of the bridge crossing. Sales were better last year, but I’m here to spread the knowledge, the money is secondary – although the money is good,” he said.

Within his booth hang portraits of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali to name a few. A history buff, Madyun said he has met fellow, like-minded historians and intellectual friends in his travels that purchase many of his prints and often enlighten him with gems of historical knowledge. He also has a website with galleries of his prints at www.emancipation.com.

A first timer at Jubilee, Diana Ali is originally from Kenya, Africa and has only been in the states for a few years. She currently resides in Atlanta and decided to come to Jubilee because she anticipated a diverse crowd that would like be interested in international products. Sales of her authentic African clothing and other exotic items, however, have been slow.

Fellow Kenyan’s Thomas and Caroline Todd, located just a few booths down, said they’ve made out pretty well for their first year selling t-shirts, African jewels, wood carvings and other trinkets. Ruth Ownor, C. Todd’s sister owns the booth, however, she doesn’t speak very good English, so the Todd’s do the selling while Ownor handles the money.

While attending the booth, C. Todd said she met people from all over.

“There were a lot of out-of-towners here. I met people from Detroit, New York, Atlanta, Mobile,” and many other big cities.

The vendors each said they didn’t have any problems with people trying to steal merchandise from them and that they plan to come back again next year.