'Tis the season

Craft fairs kick off the holiday season in the Yampa Valley

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— Dolls made from socks, Christmas tree decorations made from light bulbs and wooden Santa Clauses are just few craft items that usher in the official beginning of the Christmas season for many people.

For years in the Yampa Valley, church craft fairs in the late fall marked the time to get ready for the holidays.

Today in Steamboat Springs, the only locally made crafts at a church craft bazaar is at Concordia Lutheran church.

It was on Saturday and featured the work of a few of the ladies who attend the church.

"We start in March and work up to the last few minutes," Judy Anderson said.

Anderson organized the craft show, called the Concordia Christmas Cupboard. The crafts sold are all handcrafted and are mostly Christmas decorations. This year the sale is dedicated to Elaine Stroncek, who passed away recently and was one of the first people at the church to participate in the craft fair.

The tradition at the church is to get together every Monday night and work on crafts for the fair. Anderson said the group ranges from one to nine ladies who show up and do the work.

The women find craft ideas they like in books and magazines for inspiration.

"We even just come up with original ideas," Anderson said.

In November, all of the work is sold at the fair.

"It's a wonderful outlet for serving and giving to others," Anderson said. "And it's also wonderful fellowship."

After adjusting for the costs of the materials, all of the proceeds from the event go to charity. In some ways, Concordia is keeping a tradition alive in the valley. Churches in Steamboat Springs traditionally have events for charity during this time of the year, but it used to be fairs of all local Christmas crafts.

"Every single church used to have them all at the same time," recalled Pam Graham, who works at the United Methodist Church.

It started declining about 10 or 15 years ago.

"All of the women are working now," she said. "They aren't staying at home and doing crafts."

The United Methodist Church now hosts the Fall Fare, which is a soup-lunch event with homemade pies and bread, as well as an auction for a handmade quilt. The Fall Fare was Friday and also is a fund-raiser for local charity.

Holy Name Catholic Church still has a craft fair, but five years ago, it changed the types of crafts sold. Now the crafts are all from developing nations.

"Basically, we order crafts from different areas around the world," Tina Salazar said. Salazar helped organize the fair for the church this year, which started Saturday and runs from 9 to 10 a.m. today.

Through the Catholic Relief Services, the church features crafts most with a Christmas theme from countries such as Chile, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Nepal and many others.

"It's a lot of different types of crafts," she said.

Though the fair has mostly Christmas-related items, there are a variety of other choices, such as unique materials, books, jewelry and traditional musical instruments from different regions.

Most of the items range from $10 to $20, and proceeds go back to the villages where the pieces were made.

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