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Boulder City art fair draws crowds weekend after shooting

Boulder City’s annual Art in the Park was bucolic as usual Saturday. As chimes tinkled in the gentle breezes and people meandered between booths offering everything from fine-art paintings to clever crafts, those attending were reveling in the usually mundane aspects of life and not focusing on the horrors of the Strip massacre that started their week.

But the 58 people killed and hundreds injured were not forgotten, and Steve and Alyssa Hale were proof. As they pushed a stroller carrying their baby daughter, Anea, the couple wore “Vegas Strong” benefit T-shirts sold by the Durango High School girls volleyball team.

The shootings hit the third- and fourth-generation Nevadans hard. Friends had attended the Route 91 Harvest festival on Sunday but escaped unharmed. And a patient at the medical office where Alyssa Hale works was killed.

But they said they never considered skipping the family’s annual tradition, and Steve Hale said he’d been gratified by the community’s response.

“Just seeing the town come out has been huge,” he said. “Even living here, we forget that it’s our town, not just a place for people to visit.”

Ammy Miller doesn’t live in Las Vegas anymore, but she did for 16 years. And while manning her Burses by Ammy booth with handmade purses adorned with book covers, she explained the “Nevada Strong” on her nearby chalkboard.

“I came back down here almost the day it happened,” Miller said. “It has affected everyone I know. It hit hard.”

Miller said she’d been a little concerned about the show, since it was “another big gathering.”

“I was hoping Nevada would pull together and say, ‘No, we’re not going to be afraid of this,’ ” she said.

And that’s apparently just what it did. Tom Maher, CEO of Boulder City Hospital, said it’s difficult to get an accurate attendance count — Art in the Park doesn’t charge admission — but it didn’t drop off, and he expected at least 100,000 over the weekend.

“I have to tell you this is the most traffic coming into the festival in the 11 years I have been doing it,” he said. “That was heartwarming. Driving in, I felt like I was going to a NASCAR race at the Speedway.”

While he wondered if the mood would be subdued, that didn’t seem to be the case.

“People are smiling and laughing and joking and are very active out here,” he said.

Maher said organizers didn’t consider canceling the event in part because of the investments made by the 330 participating artists and artisans. And Ray and Colleen Dossy never considered not showing up. The couple, who live in Lakeside in San Diego County, California, were selling ceramic ornamental doorbells, fan pulls, trivets, mirrors and the like. Asked if he had any hesitation about attending, Ray Dossy said, “none whatsoever.”

“I wouldn’t give them the benefit of scaring us away,” Dossy said.

Fairgoers Jean Query, Alice Douglas, Mel Guevara and Joe Raba agreed, and like Dossy they considered it a terrorist attack. Interrupted in the midst of a budgetary squabble over some ornamental metal pieces, Douglas said, “We can’t live our life being scared. If we do, then they win.”

“You’ve got to go on with your life,” Query said.

Raba had a firm note of satisfaction as he walked away:

“Evil loses.”

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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