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Apr 14

Written by: Greg Runyon
4/14/2011 4:44 PM 

The latest clampdown on fun around here comes courtesy of Iowa City, where a city committee is recommending that the City Council put an end to the longstanding practice of street vendors hawking their wares along Melrose Avenue on Hawkeye football gamedays. Of course, having vendors in the yards of these houses violates the city code, but it's not as if having these vendors has been a secret. Everyone who's been to a Hawkeye football game for as long as I can remember knew they were there. They weren't hiding, and secretly serving people food or selling t-shirts on the sly. It was all out there in the open. Heck, that one guy spends hours yelling “Biiiiggg-Ass Turkey Legs!”

Everyone knew about it, and everyone looked the other way. I think most people thought, and probably continue to think, that it's part of a fun atmosphere around the stadium on game days. With the recommendation of this committee, and the calls for change now coming from the Melrose Neighborhood Association, it seems certain that something is going to change. The options besides simply letting the practice continue unabated seem to be either create an exemption to the rule that prohibits the vendors and then regulating them, or banning them outright.

The early indication seems to lean toward the latter, given the quotes I'm seeing from officials indicating that they feel it would be difficult to regulate the vendors. I'm not sure why they think it would be all that hard. Set up a Gameday Commerce Zone, number the vendors, and then have someone check that nobody's vending where they're not supposed to. Every farmers market or trade show in America has rules about how and where people can vend. I doubt most of the vendors would even mind. It gives them some legitimacy.

I'm not sure I understand why the Neighborhood Association is against the vendors. It's not like anyone who lives there didn't know a football stadium was nearby when they moved in: It's been there since 1929. Having vendors isn't a new tradition, either. I don't think it's that people on Melrose are against commerce: A number of the people who are in that neighborhood make a whole bunch of money off of renting out their yards and driveways for parking. I'd actually rather see that practice ended than getting rid the vendors. The vendors enhance my game day experience. Someone parking on someone's lawn does not. In fact, it looks kind of junky.

I'm sure there is plenty about it that I don't know, particularly since I just heard of the potential banning of vendors this afternoon, plus I've only done my usual slapdash research before forming my opinion. What do you want, reasoned discourse? Go find that somewhere else, Jibby. For now, I weigh in with a big 'thumbs-down' on this latest attempt to stamp out fun wherever it may rear its head. Save the Big Ass Turkey Legs!

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