SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (WHNT) - First Monday trade days have been a tradition for more than one hundred years in Scottsboro. But declining numbers of vendors and visitors has seen its prominence fall in recent years.
A vendor recently emailed and asked WHNT News 19 to look into his claim that local government no longer supports first Mondays as it had in the past. So we decided to take action to find answers.
Bargain hunters are few and far between around the Scottsboro square - even on the Monday after July 4 - typically one of the busiest First Monday events. (Photo: David Wood, WHNT)
"Y'all see anything you like, everything is very negotiable," said vendor Jim Montero Monday as sparse amounts of shoppers perused wares around the downtown Scottsboro courthouse square. Montero has been attending First Mondays since his childhood, when his parents came to sell.
Montero says there used to be a time not too long ago when the event drew so many people to the square you could barely walk among the traders' trailers and tents.
"A lot of these vendors have been here over 30 years and then a lot of their parents were here before them when they were selling goats and chickens and so forth in the square," remember Montero.
He boils the decline in attendance and sales down to dwindling support from local government.
"From what we can tell it's apathy from city hall," claims Montero. "This used to be advertised -- you would see billboards, you see them in tourist magazines throughout the state and other states."
Montero says that's no longer the case. But the century-old downtown square staple was certainly fought for in the past. WHNT News 19 visited the matter in 2005 when then Scottsboro Mayor Dan Deason was adamant on the issue.
The suggestion had come to Deason from the tourism board to limit First Mondays to one time a year on Labor Day weekend.
"In my mind, that would be putting the last nail in the coffin of First Monday, and I refuse to let that happen. I've made the comment -- First Monday will not die under my watch and that's a promise," Deason pledged in 2002.
We didn't hear back from current Mayor Melton Potter's office Monday but we did get a hold of J.P. Parsons, Jackson County Vice President of Destination Marketing and Tourism.
"It has dropped back in popularity," Parsons admitted of First Mondays. "At one time they raised the prices and I think most of the vendors were averse to that."
Parsons attributes a decline in part to similar events like popular flea markets nearby who attract not only patrons but vendors who rely on steady sales.
He says the city has taken First Mondays over but the visibility has not changed.
"We still promote them in the Alabama Vacation Guide, the state vacation guide, an in all of our media contents on our website."
Parson seems to think some cross promotion and recruitment efforts are in order at some of the more popular trader and flea events around the area.
"Try us out again," Parsons suggests.
But despite the waning numbers, Montero says no one is ready to just throw up their hands and pack up.
"There's a group of people out here - really good people, hard-working people - people who've been here for generations who aren't going anywhere. They'll keep doing it even if they're the only ones," Montero insists.