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A steady stream of people strolled along Salt Lake City's First Avenue between "P" and "U" streets Saturday, the area cordoned off from vehicle traffic for the annual Avenues Street Fair.

Volunteer organizer and longtime Avenues resident Sydney Fonnesbeck said the fair's history dates back to the early 1970s when neighbors gathered to share wine, cheese, tools and home-renovation secrets with one another.

John Sargent, 51, can relate.

The former software systems engineer turned general building contractor launched Old House Care 10 years ago, a restoration and remodeling business that specializes in the renovation of some of the area's oldest homes.

After skiing Wasatch snow once, Sargent uprooted from Seattle and moved to Utah. Sargent operates his business out of the carriage house behind his 1893 home on Third Avenue. On Saturday, he manned a booth featuring old tools and photos displaying his work.

"What we do is fix in place," Sargent said. "We do less adding on and more fixing of the old footprint."

However, he cautions that care of an old house takes time and patience.

"When someone buys one and tries to have everything done in a one- or two-year time frame, that's where the can of worms really opens up and the cost becomes prohibitive."

Instead, he recommends sticking with it for the long haul — "fixing one bathroom, kitchen, roof or sleeping porch at a time."

Saturday marked Sargent's fifth year participating in the street fair.

"This is the one time of year I commune with my neighbors, friends and clients," Sargent said, "so it's something I really love."

At the nearby Hopi Rattle Gourds booth, Scott Stoddard showed off some of the jack o'lanterns, rattles and birdhouses he'd carved from hard-shelled fruit grown in the geodesic dome behind his Avenues home.

By day, Stoddard works in menswear at the City Creek Macy's store. His gourd hobby is mainly for fun, he said. It gives him a chance to share something crafty and homegrown.

Debbie Brockmeyer featured her Poochee Poo Baggs at the fair for the first time this year. The Avenues resident began making the colorful cloth pouches last November after noticing that dog-walkers would pick up after their pets but had no place to stash their plastic baggies.

"My motto is 'Cleaning the planet one poop bag at a time,' " Brockmeyer said, grinning.

Sarina Villareal, an abstract painter who specializes in florals, displayed some of her work Saturday. Having relocated from Houston five years ago, Villareal paid no mind to this being Utah's hottest summer on record.

"It's OK. It doesn't come with humidity, so it's fine with me," she said.

While her pieces are featured elsewhere, Villareal said the Avenues Street Fair has been her most successful venue because "I'm right in the neighborhood where the buyers are."

For former Avenues residents Thomas and Monica Lingard, dropping by the fair feels like coming home.

"I like how quirky it is," Thomas Lingard said of the narrow east-west streets that stack up the mountainside just north of downtown Salt Lake City. "There are a lot of unique homes… a lot of variety in the culture."

"And I love, love, love the trees," Monica Lingard added.

About 10,000 people attended last year's event, and this year's browsers numbered in the thousands, Fonnesbeck estimated.

"It's a great neighborhood, very diverse," Fonnesbeck said. "If you belong here, you know it."

Twitter: @catmck —

The fair took place Saturday between "P" and "U" streets on First Avenue, featuring about 200 vendors and live entertainment at its east and west stages. Find more information at