Thousands of people expected to visit upcoming area crafts fairs

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Three craft fairs are expected to draw thousands this weekend in Cape Girardeau and Fruitland.

Four venues in Cape Girardeau will host two of the fairs. The longest running, the 37-year-old Arts Council of Southeast Missouri's Christmas Arts and Crafts Extravaganza, takes place Saturday and Sunday at the Show Me Center and the Osage Community Centre.

The River Valley Craft Club Christmas Expo will also take place Saturday and Sunday in two venues -- the Plaza Conference Center near Holiday Inn and the Arena Building.

Another show, the Crafts, Gifts and Collectibles Show, starts Friday and continues through Sunday at the Bavarian Halle near Fruitland.

Both the Cape Girardeau fairs offer handcrafted items only. Rick Werner, organizer of the River Valley fair, said about 8,000 people come through the doors in both venues combined during the two days.

Arts council director Delilah Tayloe said that organization's event brings in anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 people over two days.

"Between this and the arts council, we probably bring more people into this area than are ever coming in at one period of time," Werner said.

Both shows offer an assortment of items, from holiday decorations to quilts to handwoven baskets and even holiday food treats. Each show features more than 300 crafters from several states.

Tayloe said purchases made at these events help American crafts?people -- vendors at some craft shows sell imported, mass produced items.

"An arts and crafts fair such as this is not only keeping traditional skills alive, these people are often dedicated to this ... as their whole way of life," she said.

The Bavarian Halle show features 85 vendors, also from several states, and brings in 3,000 to 3,500 people on Friday and Saturday, said organizer Dixie Burnett. Since admission is free on Sunday, no attendance is measured. Burnett said show organizers "see a lot of sisters and mothers and daughters having a weekend out," some of them visiting the other crafts shows.

Both the arts council show and the show at the Bavarian Halle are fundraisers. The arts council relies on this event for almost a third of its yearly funding, raising about $50,000. The Fruitland show collects money for the Notre Dame Regional High School visual and performing arts programs, Toys for Tots, Christmas for the Elderly and care packages for soldiers overseas.

While the economic impact of these events is unclear, the shows certainly bring visitors to the area, be they vendors or craft fair tourists. Holiday Inn Express and Victorian Inn and Suites will be hosting large numbers of craft fair visitors this weekend since the Plaza Conference Center is part of the Holiday Inn complex, said Holiday Inn Express general manager Karla Clifton.

Dustin Medley, an assistant general manager at Drury Lodge, said it's hard to gauge which of his customers is here for what purpose, but this weekend's events have put people in rooms that normally would be unoccupied during mid-November, a slow time for tourism.

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