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January 19, 2011

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Isleton Fair Prompts Change;
Crawdad Festival Back in Town

Nicole Baptista

The first annual Icehouse Street Fair and Swap Meet drew a crowd on Main Street in Isleton last weekend, leaving founder Russ Latta eager for the next.

“We’re looking to make this a weekly event,” said Russ. “We want to carefully grow the event.”

Russ, a retired contractor from San Francisco, began envisioning a more active Isleton after retiring from his business and moving to town. An avid fisherman, Russ has docked his boat at Spindrift Marina for the past 20 years and has been a part-time Delta resident ever since.

“To create a better future, you have to be patient,” said Russ. “I know enough about the old-school Isleton to put this together.”

Several hundred locals and travelers stopped in town over the weekend, according to Russ. Vendors sold general merchandise and locals came out to display their collectables.

“We had a rummage sale by the parking lot and vendors were set up on Main Street,” said Russ.

A Vallejo vendor sold hats and toys while a Napa vendor presented pet I.D.s.

“We were drawing people off the Highway and the café, which is usually quiet, was crowded all day,” said Russ.

Russ got his idea off the ground with approval from Isleton City Manager Bruce Pope.

“I think that for an event which happened on such short notice it was a great turnout,” said Pope. “The gentleman [Russ] wants to do this weekly and I think it can play out well.”

“We all had a blast,” said Russ.

The weekly street fair and sale is one of many of Russ’ ideas for Isleton.

“I have other plans for an existing grocery store in town and an abandoned building,” said Russ.

He also foresees a Harley Davidson shop moving into town.

“The Delta is natural for the bike runs and the Bank of Rio Vista is an ideal location for a Harley Davidson shop,” said Russ.

Though his ideas are many, Russ plans to implement slow and steady strides to improve City revenue and interaction.

“There were no problems all weekend,” said Russ. “In fact, we gave the kids something to do.”

Russ would like to add elements to the fair, which include live entertainment and local vendors. Currently, the main obstacle is to provide enough to do for people pulling off the highway. Delta Delivery, on the other hand, set up free hot dog and soda stands for patrons throughout the weekend.

“It’s going to be infectious,” said Russ. “It has to start somehow. Anything is possible.”

The second Isleton Street Fair will be held this Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Main Street. Russ also handed out flyers at Isleton Elementary - encouraging students to participate.

“Bring anything you want to sell,” said Russ. “It’s a great way to raise money!”

The Ice House Street Fair and Swat Meet is the first of many positive changes in Isleton this year. In 2010, the Del Rio reopened and Peter’s Steakhouse opened its doors.

“Peter is doing quite well. Opening a restaurant during a recession is risky and he’s doing an excellent job,” said Isleton City Manager Bruce Pope. “Card tables will be open at the Del Rio and Regelios is celebrating 30 years this week.”

This year, however, is bringing back the town’s iconic festival. The 2011 Crawdad Festival will take place on Father’s Day weekend, according to Pope. Rumor had it that Red Bluff of Tehama County bought the “Isleton Crawdad Festival” but according to Pope, the City has regained their rights and will be hosting the event after its two-year absence.

“I called Red Bluff and asked their city manager, ‘Why would you want the Isleton Crawdad Festival? Why don’t you do the Red Bluff Festival?’” said Pope. “Turns out that R Ranch in Red Bluff is hosting the festival, not the City, so we took back the name.”

The Isleton Chamber of Commerce is looking to promote a larger event to celebrate its comeback.

“They [Chamber] want to make it broader and we’ll be as supportive as possible,” said Pope. “We’re also looking into hosting some music and jazz festivals. We just have to keep working together.”

The New Year seems bright for the tiny town of 800, which was on the brink of bankruptcy a few years back. With strong City government and enough eager locals, optimistic transformation is in the midst.

“So many positive changes have come our way,” concluded Pope.

For more information on the Icehouse Street Fair call 916.776.4000.

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