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Thousands attend UW-Parkside's annual crafts fair
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Thousands attend UW-Parkside's annual crafts fair


There were lines to get into parking spaces; lines to enter the doors; lines for the elevator and even lines to walk up the stairs.

It was crowded and crazy, but the loyal pre-holiday shoppers wouldn’t miss the annual Parkside Arts and Crafts Fair for the world on Saturday.

Thousands of shoppers and browsers filed through the campus hallways and main concourse, around the library and along the walkway bridge to visit some 165 craft vendors. Available were handmade crafts including stuffed snowmen, soaps, stained glass, pottery and jewelry at booths some four-deep in shoppers.

One booth featured knit baby booties and caps, woven key fobs and wire art necklaces, hosted by the Student Nurses Association at Parkside.

“We’re raising money to support Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin,” said Meg Cisewski, 21, from Racine. Last year she and fellow nurse Kathryn Rozzini, 20, also from Racine, began selling their crafts along with jewelry made and donated by their grandmothers.

“We have the best grandmas in the world!” Cisewski said.

“We love it; this is such a beautiful craft fair,” Cisewski said. “It really shows Parkside’s spirit.”

Nearly 50-year tradition

According to Diane Gaffney, craft fair coordinator and program associate at Parkside, the annual craft fair has been going on for nearly 50 years. “It started in 1972 but there is some debate about that,” Gaffney said.

It’s longevity is due to the wild popularity of the fair for both vendors and attendees, Gaffney said. “We start taking applications in March and by July all the booths are full.” Repeat vendors and wait lists for vendor booths are common, she said.

The criteria for vendors is that all items must be handmade, Gaffney said. “We don’t take commercial vendors,” she said.

In addition to the dizzying variety of gifts, the annual event also sponsors raffles and an auction, proceeds of which fund two $1,500 scholarships, Gaffney said.

“Last year we had 5,000 visitors; we expected more today because the weather is nice,” said Diane Gaffney, craft fair coordinator and Parkside program associate.

Although some patrons would like the fair expanded to more days, it’s not feasible, according to Gaffney. “It’s a one-day event because classes are still in session, “ she said, adding the university could not provide overnight security for vendor booths.

It’s a must-do event

Standing off to the side from the crowded hallways with a folk art shovel decorated with a glitter snowman, Barry Woods of Twin Lakes shared that he and his family have being coming to the craft fair for the past 12 years. He said he and his wife Teri Woods look for “items from the glass tree lady” and he always gets some bars of soap.

“I buy all the raffles,” Woods said. “I like to come out to this instead of going out to hunt deer,” he said.

The craft fair is also an annual must-do for Tammy Quella and her daughter, Ashley of Racine. On Saturday they both held variously decorated wood snowmen.

“Our house is snowman-themed,” explained Ashey, a Parkside graduate.

“We do our Christmas shopping here,” said Tammy.

“There is a lot of different stuff to choose from you don’t see anywhere else,” Ashley said. “We come at 10 a.m. and go through the whole thing — it’s hectic but it’s worth it.”


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