While the official “Shop Local” day doesn’t take place until later this month, some area residents decided not to wait by purchasing locally made crafts and other goods during the Rexford Fire District’s fall craft fair held Sunday afternoon.
The second of two annual craft fairs organized and hosted by its ladies auxiliary group, Sunday’s multi-faceted event brought in dozens of vendors and crafters along with members of various community organizations looking to educate attendees about their group’s outreach projects.
This longstanding tradition, which got its start several decades ago with a small handful of vendors, has grown considerably over the years.
Now, with at least 40 vendors present at each fair, said ladies auxiliary president Barbara Capogna, the size of the fair has more than doubled.
“We’ve just gotten it really up and running. It all falls together very smoothly,” she said of herself and the other volunteers who work to make the fair happen.
“As always, any profit we get goes into supporting our fire department,” she added.
While vendors offered products ranging from local maple syrup, jewelry, photographs, clothing and reusable bags, both an extensive used book sale and food drive were also taking place inside the fire district’s headquarters.
Hungry shoppers could purchase soups, salads and sandwiches made by the members of the ladies auxiliary.
Capogna, who has been auxiliary president for five years, explained that local vendors are enthusiastic about attending the fair, many of them making plans to do so at least a year in advance. Word of mouth is the most effective way to get news out about the fair, she said, and many vendors pass on the suggestion to attend to other creatives they might know.
“A lot of them are repeat customers. They just keep coming back,” she said of the vendors. “They’re already asking about our next one.”
Shenendehowa students and members of local Girl Scout troops were also on hand to assist at the fair in return for receiving community service credit.
As attendees wandered around the fire station turned shopping center for the day, at least two longtime volunteers who have been instrumental in making the craft fair into what it is today returned to the posts they’ve been holding for years.
Ruth VanSchaick and Betty Melsert, both of whom have been volunteers in the ladies auxiliary group for more than 55 years, were helping out on Sunday afternoon, as they have at every fair and other event, Capogna said.
According to Capogna, Ruth VanSchaick, who was stationed at her own booth selling her needlework, crochet work and puppets, was one of the major players who ultimately maneuvered the craft fair from a few vendors to the large endeavor that is has become.
“I really enjoy seeing how much it’s grown and how far we’ve come,” VanSchaick said as she shopped among the other vendors at the fair on Sunday.
Betty Melsert was in the kitchen serving bread pudding along with other volunteers serving other food. As she looked through an old photo album that featured pictures taken during a 1969 fair hosted by the ladies auxiliary, she noted that while the fair has obviously grown, some things haven’t changed that much.
“I’ve always been in the kitchen,” Melsert said, pointing out a photo of her and some old friends serving food at a fair 50 years ago.
Pillars in the volunteer fire community, like Melsert and VanSchaick, along with a deep connection to the local area and the fire district are what keep people coming to the fair year after year, Capogna said.
Giving shoppers an avenue to quickly access local creators in one large space, Capogna said, is also a factor in what makes the fair so successful each time it’s held.
“I think the shoppers get unique and special gifts,”Capogna said, standing among the dozens of crafters she’s attracted to the event. “They like the personal touches.”
The fire district’s next craft fair will be held in April 2020.