I just got home from the St. Luke's UMC Holiday Bazaar, a local church holiday arts and crafts fair, also known in my home as "The Bizarre Bazaar," not because of any characteristic of the bazaar itself, but rather because of the bizarre notion that I would enjoy going to such an event. I love crafts and doing artsy stuff at home- heck, I even have a craft room. However, I tend to eschew anything with a "country" vibe to it, and most arts and crafts fairs tend to promote that old Midwestern country thing.
The St. Luke's Holiday Bazaar, though, is a little different from other crafty fairs. First, the organizers require that everyone who has a booth offers only items that they have handmade. Thus, the quality level of the stuff for sale at the bazaar is higher than anywhere else I've seen. Second, they have a wide variety- you might see a couple of booths with similar ideas, but for the most part, every booth is different. Third, they have the cinnamon rolls. The cinnamon rolls are huge, plate-sized monsters that apparently are so good that they generate lines with ten-minute wait times. I confess, I've never actually had one of the legendary St. Luke's Holiday Bazaar Cinnamon Rolls (a fact that, whenever I reveal it to someone at the bazaar, evokes a reaction of shock and horror) but the aroma alone is enough to add ten pounds. It's not uncommon to see clusters of three or four well-dressed, normally well-mannered "ladies who lunch" hovering around a single styrofoam box, scarfing down mouthfuls of cinnamon roll as if they haven't eaten in weeks. So the cinnamon rolls are good for aromatherapy and entertainment value.
Finally, the most important reason I go to the St. Luke's Holiday Bazaar every year is because attending this event was something my sister and I did with our mom. We used to alternate years. I'd come home from grad school one year so I could go with Mom, and the next year, my sister would go. My mom loved the Bazaar. She'd see her friends there every year, scarf down a bit of a cinnamon roll, and buy jewelry, holiday decorations, and Christmas presents.
When my mom passed away almost eight years ago, I started going to the Bazaar myself, which always made me a little sad. But then, my sister and I started taking my niece and making it an annual traditional pilgrimage. This new tradition turned the Bazaar back into something special. Most years, we also run into my dad and stepmom and other family members, and that makes it even nicer to go.
My mom had some very specific strategies when she attended the Bazaar. She always went early, right when the Bazaar opened, she had a favorite entrance to the church and a favorite area in the parking lot where she could get the closest parking, and she always insisted that we leave our coats in the car, whether it was freezing or not. She said that we would get hot inside and we'd be carrying purchases and wouldn't want to carry our coats. My mom was like a shopping sensei. And in fact, when my sister and my niece and I go to the Bazaar, we do it the same way as we did with my mom, speed-walking into the church sans coats, shivering the entire way, and talking about how glad we are that we got good parking. It's the same every year.
One of the highlights at the Bizarre Bazaar (also so dubbed, by the way, because it's just fun to say) is the fact that there are quite a few repeat exhibitors who come back year after year. And even though sometimes they'll tell you they're probably not coming back next year (it's just occurred to me that this just might be a sales tactic), they're always there, in the same booth space as the year before. In particular, here are some of my favorites:
Cat Stuff: Camille has cat playtime down to a science. She has The Best of everything cat-related- beds that you can throw in the washer and dryer, kick toys that seem really simple, but have catnip at one end, so the cats grab one side and chew and kick at the other end...I don't know why, I just know my cats have gotten two of these every year for their entire lives and they love them. In fact, I actually wait all year to buy my cat toys from Camille. I don't even bother buying cat toys anywhere else.
Thelma's Stampin' Up Booth: Thelma is a Stampin' Up distributor. Stampin' Up is a network marketing company that has the coolest stamping and scrapbooking supplies, and Thelma takes it all to a whole new level. She always has the most beautiful cards, notepads, gift packaging...it's just insane what she's capable of, and I always spend way too much on her stuff.
Yawning Dog Designs: Denise used to just make knitting bags and in fact made a custom knitting bag for me last year (A million thank yous for the awesome pocket in my knitting bag, Denise!), but this year, Denise started making purses. Aaaaaah! They're gorgeous and simple and a really cool extension of what she was already doing.
Those are actually the only booths that I absolutely must visit each year, but there are tons of "regulars" that I look for whenever I go, and I've created dumb nicknames for them in my head. There are the "Raku Pottery Ladies," "The Soap With Stuff Inside It Lady," "The Christmas Tree People" (who didn't make it this year), and "That Amazing Lady Who Makes Such Happy Looking Ceramic Gingerbread Men and Stuff With Tiny Flowers." There's "The Carpet Hat Lady," "Honey Guy," "The Barbie Clothes Lady," "The Giant Booth That's In The Corner By The Bathrooms," "Wood Turning Guy," "Artsy Scarf Chick," "Knife Guy Who I Always Wonder If He Really Makes Those Knives Himself," and "The Church Ladies Baking Booth." Oh, and of course, "Cool Girly Girl Lady," who makes pretty little barrettes and purses that my niece raids every year (hey, I didn't say the names were particularly creative or impressive). Sadly, the hearing-impaired gentleman who always used to sell freshly-popped popcorn in the hallway, with a handwritten sign taped to his popcorn machine that read, "Deaf Popcorn," whose name in my head was always "Deaf Popcorn Guy," hasn't been there for a couple of years. When a regular doesn't show up, I wonder what happened to them, but I wonder in particular about Deaf Popcorn Guy, because he seemed like a very nice man and because he made excellent popcorn.
This year, there were a couple of new booths and because I foolishly failed to get their cards, they've been given their own dumb nicknames. There was "Awesome Confused Jewelry Lady," who told me she thinks her style is "all over the place and confusing" but who I bought a very cool bracelet from nevertheless, and "American Girl Doll Dress Lady" who supplied all of the gifts I'll be giving my niece for Christmas and birthday this year, and who said she is absolutely not coming back next year and will only be selling online (good job, me, for not getting her card- those clothes are usually crazy expensive, but her stuff was half the cost and twice the quality! Argh!).
And then there was The Vintage Key, and that one I remember because I did get her card. She makes very cool Steampunk jewelry, and she made up a nifty vintage typewriter key necklace for me while I waited, and told me about how her stuff made it into the Emmy gift bags recently.
The St. Luke's Holiday Bazaar is an Indianapolis institution and something I look forward to all year. It's more than an arts and crafts fair, it's a family tradition. And even though I just got home...I can't wait until next year.