Thousands attend craft shows; effect on area businesses mixed

Monday, November 22, 2004

Annette Umidon, Arline DeMuth and Kathleen Douckaert go to New York City for the theaters.

They go to Las Vegas for the shows.

And they come to Cape Girardeau for the craft fairs.

The senior citizens from St. Louis have attended nearly every craft show they considered worthwhile for more than 10 years, most of them within St. Louis city limits.

"But we give up some of those to make the Cape because they have such a good variety," Umidon said.

That variety was spread over five locations among three fairs -- the River Valley Craft Club Christmas Expo at the Arena Building and the Plaza Conference Center, which drew at least 10,000 people; the Arts and Crafts Extravaganza at the Show Me Center and Osage Community Centre, which drew 8,000, up from 7,000 last year; and the ninth annual crafts, gifts and collectibles show at the Bavarian Halle in Fruitland, which attracted about 2,500.

The weekend of searching for holiday gifts spilled beyond craft fairs and into the businesses of Cape Girardeau, but the effect was hit or miss depending on the business.

Ordinarily, the annual craft fairs boost sales, said Judith Golightly, clerk for Past Times Antiques. However, business was slower than usual Saturday, she said, possibly due to the number of locations that tourists had to visit. Some customers said that they were just too tired to go anywhere else after the shows, she said.

Business increased Saturday at restaurants such as Bella Italia.

"We were blasted all day long," said manager Bill Godwin, who attributed the upswing to the craft fairs, along with local dances, benefits and sales that also took place Saturday.

Tom Dreeson, general manager of O'Charley's restaurant, said a notable increase in business did occur Friday and Saturday. He did not attribute it wholly to the craft fairs.

"It's very noticeable that there's people all over town," he said, and the new customers tended to be families and older groups.

Umidon, DeMuth and Douckaert are usually in a group of four to six women on the Cape Girardeau craft fair mission. "This year it was just the old poops," Umidon said jokingly.

The women hit most of the locations in one Saturday. While one year's favorite item was lamps, of which they took home nearly 25, this year's hot grab was handbags.

The trio nabbed 30 of them.

Before the trio left Cape Girardeau Sunday, they made hotel reservations for next year.

335-6611 extension 127

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