The art and craft of the Yampa fair

More than 70 booths will offer myriad products, just in time for the holidays

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When Yampa resident Nita Naugle is painting, she has to set an alarm to remind her of appointments. Otherwise, she would paint all day.

Yampa resident Helen Rudeen quilts and sews true-to-life stuffed animals that resemble those that line the shelves in FAO Schwarz and other high-end toy stores.

Her favorite is her happy hippopotamus, the stuffed animal she made first for her husband, Dick Rudeen, and then for her sister, who has since passed away.

Naugle and Rudeen will sell their wares at the 23rd annual Yampa Arts and Crafts Fair.

But more than selling their art, they also are helping to organize the fair, which is sponsored by the Edith Chapter No. 61, an order of the Eastern Star.

The Eastern Star is a fraternal organization open to women and men who are devoted to serving others. It is not meant to take the place of church, Rudeen said, but does require members to have a belief in a Supreme Being.

The Yampa chapter, which was started by the same families who founded Yampa, will celebrate its 100-year anniversary in 2005. It has 66 members.

Rudeen has been a member of the Eastern Star since 1972. Not only has her involvement enabled her to help others, it also has given her more confidence and made her a better person, she said.

The arts and crafts fair is the group's biggest fund-raiser and has been sponsored by the group for about 10 years. Before that, it was run by a resident.

From its small start, the fair has grown and now is known across the state. Vendors travel from as far as Arizona to sell their products. More than 500 shoppers came to the fair last year, Rudeen said.

From the more than 70 booth spaces, artists can sell myriad products, such as ceramics, jewelry, woodworking pieces, photographs, fine arts, quilts, stained glass, soaps and more.

For residents in Yampa, Steamboat Springs, Vail, Hayden, Granby and more, it's a popular spot for finding handmade, reasonably priced gifts for birthdays and the holidays.

The fair is popular with artists, Naugle said, and spaces filled up two weeks before the deadline. There are about a dozen artists on a waiting list still hoping to get a spot.

The funds raised at the fair through selling lunches and booth spaces, which are priced at $10, help the organization operate throughout the year.

There is no fee to get into the fair, and everyone who comes gets a free raffle ticket for a chance of winning one of handfuls of prizes donated by the vendors.

"Because we don't charge a lot, even when years are tough, we still get our vendors," Naugle said.

After last year's craft fair, the group was able to pay for a hearing aid for a child in Wyoming.

The group supports Boy Scout troops and the summer reading and arts program, as well as individuals and families who have been hit by hard times. For instance, the group gave several individuals warm clothes and other necessities for Christmas last year.

The group contributes to state and national charities, as well.

"When you have all these little chapters around the state contributing, the little you can give makes a difference," Naugle said.

"A lot of times we don't know how it affects people's lives after. We just have to have faith that it does and go from there."

The Yampa Arts and Crafts Fair is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 15 at Yampa Elementary School.

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