Left: Miriam Walker, Right: Sharon Campbell, Front: Miriam Walker
Article by Jeremy Evans

Jingle bells will be ringing Friday when the annual Hollyday Fair returns to the Andersen Enrichment Center in Saginaw.

The popular fair, now in its eighteenth year, spotlights one-of-a-kind handmade items from local artists. But that's not all: A bake sale, a gift gallery, a silent auction, a raffle and a luncheon are also part of the festivities.

"It’s a wonderful tradition down here in the heart of the city," said Marsha Braun of the Saginaw Arts and Enrichment Commission, who is also head of the committee that organizes the art fair.

Goody Peters agrees. "I always find adorable gifts for the holidays," said the Saginaw Township resident. "I have a wonderful soap pump I found there that I've used every day for years." Peters also noted that—true to its name—the Hollyday Fair is perhaps the best place in Saginaw to pick up fresh holly for home decorating.

When it first began in 1993, the Hollyday Fair hosted just three vendors. But as the event has grown in popularity each year, that number has grown to eighteen—so many that the Andersen Enrichment Center is stretched to capacity. "We are maxed out," said Braun. "We have a waiting list as it is."

And that’s a good thing for buyers and art lovers looking for special, unique gifts this season. From the knitted socks (made on antique machinery) of Judith Niederstadt and Lana Wenzel to the hand-dipped treats of Monica Duprey, there is something for every taste (and appetite) at this year’s fair. Other returning vendors will sell handmade clothing, purses and accessories, watercolors, silks, recycled art, and hand-painted ornaments. David Miller, the only vendor to have been in each fair since its inception, will be returning with his wooden reindeer of all sizes—and, as usual, at half-off for this fair only.

New to the fair this year is Saginaw’s Hilke Stone, who specializes in soft sculptures of snowmen and snowwomen. Stone donated a sculpture last year, and it caught the eye of Braun and many others. The snow-people, made of terrycloth and chenille, are sewn and stuffed, then decorated with a fabric pen, clay noses, buttons, sticks, and unique outfits sewn by Stone.

"They have a lot of different styles," Stone said of her sculptures. "Some are country, some are contemporary, some are foo-foo, some are bling-bling." Stone, who studied clothing and textiles at Michigan State University, explained that sewing has been a part of her life since her teenage years. "This is really a hobby, but this little hobby is my passion," she said. "I just love it."

Returning to the fair this year are James Township’s Sharon Campbell and Midland’s Jill Walker, a mother-daughter duo who have appeared at the Hollyday Fair since 2005. Both women have their own businesses, known as Bonkers Over Beads and Jilly Bean Designs, respectively. Campbell specializes in sterling silver jewelry, and employs materials such as turquoise, semi-precious stones and Swarovski crystals. “We have been a very successful company,” Campbell said. “Customers enjoy the high-quality and design of our products.”

Walker’s work moves in a different direction than her mother’s, focusing on sewn gifts such as camera straps and key fobs, and other items such as bottle cap necklaces and holiday-themed children's shirts. But both mother and daughter have something in common, said Walker: "Everything is custom-made. There are no two pieces alike, and that’s what people like about it.”

The creative bug in the Campbell-Walker family has been passed on to a third generation, too. Walker’s nine year-old daughter Miriam will make her debut at this year’s fair, selling magnets to decorate school lockers. “She is the youngest entrepreneur in our family," Campbell said with a smile.

As for Peters, she said she can’t wait for this year’s fair, highlighting the variety and quality of items to be found there. "Some art fairs have such similar things, that you get the feeling, ‘Didn’t I see this at the last booth?'" she said. "This is definitely not like that. Every booth is unique."

"And," she added, "It really gets you in a festive mood."

The Hollyday Art Fair runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, December 3 at the Andersen Enrichment Center, 120 Ezra Dr. in Saginaw. The luncheon, featuring chicken salad croissants, chicken noodle soup or chili, cookie and a beverage, is available from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tickets for the luncheon can be purchased for $6 in advance at the Andersen Enrichment Center, or at the door. For more information, call 989-759-1362.

© Jeremy Evans, 2010