Here’s your sign! Everywhere I look lately, I see the signs and I know their message well! No, not those kind of signs…, the kind that really get my blood pumping this time of year! “FALL FESTIVAL”, “AUTUMN ARTS & CRAFTS FAIR”, “PUMPKIN FESTIVAL”, “OKTOBERFEST”’, and the list goes on and on. Every sign is more than just the words written there, they each put specific pictures in my mind. I can hear the leaves crunching underfoot. I smell pumpkin spice, pine needles, freshly cut hay and hot cocoa wafting on every cool breeze, on a crisp and clear Saturday morning. I see myself wandering around, admiring all the homemade arts and crafts. It makes me yearn for my favorite sweater. I can taste the freshly made, sticky and sweet candy apples and the still warm, crispy kettle corn. Sign me up for the hayride, the pumpkin carving contest and point me in the direction of the corn maze. Just don’t forget to come find me if you don’t see me back out of the maze in about an hour!
It is fun to explore and to check out all of the local annual fairs and festivals. I try to get to as many as I can that are within a 50 mile radius of my house. Going from town to town, I am always amazed at how different things can be, how many variations of traditions there are. It is my favorite way to Christmas shop too! I like to buy one of a kind, rare and vintage, handmade, customized and personally unique items for my friends and loved ones. I am not enticed by big malls with their vibrating variations of loud music pouring out of every store and dealing with the rabid crowds. I prefer the quiet outdoors, the fresh air and the nice people I meet at the festivals and fairs. Most years, I can find the perfect gift for those “hard to buy for folks” in my life! Something unique that makes the perfect Christmas gift.
I remember going to the fall festivals every year as a little girl.. My favorite aunt always had tables that she set up every year, at her church’s Fall Arts & Crafts Fair. She thoroughly readied herself for this annual event, and usually had been preparing for it since she packed up her tables from the previous year. She made several different types of items, that she set out on her tables to sell. She had a spring and summer garden that she cultivated into delicious home-canning delights. She also made all kinds of things, from key chains to Christmas ornaments.
She crocheted lovely throws and blankets. My favorite ones were the ones that she made using metallic yarns as sparkling accents, and the big fluffy, ones made from angora and chenille. It was a lot of work, and even though she never made any money, all proceeds were voluntarily donated to the church by all the participants, she looked forward to it, and worked hard to participate in it, each year. I usually ended up at the kids tents, which is really where all the magic happened. Each table offered something different, and everything was totally hands on, unlike many of the other booths. I can remember making gifts for my loved ones, which gave me such a sense of pride and accomplishment. I know for certain, that well into her seventies, and as flimsy as it was, my grandmother was still using one of the potholders, lovingly scorched from use, that I had made for her when I was seven.
When I grew up and had daughters of my own, I enjoyed taking them around to the fairs and festivals with me. It was fun to watch them wander around, ravenously sampling everything food related, and asking me if they could buy pretty much buy everything in sight. They would get so excited over some of the most bizarre things, but I guess that was the draw, finding something outside of what they were normally familiar with. It was a real learning experience for them to see how many things could be made by hand, the differences in quality, to grasp just how much time and effort was required to make many of those items, and to be able to put values on things that weren’t monetary. I enjoyed watching them meet up with their friends from school. They would show each other what they had bought so far, among them, were the gifts they had gotten for their teachers. They excitedly talked about everything they had seen, comparing notes to make sure they didn’t miss anything cool, only to hear about it too late on Monday morning at school.
I have several events on my calendar for the coming weeks. I cannot wait to slip into my favorite jeans, pull on my favorite sweater and go! Seeing all the quilts, canning jars filled with homemade goodness, handmade ornaments, and especially the kids craft tents, where young artisans are discovering their own gifts.These are all a big part of what lures me back every year. And yes, I kept and still have a collection of painted rocks, potholders, and many other priceless items, made for me by precious chubby little fingers, that remind me of what is truly important in life. It’s not the gifts, it’s the love, the time spent together, and the memories created. You cannot buy those at the mall. So, get out there, it’s that time of year, grab your kids, your spouse, your friends and make memories…. Here’s your sign!