With Halloween in the rear-view mirror, craft fair organizers across the lakecity are gearing up for the craft fair season starting with Carmen’s Early Bird Christmas Craft Fair on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9 at the Elks Hall.
Organized each year by the fair’s namesake Carmen Schwarz, a 38-year Safeway floral department employee, who has lived in the Cariboo for most of her life. Schwarz has always been a people person who loves to cook and bake, which is partially why she started her own craft fair for the last 19 years.
“I’m the type of person who would go to a yard sale and be selling homemade fresh strawberry tarts, I’ve always loved everything to do with food,” Schwarz said, adding that as she received feedback on the quality of her baking it made her want to go bigger and bolder.
Several years ago Schwarz was invited by a friend to take part in the original craft fair at the Elks Hall and sell her baked goods. Within 45 minutes she said a woman came up to her and practically bought everything she had on her half of the table, which excited and mortified her. She then went home and baked “fast and furious” to have enough product for the next day.
After doing that fair for a year Schwarz noted the craft fair, like many in the lakecity, was always full and that there were people wanting to do more. This made her decide to start a second one which flourished with the help of her family including her mother Rolande Perron, father Louis Perron, husband Lance Schwarz, daughter Raylene Dieck and grandchildren Rylee, Brayden and Mason Dieck. Her father Louis, who passed away this year, really loved doing it Schwarz said emotionally and this year marks the first time she’s done it without him.
Her sale boasts a mix of fantastic vendors made up of both local artisans and groups as well as homegrown and small businesses, whom she stations on the stage and mezzanine of the Elks Hall. Most everyone is based out of or from the Williams Lake or greater Cariboo region, Schwarz said.
“Even when I moved to Kelowna, I continued to do the sale here because if I was going to pass it on I wanted to pass it on to (the right person). I’m a go big or go home person, do it right or don’t do it all,” Schwarz said. “Everyone seems to like what we do and keep saying we can’t stop.”
She has around 55 vendors selling everything including baked goods, honey and beeswax products, bannock, homemade jewellery, woodwork like benches and stools, furs, homemade chocolates, rustic Christmas wire art and picture frames, canning and preserves, dog treats, soaps and bath balms, garlic products, embroidery and fleece products. As far as home-based and other small businesses go she has Green Tea Hawaii, SweetLegs Clothing Inc. and Pampered Chef, among others.
She said she holds it so early in November to give people a fun event to go to the weekend after Halloween and attached her name to it because, in the past, other craft fairs have been periodically held around the same time.
Admission is free for this event with doors opening from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov 8 and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9.
They also have a wide selection of food on sale at a concession including burgers and hot dogs, fresh chili in a bun, fruit salad, buns, fresh homemade muffins and carrot cake with cream cheese icing with pop, water and juice to drink.
Overall, Schwarz said the thing she loves the most about organizing Carmen’s Early Bird Christmas Craft Fair is the people, both vendors and customers. Having folks come up to her and give her a hug to say “see you next year” really makes it all worth it, in her eyes, to keep organizing what some call “the fun-sale.”
“It’s fun for all ages, there is stuff for little kids, stuff for the elderly, stuff for everybody. It’s just a good all-around fun day, come out and have some eats and treats and see what Williams Lake and outlying areas have to offer,” Schwarz said.
Schwarz and the vendors also all donate food to Pregnancy Outreach as a way to give back to the community each year through the market.