Craft fairs foster holiday spirit

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Holiday shoppers on a mission for one-of-a-kind gifts flocked Saturday to several craft fairs in Steamboat Springs and Hayden.

Barely halfway into the day, Sue Gallion, a vendor at the Christmas in the Rockies Holiday Craft Fair at Strawberry Park Elementary School, was nearly sold out of her colorful knitted hats and scarves.

"It's been tremendous," Gallion said, as she waited for another batch of her wares to arrive at the fair.

"I just think it makes (residents') shopping easier," she said. "You don't have to go all over town -- they have all things that are beautiful in one place."

Gallion was among more than 40 mostly local vendors who displayed handcrafted goods including coffee, barbecue sauce, jam, wood puzzles, soap and a wide variety of jewelry.

And, unlike standard merchandise with "made in China" labels, many of the arts and crafts came with rich stories of craftsmanship and creativity.

"Making something by hand to give to somebody means so much more than buying something at a store that's manufactured," said Kath Lawrence, who makes jewelry from the stone-like spines that stick out from the bodies of sea urchins.

Lawrence said she got the idea for the jewelry while scuba diving in the South Pacific, where she saw fishermen disposing of sea urchins that got caught in their nets. She explained how discoloration and rings on the spines indicate El Niño seasons and changes in the mineral content of the seawater.

In the school's cafeteria, a group of students from Steamboat Springs Middle School was busy personalizing birdhouses made by seventh-graders.

"I think they like the design," 12-year-old Jeff Sperry said about why the birdhouses were so popular at the fair.

The Steamboat Springs Arts Council has hosted the fair for more than 20 years. Vendors' booth fees went to the council, which presents art exhibits at the Depot Art Center, hosts the annual summertime Art in the Park and supports community art projects, executive director Nancy Kramer said.

"It's about the holiday, it's about hand-crafted goods, and it's about the community," she said.

The fair has become a tradition for residents such as Lisa Lancaster of Steamboat, who comes every year -- though not necessarily to stock up on gifts.

"I find more things for me than for other people," she said.

In Hayden, residents perused baked goods, soaps, photography, jewelry and other crafts at the Holiday Bazaar in the Routt County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall. Booth fees from the fair went toward a scholarship for a Hayden High School graduate pursuing an arts education.

Kathy Ulner, who lives south of Steamboat, said she came back to the bazaar for a second year because she liked the community feel of the event.

"So many locals come out," said Ulner, who was selling pet-themed barrettes, picture frames and jewelry. "They really support it."

The bazaar featured goods from about 15 vendors, mostly from the Hayden and Craig areas.


-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 8714204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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