Monday, November 29, 2010

Region's largest craft fair a festive break from traditional shopping

By George Basler • • November 27, 2010, 6:00 pm

VESTAL -- Joyce Thomas wasn't going to let cold weather and a few morning snow flurries discourage her from trekking to Binghamton University's West Gym Saturday.

Shoppers fill Binghamton University's West Gym looking for unique gifts at the seventh annual Holiday Traditions Craft Show. The event draws between 3,500 and 5,000 people and features artists and crafts people from across the region. (GEORGE BASLER / Staff Photo)

The 65-year-old Johnson City woman wasn't there to watch a sporting event, but to look, browse and possibly buy items from the 150 artists and crafts people who filled the gym and lobby for what organizers said is the largest annual crafts fair in the region.

The snow "made me think how sweet the season is," said Thomas, who comes to the event every year looking for homemade and special gifts.

The Holiday Traditions Craft Show, which was in its seventh year, draws between 3,500 and 5,000 persons and attracts vendors from across the Southern Tier, central New York and Pennsylvania who must apply and be selected to be part of the show, said Amy Hastings, who co-promotes the event with Sally Giannini.

Visitors "build relationships with local artists" and "find it a festive shopping experience," Hastings said.

Festive, but crowed: An hour after the show opened, the parking lot by the West Gym already resembled the lots in malls on Black Friday. Cars filled nearly every spot. Inside, the gym and lobby were crowded with shoppers, making it slow going at times.

"I can go to the mall anytime. This is one day a year," said Sue Watson, of Newark Valley, who like others at the show was looking for unique items.

The show promotes local crafts people, some of whom travel two and three hours to get to BU, Hastings said. The event also raises about $1,000 each year for the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW), she said.

"It's a nice way to start the holiday season," said CHOW Director Ed Blaine.

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