Crafts in the Park

File photo

Vendors will be returning to their booths next Saturday, May 9, for the 40th annual Crafts in the Park.

For the past 40 years, shoppers have flocked to Andover on the Saturday before Mother’s Day to find a unique gift for the special women in their lives. Luckily for mothers, this year promises to be the same.

Crafts in the Park — Andover’s oldest juried crafts fair — will once again fill the public green at Chestnut and Bartlet streets on Saturday, May 9.

Christ Church, which sponsors the event, is expecting 170 vendors selling an array of high-quality, handmade original craft and artwork to set up booths for the day. Offerings will include finely crafted jewelry, pottery, candles, fine art, prepared foods, clothing and home accessories, photography and needlecraft.

“We are really excited about this year’s crafters,” organizer Karen Van Welden-Herman from Christ Church said. “The fair is always the Saturday before Mother’s Day — rain or shine. People come out for beautiful spring weather to enjoy really fine handcrafts and maybe buy something for Mother’s Day.”

One of the vendors, Yolanda Mendez of Andover, whose business is called YM Jewelry Designs, is keeping her fingers crossed for good weather.

“If the weather is good, the whole family comes,” Mendez said. “When it rains, it hurts.”

Mendez certainly knows the weather’s impact on the outdoor event. For the last eight years, she’s sold her one-of-a-kind gemstone jewelry at Crafts in the Park. She remembers talk of moving the event indoors as rain consistently fell on the event for a few years, affecting profits. But, the indoor move never happened.

She is among 16 crafters from Andover who plan to take part this year.

“I just really like the show and that’s why I keep coming back,” Mendez said. “It’s so local for me and I enjoy seeing everyone.”

Van Welden-Herman said in selecting the vendors each year, jurors try to identify a mix of offerings so there is something for everyone to enjoy.

While many vendors represent repeat participants who are popular with the crowds, being selected one year doesn’t mean a guaranteed return the following year. Vendors must apply each year and be juried into the show.

Jurors cull through several hundred applicants before making their final decisions, looking for quality and uniqueness as opposed to crafters who sell to large retail operations, Van Welden-Herman said.

“We try to pick unique items that are well made and to also attract interesting food vendors,” she said. “We do have longtime crafters whose product is consistently excellent. People look for them or ask for them. We respond to that.

Van Welden-Herman said the crafters like the show because it is well run. Organizers seek to place the vendors in their desired locations and a volunteer team is available to direct them to their booths and provide coverage for them during breaks. Plus, free coffee and doughnuts await them when they arrive in the morning to set up.

It adds up to good customer service and consistency proven over a long period of time and it’s a winning strategy.

“One longtime crafter whose wife passed away in January wrote us that he was sorry he was no longer able to participate. He told us he thought this was the best organized crafts fair in a very large area,” Van Welden-Herman said.

One favorite that is returning is the Mill City Jazz Band, which has been playing at Crafts in the Park for years.

“We love them and it always makes the day so festive,” she said.

IF YOU GO

What: 40th annual Crafts in the Park, featuring 170 vendors; sponsored by Christ Church of Andover

When: Saturday, May 9, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine

Where: The Park, Chestnut and Bartlet streets, Andover

How: Free admission; visit www.craftsinthepark.com for more information.

SAVE THE DATE: Art in the Park 2015

While it’s still a ways off, look for another popular town event to be back on the calendar this fall after a one-year absence.

The Andover Artists Guild is already making plans for the return of its Art in the Park 2015 on Saturday, Sept. 19, in The Park at Chestnut and Bartlet streets.

Too few volunteers resulted in the event’s cancellation last year, but the guild has been working since January on reviving the much-missed art show that had been held in town for decades.

Uli Kapp of Andover, president of the Andover Artists Guild, announced in an email recently that the “past few months have been a period of renewal for the guild” and that she was pleased that Art in the Park will be back.

“We got the permits, more volunteers and we are ready,” she said.

Joining Kapp in organizing Art in the Park are chairman Kevin Meisinger, Elaine Meisinger and Carol Boileau.

To stay up to date on the plans, visit http://www.andoversartistsguild.com.

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