Crafts shows, the official start of the holiday season, swelled to a crescendo Saturday, leaving tired shoppers recovering across the Inland Northwest.
All together, more than 15 arts and crafts fairs dotted the region, ranging from big affairs, such as the two-day Central Valley High School crafts fair, to the folksy Millwood Presbyterian Church crafts and bake sale.
For some who visited two or more of the events Saturday, the evening probably ended with the sensory overload of too many jewelry displays and the lingering smells of cider and homemade candles.
Merri Rieger, an assistant school superintendent in Maple Valley, Wash., drove to Spokane this weekend just to dedicate a full day to craft-fair shopping with her family.
With her mother, Spokane Valley resident Marlys Rieger, and her sister Debbie Vaudrin, the three women started early Saturday spending two hours at the Spokane Community College crafts fair.
They later visited the Millwood Presbyterian Church sale, where Merri Rieger found handmade pies and irresistible baked goods that she described as “the kind your grandmother would make.”
They then spent another two hours visiting the busy Central Valley crafts fair, which is one of the largest in the region, with more than 270 booths.
All three came away with several purchases, both for themselves and as gifts for others.
“We wanted to go to at least one more show but didn’t make it,” said Marlys Rieger. “After the fourth hour, your eyes start getting tired, looking at all the details of the items being sold.”
While shoppers were out in force, some vendors noticed a decline in sales compared to last year’s level.
“It’s probably the economy,” said Ginger Denham, an Elk, Wash., woven-fabric crafter who was at her 16th crafts sale at SCC. “I’m seeing people buying more of the lower-priced items this year,” Denham said.
Rick Roy, a Newport jewelry maker, also at the SCC sale, said his sales a week earlier at a crafts show in Pullman were down 50 percent from the year before.
“But I’ve also had some shows this year where I’m up from the year before. So it’s not clear-cut,” Roy said.
He said he’d likely return next year and sell again at the SCC crafts fair.
“I don’t why we have so many shows,” he added. “But people here love to come to them. Crafts fairs give people beautiful, unique handmade items that you can’t buy in a store.’
Early Saturday afternoon Spokane resident Carolyn Morrison and her sister Donna Baden visited the Central Valley crafts fair, which runs through today at the high school on Sullivan Road. “It’s as big as ever, we always come every year,” Morrison said.
“We have to come here, no matter what else is going on. It’s a tradition,” she said.
CV’s crafts fair organizer, Debra Long, has been running the event for 16 years. She estimated this year’s crafts fair will draw about 7,000 people over the weekend.
Proceeds from the show, an expected $30,000, help support the Central Valley High School marching band.