Broke for the holidays: Church Fairs
"I often think of going," said a friend,"but I wonder whether what I'll find are crocheted doll toilet paper crafts and the like. Is it worth the effort?"
The answer is: it depends on who you're shopping for and what you like to give as gifts. Holiday fairs are a
longstanding tradition and some of the contributors have been making their specialties for fifty years. You'll find a wonderful variety of baked and canned goods. There will be knitted and crocheted items for adults and especially for children - mittens, hats, sweaters, dolls and doll clothes, blankets. Most fairs also sell wreaths, centerpieces and swags. You'll find handmade ornaments. Some churches have their own traditions - a wheel of cheddar and baskets of apples, a special table with items for children to buy often priced at 25 and 50 cents.
All the fairs will have jewelry - some newly made by local artisans from simple beads to more elaborate creations - and always some recycled jewelry. Sometimes there's a treasure hidden in the midst, a scarab or sterling silver bracelet, a cloudy ring that once polished turns out to be opal. The jewelry table always draws a crowd.
Speaking of crowds, consider being there when the fair opens. This is more like yard sale shopping than it is like retail. Often there will be one and only one copy of something you know you sister would love.
Not only do the fairs offer homemade and handmade goods, most also have at least some (and sometimes a lot!) of White Elephant Sale items. Competitive shoppers will start with these tables first, things are more likely to be one of a kind. Do you have, grandchildren or nephews and nieces coming to visit? If they haven't been hooked by advertising and the culture to think that electronics are only fun if they're state of the art, you can sometimes find an older game system, Playstation or Nintendo in working condition, along with a dozen games - for the cost of what you would pay for a single game new. You may also find a bag filled with a dozen Barbie items. The bag may cost $1.00. If you have time to wash, repair and even iron the clothes that are in the
very best condition, you'll have a gift that might cost $30 retail.
At the White Elephant tables, you'll find assorted vases - great if you like to bring arrangements - and just maybe that special, perhaps silly, item for an aunt who collects salt and pepper shakers or cranberry glass.
Local newspapers will list upcoming fairs. The main challenge is that they often seem to pile up on the same
Saturday (this year it will be November 22nd here on the Upper Cape) and it's hard to be in four places at once.
Church fair shopping has lots of advantages. You'll find yourself more likely to get into the holiday spirit and to run into friends and neighbors. The dollars go back into the community. Often, you're also recycling.
Don't forget to stop in the kitchen area for a cup of coffee and someone's homemade cookies or pie - and if you see a crocheted cover for a toilet paper roll, think of my friend.