Festival Day Can Be Exciting, But This Exciting?


Last weekend was the Blue Crab Festival in historic-yet-decaying downtown Palatka, where my store is.

When I first got my store, the Blue Crab Festival was all the local business owners could talk about. I started to realize that they needed this event to stay alive as the long, hot summer descended upon them. I’m not quite so desperate, but I do look forward to this event as a moneymaker, primarily because we have something that a lot of the shops in town do not have — air conditioning.

I have had festival-goers stumble in the front door, red-faced and panting, ready to expire on the nearest Oriental rug. Just in time, they collapse into the nearest vanity bench and its little pink legs creak under their weight as we dash to the back to get them some water.

I mean, lives have been saved.

We also allow people to use our bathroom. This seems the only humane way of doing things, yet “out of order” signs sprout up on bathroom doors up and down Main Street during the festival. I know it can be an added expense, but does toilet paper really set us back that much?

Last weekend was our 12th Blue Crab Festival. It has been going on decades longer, but we didn’t open our doors until 12 years ago. It’s a four-day festival, and Friday night was good. They used to have activities all day long on Friday, and we made some real money, but I’ll take a little uptick in traffic right before I close. It’s OK.

On Saturday, typically our biggest day, a transformer blew and our power was out between noon and 2 p.m., our peak hours. Then a power line fell down across the awning of a neighboring store and singed it badly. I wasn’t sure if the power line was related to the transformer mishap, but I was getting irritated.

Come on, people. Must it always be our block?

Because we had not yet had our daily dose of heart palpitations, at 3 p.m., the trash container behind our store burst into flames. Fire trucks rushed to the scene, extinguishing the blaze and tying up traffic for another hour. Cause of the fire? The owners of the store on the other side of us “were pretty sure” the charcoal from their barbeque was out before they threw it away. Guess not. And really — grilling out back? Your store is 100 feet from a restaurant.

I was seriously miffed.

After all was said and done, sales were up $1,400 over the previous year, but I can’t help wondering how we would’ve done if the customers could’ve shopped with the lights on, not been distracted by the smell of smoke permeating through our back door and been able to get into parking spaces suddenly required by fire engines.

There’s nothing I can do about it now. There was nothing I could do about it then. And there’s no fixing stupid.

I can hardly wait until the Fourth of July. We’re closed.