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Vendors, shoppers declare Black River Fall Fest a success

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Shoppers browsing for deals and families eating carnival food paused Saturday afternoon on Public Square to admire the athletic prowess of 11-year-old Delaney E. Oliver, who, wearing red boxing gloves, threw punches at her coach, John D. Pepe, from the Watertown Area Boxing Club.

The crowd watched the boxing demonstration during the annual Black River Fall Fest organized by the Downtown Business Association, as vendors packed the street with canopy tents and the J.B. Wise parking lot featured a classic car show.

“She’s tough,” Mr. Pepe, club president, said as he moved rapidly from side to side, deflecting the young boxer’s punches with a large chest shield.

Onlookers clapped as Delaney, daughter of Dara and Kevin Oliver, finished sparring.

“The coolest thing about boxing is when you get into the ring to fight,” she said. “It makes you tough.”

The boxing club, which is housed on the third floor of J.B. Wise Place, also had a promotional booth at the festival, joining many other downtown businesses in showcasing themselves to the community.

Vendors said Saturday’s overcast weather didn’t stop a strong crowd from making purchases throughout the day.

Featuring his craftsmanship at one of the more popular booths, Robert M. Reczo, 24, Rutland, used a small propane torch to make burn marks on wooden signs to give them a rustic finish. The hanging signs were etched with witty sayings, such as “A clear conscience is the sign of a bad memory” and “A day at the beach is worth a month in town,” and sold for $13 apiece.

“I started using a blowtorch about six months ago, and that’s when I found my niche,” he said, adding that he sold about 50 signs by 1 p.m. “People up north like the rustic look.”

Families with young children, including mothers pushing strollers, composed much of the festival’s crowd.

Lounging at a picnic table, James L. and Amy J. Fluno of Watertown enjoyed hot dogs and french fries with two of their grandchildren, Ruby L., 5, and Autumn K., 1.

“It’s a good community event, with the bands and old car show,” Mrs. Fluno said. “We’re going to look at the cars next.”

Ruby’s eyes lit up, Mr. Fluno said, when she saw a large inflatable bounce house and a 60-foot-long obstacle course on Public Square.

“We’re going to do everything while we’re here,” he said.

Some children persuaded their parents to buy pet hermit crabs sold by Shaun W. LaFave, Syracuse, who’s been a vendor at the event for three years. Mr. LaFave, 35, started buying crabs from New Jersey six years ago to sell at upstate New York festivals.

“It’s a unique and affordable pet,” he said. “They’re sold everywhere on the East Coast, so I decided to bring them here.”

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