When Oscar Chapa heard the Porterville College Swap Meet had returned, he headed straight to the college where it had been held for more than 30 years.
“There was nothing there,” he said Saturday as his daughter, 16-year-old Vronica, tried on sandals. “I had been waiting and waiting for it to open. When we heard, we went straight to Porterville College. I didn’t know it had moved.”
The swap meet is currently held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday at the Porterville Fairgrounds, 2700 Teapot Dome Avenue. Parking is free and admission is $1 for children age 6 and older, and all adults. Pets aren't allowed and smoking isn't permitted.
Danilo Lara said it was his second time at the new location and he loved it's held on grass.
“It makes a big difference. The (PC) asphalt was so hot. This is nice,” he said. “It’s a distraction to come here. I usually bring my daughter and we walk around.”
Lara, 29, said he has attended the swap meet since he was a child and usually returns every other week specifically for the Agua Frescas — fresh fruit water drink — offered by a vendor.
Several people, customers and vendors, said they loved the new location and hoped it stays there.
Sandra Alcantar, who worked for a vendor selling fruits and vegetables, said she likes the grass but not the location.
“I live near (PC) and used to walk to the swap meet,” Alcantar said. “Now I have to find rides to get here. There are no buses coming out this way. It’s hard. I wish they would move it back. It’s really far. Over (at PC) customers walked to the swap meet. Some people don’t come because it’s too far to walk and there are no buses. We have lost our walking crowd.”
Others had similar sentiments. And at least two people said people in wheelchairs couldn't get around easily on the grass.
“I prefer the other place,” said Cerilo Gil, a merchant who has sold sports apparel at the swap meet for 10 years. “I think the aisles are more open over there and there are no buses out this way.”
As he talked he arranged sport jerseys on hangers.
“Our football jerseys are very popular right now, especially with the new draft announcement. Every one wants to get one with their favorite player,” Gil said. “I can also take orders. If I don’t have it, they tell me what they want. I take down their name and cell and in two weeks, text them back and they get exactly what they want.”
Gil said he enjoys working at the swap meet, and meeting and talking to people.
“It’s good to be back and not be cooped up. The weather, so far, has been good,” Gil said. “I’m happy to see the community coming together, and glad to see our businesses back, making money for our city. Just happy to see it all come back. And people are happy to be back. I can tell they are smiling under the masks. You see it in their eyes.”
One family attended with four generation of family members.
“It’s nice to get out and do something as a family,” said Britnie Thornhill. “I’m here with my daughters, sister, niece, mom and grandma.”
Gail Phillips said she enjoyed seeing her 23-month old great-granddaughter Blake Thornhill on a pony.
“It was her first time,” Phillips said. “She amazed us.”
The swap meet offered everything from bedding and clothing to cowboy boots and hats, belts, sunglasses, and shoes. There were also household tools, electronics, plants, medicines, candles, candy, toys, and cooking equipment of all sizes. In addition, food items and drinks were available for purchase. The scent of tacos and tortas drifted through the air. And many people could be seen drinking fruit water and eating churros — a hand-held, popular Mexican pastry fried in hot oil and coated with a cinnamon and sugar mixture.
“I make a new batch of these every 20 minutes during our busy time,” said Alicia Vargas. “People like to eat them as they walk around and many people come back and buy more to take with them as they leave.”
The day appeared to be a success for many who could be seen carrying various bags and items of all sizes.
One family had a large bird cage and said they were walking around looking for a bird for their little girl.
The Porterville College Swap Meet reopened on April 10.
After a one-year closure, the PC Foundation opened it at the Porterville Fairgrounds — a place with ample space to meet state COVID-19 guidelines for vendors and social distancing for customers.
“This is our fourth Saturday and it has been going great. We have a new layout and vendors have been adapting with us,” said Ramona Chiapa, PC Foundation Executive Director. “We are a little down. Our peak is 187 vendors. We are accepting new vendors. The forms and paperwork can be found on our website.”
As of Saturday there were close to 100 vendors of 300 max capacity, providing plenty of parking and a lot of open space, Chiapa said. In addition, the food vendors have strict guidelines, an ATM is available on site and contactless payments have been encouraged. The entry in and out of the fairgrounds which is structured for a California Blueprint for safer economy is also well-organized. People don't enter and leave through the same exits.
“Vendors have made some suggestions. Every week new things are implemented,” Chiapa said. “Customers seem happy. It’s nice for them to get out to an event outdoors. People are really compliant. We don’t have to hound them about not wearing a mask. The only time they remove is to eat and drink. I think we are so deep into this pandemic, people get it.”
The fairground location is temporary but is being looked at as a possible permanent location, however nothing has been decided, Chiapa said.
In the meantime, new vendors are currently being accepted. For more information, forms and paperwork, visit www.portervillecollegefoundation.org or call 559-920-2001.