An 11-year-old Oregon girl who wanted to help her father pay for her braces by selling mistletoe over the holidays, found herself embroiled in city bureaucracy. On Saturday, Madison Root went to the downtown market to sell fresh mistletoe she cut and wrapped herself from her uncle’s farm in Oregon.
She told KATU News, “I felt like I could help my dad with the money.”
However, a private security guard hired by Portland Saturday Market blocked her path to a straighter smile by telling her to stop selling the mistletoe, citing city rules that ban conducting business or soliciting at a park without proper approval and documentation.
Specifically, Chapter 10.12 of the Portland city code states that soliciting or conducting business includes the display of “goods, or descriptions or depictions of goods or services, with the intent to engage any member of the public in a transaction for the sale of any good or service.”
The guard reportedly told Madison she could set up shop outside the boundaries of the park…or she could simply ask for donations. Her father, Ashton, told ABC.com, “The guard told her she can beg if she wanted but she can’t sell the mistletoe.” He went on to say that his daughter “does not want to encourage begging and wants people to earn their living… She is so keen on high work ethic.”
Madison confirmed this, “I don’t want to beg! I would rather work for something than beg. I wouldn’t think I’d have any problems because people are asking for money, people are selling stuff, this is a public place.”
The young entrepreneur also seemed confused that vendors could openly sell pot while her mistletoe business was shut down: “There are people next to me that have big signs that say ‘Got Pot?’ They’re raising money for pot.”
Pot or no pot, officials say vendors pay to rent vending booths and are screened before qualifying for the Portland Saturday Market. One vendor, Viki Ciesiul, explained the process to ABCNews.com saying “Applying for a booth is a juried process. I had to show samples of my jewelry to a panel of jurists. … We have to pay to maintain our spot at the market.”
Ciesiul expressed mixed feelings about Madison’s plight: “We [vendors] are trying to avoid too many types of street vendors who might bring the place down,” she said. “There are many ways she can participate and rules are there for a reason.”
Mark Ross, a spokesman for the Portland Parks Bureau, which manages the city park said asking for donations is “a form of free speech, protected under the First Amendment,” but declined to comment about Madison’s story. He did note, however, that the Saturday Market administration designates and enforces its rules once the space has been leased to them.
Since the story broke Sunday evening, Madison’s father said “mistletoe orders mushroomed… even McKinzei Farms, one of the biggest selling Christmas tree farms in the area, made a $1,000 donation to Madison’s braces.”
The 11-year-old got her first set of braces on Monday.