When Carl Lewis called Penn Relays Director Tim Baker he was not calling about running in a race. The world-class sprinter was calling to get permission to sell his merchandise on a table outside Franklin Field during the carnival. But Baker, who would not have been able to help in past years, now knew just where to direct Lewis. For the first time, vendors outside of the Penn Relays will be regulated. Responding to the outbreak of violence last year, city officials have taken control of 33rd Street during the Penn Relays. The festive, carnival-like atmosphere of 33rd Street during the Penn Relays will start today. Citizens and vendors pack the street from sidewalk to sidewalk, from Walnut to Spruce streets every year -- buying shirts, carrying food, having a good time. But every year, according to city officials, there is a virtual turf war among vendors vying for position to peddle their wares. Last year, on the last night of the Relays, a fist fight turned to gunfire, and two bystanders were injured. "The Relays have a history with respect to vendors getting into fisticuffs and lives being threatened," said Ron Cuie, city deputy managing director for neighborhood services. "It has been a troublesome and unmanageable situation." In response to the violence, Cuie sat in on several meetings with officials from neigborhood groups, the University and the Civic Center, and tried to form a plan to prevent a similar outbreak again. "What generally happens is vendors come out and stake a claim," Cuie said. "It is like the old Gold Rush days. People come out one to two weeks in advance and have no concern for all the other issues." T. Milton Street, co-chairman of the Citywide African-American Vendors and brother of City Council President John Street, volunteered his services in planning the city's involvement, according to Cuie. Cuie said the chairman is renting space to street vendors this year to try and preserve the peace. In addition he is providing portable restrooms and sanitation equipment for the vendors. Milton Street could not be reached for comment. Cuie added that the Philadelphia Police Traffic Unit and members of the 55th District will be on hand to help curb the crowd. Baker said it was good that the city got involved. "It is not a matter of happy or sad," Baker said. "It is a matter that the city had made a decision. It was good to have that done." Also, next year the city will help enforce the legal use of the Penn Relay's logo. According to Baker, the University track teams sell Relays memorabilia with the official "swish track" logo. When merchandise is sold on the street without permission to use the logo, the track teams lose money, Baker said. "Last year, when we came out with the new Penn Relays logo, within an hour of the start of the Relays people had it out on the street," Baker said. This year, the city will just inform the merchants that they cannot use the logo. Cuie said enforcement will begin next year. So Carl Lewis had better watch his merchandise.Comments powered by Disqus
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