Craft shows, the unofficial 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 craft fair, to the folksy Millwood Presbyterian Church crafts and bake sale.
For some who visited two or more of the events Saturday, the day probably ended with a bit of sensory overload from myriad 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, Merri Rieger started early Saturday, spending two hours at the Spokane Community College craft 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 two hours visiting the busy Central Valley craft 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.
“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 with last year.
“It’s probably the economy,” said Ginger Denham, an Elk, Wash., woven-fabric crafter who was at her 16th craft sale at SCC. “I’m seeing people buying more of the lower-priced items this year.”
Rick Roy, a Newport, Wash., jewelry maker, also at the SCC sale, said his sales a week earlier at a 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 fair.
“I don’t know 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 craft 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 craft fair organizer Debra Long has been running the event for 16 years. She estimated this year’s fair will draw about 7,000 people over the weekend.
Proceeds from the show, an expected $60,000, help support the Central Valley High School marching band.