A popular antique fair will be making a comeback to the Healdsburg Plaza after being booted earlier this year to a parking lot a block away.
The return of the semi-annual fair to the plaza on Aug. 25 was welcomed Friday by antique dealers, who said the stately, tree-shaded square is a much better venue.
"I'm glad it's back on the plaza," said Jane Hirsh, a vendor who has participated for years. "It's beautiful. It's historic. It's where we've always been."
The Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society is taking over the event as the official sponsor and manager, thus satisfying a city regulation limiting special events in the plaza to ones sponsored by a Healdsburg-based, non-profit organization.
Although the fair has been held on the plaza for two decades, city officials decided late last year it was essentially a commercial venture that didn't belong in the venerable town square.
The usual 85 to 90 vendors who participated in the fair on Memorial Day weekend and the weekend prior to Labor Day were deemed to fall into a commercial category, according to city officials.
The city said it didn't count that one of the booths was operated by the Museum and Historical Society, or that the promoter Bill Weinstein gave a "stipend" to the organization.
But recently when Weinstein retired, the Museum and Historical Society decided to take over the event as its fund-raiser, said Bob Rawlins, treasurer for the non-profit.
"We are moving ahead with contacting vendors now, to let everyone know we are back on the plaza," Rawlins said Friday.
Assistant City Manager David Mickaelian confirmed the antique fair will be staged again on the plaza.
"The museum now feels it can run the event by themselves, (including) the planning and execution," he said. "There's no reason to deny the event."
Janet Browning, owner of Shoffeitt's Off the Square Collective, an antique and collectibles showcase fronting Healdsburg Avenue, was pleased to hear the antique fair will return to its traditional spot.
"That fair they have in the plaza has always been good for our store," she said. "We were so disappointed when they moved it. It's always been a huge success for us."
She said she usually gets a lot of foot traffic when the fair is held in the plaza.
But when it was relocated in May to the parking lot behind the Hotel Healdsburg, where the Farmers Market is held, it was less well attended. Her business suffered as well.
"I walked over there. People felt it was on asphalt and hot," she said.
Browning said people come from the Bay Area and as far as Sacramento for the antique fair when it's held in the plaza. "It feels like a small country town you still love to come to," she said.
Rawlins said because of the controversy "I think some of the vendors dropped off ... we want to lure them back."
He said the fair is being expanded to include antiques, art and collectibles.
"We hope by having a broader aspect, we'll attract more vendors," he said.
He said volunteers are also being sought to help out.
"We're starting late. Aug. 25 is not much time to get everything organized," he said, adding that for the first year "we'll be happy if we raise a few thousand dollars."