ArtHop brings in plenty of vendors, attendees despite omicron concerns

February’s ArtHop was full of vendors and attendees despite concerns regarding the omicron variant and rising COVID-19 cases. 

ArtHop, which features numerous local businesses and artists on the evening of the first Thursday of each month, has been a major event since 1997 in Downtown Fresno. 

After about two years of a worldwide pandemic, many vendors and attendees were expecting a full in-person return by this time. However, some organizations and businesses are still taking precautions by canceling events, rescheduling or switching to in-person formats.

The Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC) LGBTQ+ Resource Center canceled February’s scheduled events due to elevated COVID-19 cases in Fresno County.

Known for providing services across Fresno such as LGBTQ+ competency training to help improve mental health services, the resource center offers queer artists in Fresno a free space to display and sell their art during ArtHop. 

“We want all the [queer] artists in Fresno to have a place where they don’t have to pay to sell their art, we’re representing the community that way and giving them the spot and not charging them for exposure to the community for their art,” said Jennifer Cruz, project manager. 

Artists are still able to sell their products online when the resource center’s doors are closed.

“The EOC LGBTQ+ Resource Center plans to participate at ArtHop when the [COVID-19] positivity rate is down to 30%,” Cruz said. 

However, not all businesses missed this month’s ArtHop.

The Pi Shop, located on Broadway Street, hosted a vendor village for ArtHop. Plants, pies, musicians and a DJ were all part of the scene at The Pi Shop on Thursday night. 

Vendors set up booths for attendees to visit in venues such as The Pi Shop during ArtHop. (Viviana Hinojos/The Collegian)

Katrina Covarrubias, a volunteer for The Pi Shop and co-owner of Pie Mamas with her sister Anna, graduated from Fresno State in 2020 with her degree in public relations with a minor in business. 

Covarrubias’ Pie Mamas is a dessert shop located in Fresno specializing in homemade pies baked from scratch.

“I thought it would be a great idea if we had the Pie Mamas sell their pies at The Pi Shop. I reached out to the owner of The Pi Shop and got the go-ahead to do what I want for this event,” Covarrubias said. 

Covarrubias said that small business owners have been hurt due to COVID-19’s impact. Vendors at The Pi Shop also had concerns about participating this month.

“There were a couple of vendors worried, wondering if we have this big event, what will be the outcome of it,” Covarrubias said. “But then you see the other side of it, people are still going to concerts and helping the Save Mart Center. How are the little guys being helped?”

When small businesses miss events such as ArtHop due to shutdowns, they stand to lose more than larger companies, Covarrubias said.

“Last month ArtHop was canceled, [but] a couple of places were still open. We came out and we were the only two vendors out here. There [were] literally three customers all night,” Covarrubias said.

An event full of vendors and attendees compared to one with very low attendance is the difference between selling out of pies and having 50 pies leftover, according to Covarrubias. For the Pie Mamas, it’s a potential waste of product money. 

Vanna Vandal, owner of the small business Skull n Bows 77, has been participating in vendor fairs, including Fresno State Vintage Days, since 2009.

Vanna Vandal poses at her booth for her business Skull n Bows 77 at February’s ArtHop. (Viviana Hinojos/The Collegian)

“During the pandemic I had to start selling online. I started with DePop in 2020, and I just hit 160 orders today actually,” Vandal said.

COVID-19 has provided some unforeseen benefits for vendors like Vandal, such as additional sources of income.

“If it wasn’t for the pandemic, I got to be honest with you, I don’t think I would have pushed online that hard ever. It also made me appreciate the in-person events more,” Vandal said. 

Community is one of the most important parts of ArtHop for many vendors, and it’s what many fear losing the most. 

“You get a lot of vendor support. I get to sell a bracelet to the guy who made me tacos. I love the community aspect, and that’s the one thing I’m scared of going away again,” Vandal said.

Madelyn Neufeld, owner of Mady Rose Art, graduated from Fresno State with her degree in Biology. Neufeld has been a vendor at ArtHop for three years, selling art and pieces that focus on biology and science-natured theme art. 

Madelyn Neufeld poses with her art as she sells pieces for her business Mady Rose Art. (Viviana Hinojos/The Collegian)

“When ArtHop shut down I had to do a lot online, but a lot of things are online these days, so I was able to hold through pretty well,” Neufeld said.

 Although Neufeld’s business was able to make it through the pandemic so far, some things were definitely not the same.

“Missing events affect[s] networking with people and getting that personal connection in Fresno and finding other artists, which you can’t do at home,” Neufeld said. 

Attendees came out to support in big numbers regardless of the rise of COVID-19 cases. Many expressed no worries or concerns about the risk of the new variant. 

From 5:00PM to 9:00PM, hundreds of people walked back and forth through Downtown Fresno for ArtHop. (Wyatt Bible/The Collegian)

“I like to come out. If you’re that scared then don’t come out, go stay at home and do what you gotta do. For me, I’m going to live every day to the fullest,” attendee Nicole Villalva said.

Anahi Martinez, a current student at Fresno City College with plans to transfer to Fresno State and major in engineering, shared Villalva’s sentiments.

“I’ve been coming to ArtHop for three years, I love the environment. We gotta socialize,” Martinez said. 

The doors of Warnors Theatre feature a set up of used clothes vendors. (Wyatt Bible/The Collegian)
Vendors at ArtHop sold a variety of different items, such as plants, paintings, sculptures and food. (Wyatt Bible/The Collegian)
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