FORT WORTH -- From haute cowgirl clothes to miracle knives, not to mention $3,000 paintings and $90,000 cabins, the goods can sometimes be odd but the odds on selling them have been good, say many of the 205 vagabond vendors at the Fort Worth Stock Show.
Record-setting crowds aren't just showing up -- "they're opening their wallets, too," said Susie Peznowski, who sells Christian home decor at her Classy Country booth.
Peznowski, who owns a store in Lubbock, said Saturday was the best day in her eight-year Stock Show run.
"We're already at our total from last year," she said. "Everything on Friday and Saturday is gravy. And we like gravy."
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Ditto for Barbara McVean, who is enjoying her 20th year at the show selling jewelry-cleaning products for World Optical.
"Thank heaven, people are buying. Last Saturday, with three rodeos, was a killer day," said McVean, 83, who works on commission.
Jay Blackmon, the show's commercial-exhibit manager, got 350 applications for this year's 20 openings.
She juggles the applicants in an ever-evolving effort to find the perfect mix.
This year, Blackmon focused on adding vendors that can catch a man's fancy.
That helped Marc Mahoney of Fort Worth snag a slot for his Feel'n Lucky offshore fishing charter service in Port O'Connor.
And he's feelin' fortunate after selling 16 one-day, $1,850 charters when his goal was moving 10.
"It's way beyond expectations," he said of his $1,250 investment in his booth. "I think I'll be selling a lot more. I've given out 2,000 cards."
That mirrors the catch that Tony Phillips has been reeling in for his Alaska Far West Fishing Camp. He's in his third year at the Fort Worth show, and familiarity is paying dividends.
"People recognize me now, and that makes a big difference," said Phillips, who also sells at shows in Houston, San Antonio and Las Vegas.
"I was a little concerned because we didn't do anything in Las Vegas -- that's usually my biggest," he said. "But we're doing very well here."
Likewise for Terri Frank of Burleson, who is in her third year at the show selling wooden furniture from her World Imports store in Dallas.
"People are spending this year. It's a noticeable difference from three years ago," she said.
Sharla Rainer of Fort Worth turned into a gypsy retailer after being laid off four times from jobs in the mortgage industry.
She takes her Singing Cowgirl Shop on the road 15 to 20 times a year to everything from horse shows to Junior League events.
"This is the best by far," said Rainer, who doubled down on a bigger booth in her second year and has seen her sales follow suit.
Old reliable vendors like Hatters of Fort Worth are also seeing sales spike, said John Wards, who says that black cowboy hats still rule but that chocolate brown ones are on the rise.
"People come out here planning to shop. The down economy didn't affect us out here as much as overall," Wards said.
Many vendors said last year's snow and ice, which slowed the turnstiles for five days, froze their bottom line.
But less traffic isn't necessarily a bad thing for artist Charles Summey of Springfield, Mo. When the aisles aren't crowded, he says, people slow down and appreciate his farm and ranch landscape paintings, which cost $800 to $3,000.
Nonetheless, Summey, who has been selling and painting during the Stock Show for 42 years, said his sales are "way up" over last year but still not quite to the go-go pre-recession days of five years ago.
Nick Motosko, whose father started selling at the show in 1961, hits 40 shows a year but says Fort Worth's is his favorite because the "people are nice."
He runs four "pitch booths" that move items ranging from Miracle Blade knives to steam mops.
At the other end of the sales and longevity spectrum are the backyard structures from the Ulrich dealership in Cleburne, which run all the way up to a $90,000 log cabin.
In its second year at the show, the company has sold all nine of its display buildings as well as three of its larger units, sales manager Gene McNeely said.
"It was good last year, but we've doubled that this year with a lot of repeat customers," he said.
Lana Smith, who cheerfully buffs shoes with leather conditioner at the Urad booth, says sales are on the way to a record. She credits the balmy weather with bringing out shoppers.
Back at Classy Country, Peznowski is happy to see economic sunshine after feeling the effects of the relentless Texas drought on the Lubbock economy.
"This gives me hope for the economy this year," she said.
Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981