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High Sierra boosts local economy - Attendees eat, drink and buy flip-flops

Debra Moore
Staff Writer
Customers sipping coffee and tucking into plates of bacon and eggs spilled out onto the street in front of Patti’s Thunder — a scene duplicated just a couple of blocks away in front of Pangaea and the Courthouse Café.

It was Monday morning, July 7, the day after the conclusion of the four-day High Sierra Music Festival. Cars lined Main Street as festivalgoers made one last stop before heading home, leaving in their wake tired business owners with full cash registers.

“It’s the busiest time of the summer,” said Ashley Stevenson, manager of Main Street Styles. It might be expected that hotels, restaurants and grocery stores would do a brisk business, but they aren’t the only ones.

“Flip-flops, sun hats, scarves …” Stevenson ticks off a list of the store’s best sellers. “They come in for items that they forgot and items that they lose, but buy more.”

She said that “festival-looking” dresses sell very well, as do sweatshirts during years when the weather turns very chilly at night. “That wasn’t the case this year,” Stevenson said, as the weather remained warmer than normal.

Stevenson stayed open on the Fourth of July, as did Kimberly Pilkington of My Sister’s Closet, a store that sells gently worn clothing for women.

“People came in and were thanking me for being open on the Fourth,” she said. “And I’m glad that I did; it was totally worth it.”

While proceeds were good for My Sister’s Closet during High Sierra, they weren’t quite as good as last year.

“Last year a group of people flew in and bought their tents at American Valley Hardware and then bought all of their clothes at the local thrift stores,” she said.

This year her shoppers weren’t focused on festival clothing as much as they were on items to wear when they returned home.

East Quincy saw its share of business. Papa’s Donuts increased production, but still sold out Thursday and Friday. Owner Arleen Scott said High Sierra is the second busiest time for the donut shop; the fair comes in first.

Scott and Delores Satterlee own Mill Creek Fish and Chips. They reported record-breaking business Wednesday and Thursday, and then closed for the remainder of the weekend to enjoy some time away.

“We do it every year,” Delores said.

Kent Barrett, owner of Southern Accent and president of the chamber of commerce, took his food truck to Oakland Camp to cater to festivalgoers.

“There was a big contingency from Santa Cruz there,” he said. “I talked to a lot of folks; everyone had a good experience.”

Barrett wasn’t the only one to take his food to the people. Patti DeCoe, owner of Patti’s Thunder, said her daughter Alexis took breakfast burritos to the RV parking area and sold out.

“Next year she is already planning to take 400,” DeCoe said.

To DeCoe, planning is key. “We were prepared,” she said. “We usually run out of avocados and eggs, but not this year.”

She brought in all of her experienced staff and ordered plenty of food. “We’re a well-oiled machine,” she said. “We look forward to it.”

What do the numbers say?

Even those who don’t own a business witnessed the steady stream of cars driving through town, the packed parking lots and the crowded store aisles.

It’s safe to say that 10,000 people bring a lot of money into the local economy, but how much?

Barrett, the chamber president, couldn’t make a guess, but called it the “busiest weekend of the year.”

John Sheehan, the former director of Plumas Corporation, said that the organization used to employ a multiplier based on a Chico State study.

“I think $100 per person per day is in the realm,” he said.

Valerie Nellor, who owns Ada’s Place and is one of the leaders of the Tourism Hospitality Board, thinks that’s a good number to use as well. Lodging, gas, food, beverages, supplies and more are all purchased before, during and after the four-day festival, contributing to a lucrative six-day span.

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