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Mule Camp Market features fun for all ages
Hundreds of residents came out to the 16th Annual Mule Camp Market, which is a fundraiser for the Jaycees. The group uses the funds to sponsor various activities throughout the year, including the Empty Stocking Fund in which the group distributes holiday gifts to needy children. The festival wraps up Sunday. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Mule Camp Market went off without a hitch this weekend as thousands of people flooded the Gainesville square for music, crafts, games and finger-licking good food.

The 16th Annual Mule Camp Market was put on by the Gainesville Jaycees as a fundraiser for its Empty Stocking Fund. Michael John Lovell, Mule Camp Market chairman for the Gainesville Jaycees, said the event typically raises more than $20,000 for the fund that provides underprivileged children with Christmas toys, school supplies and clothes.

Lovell said more than 200 booths line Main, Bradford, Washington and Spring streets this weekend, hawking everything from face-painting artistry to "Fair Hair" and homemade crafts, jewelry and food. A chicken-wing eating contest enlivened the Saturday afternoon crowd. After 14 wing eaters raced to put down 25 spicy chicken wings, Gainesville classic rockers The Clark Daniels Band took the stage.

Madeline Harr, 12, said she attends Mule Camp Market every year and doesn’t hit the square without getting a new hairdo reminiscent of zany Dr. Seuss characters. Laura Simms, who served as a Fair Hair stylist at the market this weekend, said for $7, girls can get a makeover that piles their hair high atop their head and fills it with pipe cleaners, ribbons and wacky colors.

"I want it crazy," Harr told Simms as she sculpted the look. "The crazier the better."

Simms said she became involved in the Fair Hair project six years ago when a dance company, Alicats Dance Studio in Flowery Branch, started the festival activity to raise funds for its studio. Simms said this year marks the fifth time Fair Hair has brought its stylings to Mule Camp Market.

Adam Newman is a newcomer to the festival this year. With price tags on his art that range from $28 to $600, you might not notice that he uses old glass bottles and other discarded items to craft dragonflies, fish, sea horses, jellyfish, spiders and bugs. Newman wraps wire and copper around anything he can get his hands on, including old computer pieces and kitchen supplies, to make his one-of-a-kind art.

He said selling his wares only is half the fun of attending Mule Camp Market.

"I get to get out and see people," Newman said. "It’s truly fun. I think people really like it when they come by and actually see me working."

While Anna Pussler, 8, said she enjoys strolling along the streets eyeing the goods for sale, she’s just biding her time until she gets to the petting zoo at the market teeming with bunnies, sheep, goats, ponies and a turkey.

Pussler lit up when she hopped aboard a miniature pony named Bandit.

"It’s my favorite part," she said. "I just like riding horses and being around them."

There’s still more fun on the way today, with gospel groups performing this afternoon. The festival concludes with a country band performing at 4 p.m.

Gainesville Police Department Lt. Keith Lingerfelt said there have been no problems so far this weekend at the festival. Lingerfelt said the streets on the square will be open to traffic again by 9 tonight after the conclusion of Mule Camp Market.

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