‘First Monday Trade Days’ vendor recalls taking shelter as tornado rips through

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CANTON, Texas (KXAN) — Before tornadoes drew attention to Canton, what really put the East Texas city on the map is “First Monday Trade Days.” The event brings in hordes of people over the days leading up to the first Monday of the month.

KXAN spoke with those cleaning up what the storms left behind, including Kristin Barlow. For the last 16 years, she and her husband have made the trek to Trade Days.

“Three different times there has been tornadoes close or in Canton that have barely, barely missed this park,” Barlow said.

But she called Saturday the closest call.

“This is the first time that they really have told everybody, go to the bathrooms, go wherever you can go to take shelter,” Barlow said, expressing concerns the shelter space isn’t big enough. “There’s just too many people.”

For nearly 150 years, shoppers and vendors have been flocking to the trade days before the First Monday of every month. Representatives said there’s no way to track how many visitors are there at any given time because no fee is charged on the grounds and people are free to come and go as they please. Vendor numbers are tough to track too because the grounds don’t lock, meaning people can come in and set up or pack up and leave without their office knowing.

Traveling from Oklahoma, when Barlow and her husband hear the word “tornado,” their minds flash to one thing.

“You better take shelter. And if there’s nowhere near to take shelter, you better get as far away as you can from it,” she said.

And that’s exactly what the Barlows did. They got out and then returned to get what was left.

“You have trailers and pickups and vehicles, you’ve got everything on tables, you’ve got tents – and if any of that starts blowing and going, you’ve just got missiles everywhere at you,” Barlow said. “It’s a death trap right here.”

Monday we learned the names of the four people killed:

  • Kenneth Hughes, 57, of Van Zandt County
  • Russell Rusty Barlow, 51, of Canton
  • James Clayton Young, 39, of Alba
  • Lucretia Sykes, 49, of Fort Worth

Dozens more were treated at three area hospitals. Gov. Greg Abbott just declared a state of disaster in three counties on Monday, naming Henderson, Rains and Van Zandt.

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