Christmas decorations are out at Costco! I saw a giant snowman holding a candy cane when I last shopped there. Pretty soon, the seasonal Christmas ornament stands will start appearing in the malls, and every big box, pharmacy and grocery store will devote a lot of space to holiday decorations.
Most of those decorations come from China or other low-cost sources. You will have to look hard to find something made in the United States, let alone in Virginia…. unless you know where to look.
Check out craft bazaars. They are often sponsored by local churches, schools and groups. Bazaars generally feature local artisans and participating vendors from Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic, with handmade crafts including art, candles, soaps, honey, and other specialty items.
One of the oldest craft bazaars in Woodbridge is staged by the Seton Crafters, hosted by Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Lake Ridge. The group was started before there was actually even a church.
The exact date of their first meeting is lost to history; however, some of the older members trace its beginnings to the 1980s, when Prince William County’s population was around 150,000. As the county population grew to 470,000, so did the church. The Seton Crafters moved to an interim church in 1981 and the current church in 1991.
I have attended the Seton Crafters bazaar every year since 1988. For full disclosure, I usually go around noon to get a Coney Island hot dog for lunch. The crafters’ hot dog sauce is a well-guarded “secret recipe.” I always get the lunch special - a hot dog, a bag of chips and a Coke. That’s followed up by a trip to the bake sale for coffee and dessert.
The stuff you buy at the big box store probably won’t last much longer than one season. Those decorations aren’t unique, and will probably end up in a dumpster one day.
Craft items, on the other hand, are one of a kind. They represent the last of a slowly dying art form: true American folk art. The things you buy at a craft fair stand a good chance of becoming coveted family heirlooms and perhaps exhibits in a folk art museum one day. Craft bazaars are one of the few places you can actually buy a piece of Prince William’s history.
Many craft bazaars have sprung up over the years in the county. I suspect it won’t take you long to find one in your neighborhood. The increased competition has taken a toll on all of them. When I attended the Seton Crafters bazaar in the late 1980s, there was always a line waiting to get in. Although it is still well attended, the choices have reduced crowds a bit at all of them.
Seton Crafters meets weekly from early January until the Monday after the bazaar. The bazaar is always the first weekend in November (Nov. 2-3 this year). Proceeds stay in the community – they are donated to Prince William non-profits.
If you want to learn more about the Seton Crafters, set up a table for your crafts, or join them contact Bobbi Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org. Everyone is welcome. No special skills are required. You do not have to be a member of the church to join.
Maybe I’ll see you there at lunch!
Al Alborn is a political and social activist in Prince William County. His column appears every other week. You can learn more about Al at www.alborn.net.