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Every Day I’m Hustlin’

Clarence Shields

Photo: Evan Serpick, License: N/A

Evan Serpick

By Sunday afternoon, it’s looking like a rough Artscape for Clarence Shields. “At this point, I’m just trying to break even,” he says.

Stationed on the Charles Street Bridge, Shields hawks squeaky Hulk bats and Thor hammers to passersby, but not as many as in years past. “They usually get 300,000 people,” he says, cursing the rain that kept big crowds away Friday and Saturday. “This year, they might not even get 150,000.”

Shields, 57, is an expert on local events, having sold his tchotchkes at ethnic festivals, the Grand Prix, Baltimore Pride, and virtually every other high-foot-traffic happening in town for decades.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 17,” he says, handing off SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer inflatables—two for $5. He orders merchandise from a catalog company in Rhode Island. His best day ever was Obama’s inauguration in D.C., when he made $3,000 in one day. “That was a day to remember,” he says.

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