The Arizona State Fair comes and goes each October. How do the churro- and carnie-ride-obsessed deal with the next 50 or so weeks? A perfectly acceptable substitute is found at the Great Southwestern Swap Meet, a.k.a. El Gran Mercado. For the most part, the giant market is like the fair's commercial building gone Chicano, and the place certainly lives up to its name, with almost 1,400 vendors. You'll find joyerias and dulcerias next to booths selling used appliances. Several unisex salons style the locks of many of the folks who turn out every weekend to sell off their worldly possessions or dance to Tejano bands in the cavernous dance hall; some prefer singing karaoke en español in the courtyard next to one of El Gran Mercado's many eateries, or hanging out in the arcades with the pool-shooting teens.
It's a lively alternative to shifty hawkers of the midway or the has-beens performing in Veterans' Memorial Coliseum.