Girl, 11, told not to sell mistletoe, but begging is fine

PORTLAND, Ore. -- You can tell right away that Madison Root has a shrewd business sense.

She launched a small business on Saturday morning with all the right ingredients for success.


Portland Saturday Market -- where the crowds are.


Mistletoe -- perfect for Christmas.


Hand-wrapped and tied with a red bow.

Madison, 11, even cut and chopped the mistletoe herself from her uncle's farm in Newberg.

She's hoping to raise money to chip in for her braces. The dentist says they'll cost $4,800.

"I felt like I could help my dad with the money," she said.

Madison and her dad bagged up the mistletoe and started selling them next to the Skidmore Fountain in Downtown Portland on Saturday morning.

That's also where the Portland Saturday Market holds its weekly venue.

A private security guard asked Madison to stop selling because city ordinance bans commerce like that without proper approval.

"I wouldn't think I'd have any problems because people are asking for money, people are selling stuff, this is a public place," said Madison.

And she's right -- to a point.

In fact, we saw people protesting, hold signs, playing music, and begging all over the area on Sunday morning as well.

The Saturday Market is incredibly diverse.

You can buy whistles, order crepes and sign a marijuana petition all without walking more than ten steps.

But you can't open a business without going through the market's formal application process. The market sets rules for vendors which Madison agrees make sense.

Begging is different.

That's a form of free speech, protected under the First Amendment, explains Mark Ross, spokesman for the Portland Parks Bureau, which manages the city park and rents it to the Saturday Market.

The guard, hired by the market from a private security firm, told Madison she could sell her products on city sidewalk outside the park's boundaries or simply ask people for donations for her braces.

"I don't want to beg! I would rather work for something than beg," said Madison.

"It's crazy. People can get money for pot. But I can't get money for braces. I'm working for this! They're just sitting down on their butts all day asking for pot."

A vendor selling ceramic bowls told KATU News she wishes the rules made an exception for children.

"They should have a caveat for children trying to create options for commerce, especially this time of year," said Sharon Steen, co-owner of Perfect Bowls. "We encourage it. We want them to grow up and be entrepreneurs."

After Madison's story appeared on KATU News at 5:00 pm on Sunday, a viewer already called to order 30 bags of mistletoe.

"I want to do something for a good cause," said Madison. "I don't want to beg."

We heard about this story from a KATU news tip. Send us your tips to

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