SHERIDAN — A feeling of normalcy hung in the air around Grinnell Plaza and Main Street as the streets closed Thursday afternoon to allow 3rd Thursday and farmer’s market vendors to set up tents, food trucks and folding tables. Several hours later, thousands of Sheridanites and visitors descended on downtown and restarted Sheridan’s tradition of bringing its community together at the summer street festivals.
Heather Olsen, mother of two grade-school boys and quadruplets loaded her two 3-and-a-half-year-old daughters — two of her set of four children — into a mustard yellow, covered wagon after Crazy Woman Face Painting gave them blue cat and pink butterfly designs.
Excluding last year, when the coronavirus forced the cancellation of 3rd Thursday, the Olsen quadruplets have attended the street festival since they’ve been born. So Heather pulled Allie and Adalee from the north side of 3rd Thursday to the south side and the Party in the House bounce castle to meet up with the other Olsens.
“We love to see all the local vendors and walk around with our kids,” Olsen said. “... We’re so thankful Wyoming has opened up, and we can do things like this.”
Downtown Sheridan Association Executive Director Zoila Perry pointed to the many childrens’ interactions as the truest sign of a return to normal, as she witnessed the younger crowd dart from booth to booth and greet friends enthusiastically. Perry suspects Thursday’s street festival drew between 3,000 and 5,000 people — an estimation comprised of locals embracing the yearly event and visitors, like those attending the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run, taking advantage of Sheridan’s offerings.
“This is such a great community and family event,” Perry said. “Everyone looks forward to attending and reconnecting with people and coming down to the heart of the community.”
DSA listed 95 vendors on its June vendor list, a slight decrease from previous years and fewer than the maximum number of 148 booths, though Perry said she fielded phone calls from interested vendors back in January.
As the Olsens made their way down Main Street, they passed Michelle Syring and her apparel booth with T-shirts, hats and keychains adorned with the slogan “Wyoming Isn’t Real.” Syring sold at DSA’s farmer’s market last summer and eagerly awaited the return of 3rd Thursdays.
“People are so happy today,” Syring said. “People are excited. We’re seeing a ton of people we haven’t seen for a long time, so it’s nice to catch up with people.”
Once the Olsens passed Syring, they had to navigate past the crowds gathered in front of the stage on which the Craft Brothers performed, nearly every folding chair taken, to get to the bounce castle. Several booths before the castle, Arriel Lopez and her mother Kimberly manned The Northern Mercantile tent spanning three spots.
The Montana-based clothing and jewelry store put 3rd Thursday on its calendar as soon as it could, having come in 2019, and Kimberly said every festival has a personality of its own. The Lopezes said Thursday’s turnout felt more energized than previously.
“The customers are awesome,” Arriel said. “I think people are just excited to get back out and actually have an event, have the opportunity to interact with people and have a beer and have the shopping. That’s what we’re excited to be a part of.”
“It’s all the different people, and meeting everybody,” Kimberly added. “The tourists, the locals — everything is fun.”
As the Lopezes embraced Sheridan’s Thursday evening energy, Scott Stalick used his patrons’ feedback to gauge the popularity of various hats for his business 307 Clothing. Wanting to reflect Wyoming’s culture and create apparel representative of Sheridanites' pride, Stalick values in-person events like 3rd Thursdays.
“It feels like everyone was looking for good things to do and get back to feeling like a community,” Stalick said.
While Stalick chatted almost nonstop with customers, the Kings walked back toward the Craft Brothers’ stage, matching the leisurely pace of fellow festival goers. Dan King carried a Coors Lite he picked up from No Name Bar’s booth, while Sheridan native and wife Peggy reveled in the return of one of their favorite parts of summer.
“It’s good to see people enjoying themselves,” Peggy said, summing up the sentiment shared by hundreds of others Thursday.