By Cameron Rasmusson
Ever since Merilyn Sabella can remember, the last Saturday of July has always been a little crazy.
She remembers walking the downtown as a child 60 years ago, marveling at the crowds hunting for hot deals from shopkeepers dressed up in colorful costumes. Back in the day, it seemed like the entire town got out for the occasion—so much so that even when stores opened up at 6 a.m., they were greeted by lines already trailing down the street.
“In the early days, it really was crazy—crazy with a capital ‘C’,” Sabella, the owner of local shop Eve’s Leaves, said.
These days, Crazy Days has calmed to some degree, but never underestimate the tenacity of a committed bargain hunter. Sure enough, there are bargains aplenty to be found during the Crazy Days blow-out, but it’s also a distinctly local event. A far cry from the cynical corporate cash-grabs of something like Black Friday, Crazy Days is a retail sale that’s as much about bringing the community together as it is about dollars and cents.
“It’s always a fun time—we get to be outside all day,” said Deanna Harris, owner of Sharon’s Hallmark Shop. “We spend the day catching up with people we haven’t seen for a while.”
It doesn’t hurt that Crazy Days has been occurring for just about as long as anyone can remember. Sabella has many fond memories of walking the streets with her sister, admiring the colorful costumes and encountering the most unexpected of spectacles—for instance, someone roaming the streets at 6 a.m. on horseback. She’d come prepared with allowance in hand, ready to take home some kind of prize for her troubles.
“This has been going on for so long, people have come to just expect it by now,” said Harris.
From the beginning, Crazy Days was the brainchild of the local retailers, according to Sandpoint Business Improvement District Manager Kim Queen, who helps coordinate the event. It was a chance for all shop owners to pull out all the stops and coordinate something big. Just about everyone in the downtown scene got in on the action. The Panida Theater, for instance, uses the day to sell records, CDs, DVDs, VHS, audio books and equipment as a fundraiser.
“I’m excited for it,” said Queen. “It’s a great opportunity for people to get out there and maybe even get some back-to-school shopping done.”
Whatever calming Crazy Days has experienced today is perhaps a sign of the times. According to Sabella, downtown Sandpoint isn’t quite the retail hub it used to be. Shops and storefronts have given way along many blocks to restaurants, office space and the occasional empty building. Even so, the enthusiasm people have for the event is still alive and well.
“We see a lot of the same wonderful customers every year,” Sabella said. “People call in every year just to make sure it’s still going to happen.
For other Crazy Days fans, the event is almost reflexive. Longtime Sandpoint residents don’t need a reminder the last Saturday of July is all about the downtown shopping experience—the decades have ingrained it into their biological calendars. Considering that legacy, expect Sandpoint to get a little crazier every July for decades to come.
“Personally, I hope it goes on for another 60 years,” Sabella said.
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