Fort Kent Craft Fair proves successful in return to familiar format
FORT KENT, Maine — Between a COVID-19 upswing in northern Maine and a poorly timed winter storm that dumped 7 inches of snow over Fort Kent, the Greater Fort Kent Area Chamber of Commerce’s 41st annual Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair saw less participation than usual, but proved successful nonetheless.
Last year the event, which coincides with Small Business Saturday, changed its long-standing format to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Rather than selling their homemade goods under one roof as in previous years, the vendors set up shop at a dozen host businesses throughout the greater Fort Kent area.
This year saw a combined format with some vendors setting up at local businesses and many more gathered at the Fort Kent Knights of Columbus Hall on U.S. Route 1.
Twenty-five vendors selling homemade goods from Christmas decor to food products, hats, mittens and jewelry made it to the KC Hall for the weekend event.
“A few had backed out over the last couple of weeks because of the COVID surge and the weather forecast — mostly those from out of town didn’t come for this reason,” Chamber Executive Director Dona Saucier said.
More than 450 customers came through the door on Saturday and about 180 people on Sunday. Historically the fair saw about 900-1,200 customers on Saturday and 700-900 on Sunday, Saucier said.
“Several vendors expressed that they just really like being able to be there and enjoying being around customers again, and interacting with the people who attend this craft fair year after year. So even if they didn’t do as well, at least they were able to connect with people they hadn’t connected with in a couple of years,” Saucier said. “That, in itself, that connection and sense of community, is what has always made this craft fair so special.”
Among the vendors was Jennifer Roy of Jenn’s Darn Yarn. Roy, of Fort Kent, has been crocheting for about 30 years and has sold her homemade hats and other goods at the Craft Fair for about nine years.
“I wanted to learn so that I could make an afghan as a gift for my mom. That was the first thing I ever made,” Roy said. “Then I went to the adult ed classes taught by Hermance Desjardins and I learned new stitches. At that time, I made mostly washcloths. I got into making hats when I had my daughters. I wanted to make them hats to coordinate with their jackets and outfits.”
The Craft Fair had a positive effect on crafters and community members, Roy said.
“They had smiles on their faces — you could tell that even with the masks,” she said. “It was a light in a rather dark time, nothing political — just people coming together.”
“Having many of us all together made life feel a little more back to normal and it was awesome to socialize and see people I haven’t seen in a long time. Even though sales weren’t what they have been in the years past, it was great to get back into the creative groove,” Roy added.
Knights of Columbus served breakfast sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs and fries to Craft Fair visitors who were taking a break from shopping.
The Craft Fair is certain to return again next year.
“It is the Holiday kick-off event for this area for the last 41 years and we’re looking forward to many more,” Saucier said.