FALL RIVER — The numbers don’t lie. Plenty of people seek options to big box stores and online shopping during this gift-buying season. And Greater Fall River offers a time-proven option.
The 46th annual Christmas Arts and Crafts Fair, the long-running brain child of Jim Rogers, is scheduled for Saturday Dec. 3, and Sunday, Dec. 4, (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days) at Durfee High School’s Luke Urban Field House.
The Urban Field House is often referred to as cavernous. That’s accurate, and it’s a good thing. Rogers said that this year’s fair will feature almost 200 crafters. And if the weather cooperates, as it did a year ago, Rogers said he expects as many as 8,000 visitors. That’s a lot of folks who aren’t interested in handing out gift cards at Christmas.
The fair benefits the Fall River Scholarship Foundation. It raised $25,000 last year.
“People love homemade items and they’re tired of big-box stores for their Christmas shopping,” Rogers said. “Most of these items are one of a kind.”
How the fair got its start
Rogers was bitten by the arts and crafts fair bug decades ago when he took his mother and aunts to a fair at the old DeLaSalle Academy in Newport. His immediate thought was that such a fair would be great fit for Fall River.
He shared his idea with then-Bishop Connolly High School Principal, the Rev. Richard Wolff. “He took the keys out of his pocket, slid them across the table, and said ‘The gym is yours,’” Rogers said.
Bishop Connolly High School’s Lafrance Gymnasium was the perfect facility for five years or so, until the Christmas Arts and Crafts Fair in the early 1980s outgrew its first home. Rogers then contacted then Fall River Superintendent of Schools John Correiro and the deal was made to move the show across the street to the Luke Urban Field House.
The fair has not skipped a year, the streak kept intact by going virtual in 2020 during the height of COVID concerns.
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The largest holiday crafts fair in southern New England
Rogers attributes the longevity and growth of the fair to word of mouth from the crafters and customers who do the New England arts and crafts circuit. “They think our fair is a good one, and we listen to them and try to accommodate their needs,” Rogers said.
He added that the Fall River event is the largest arts and crafts fair of its type in southern New England. He emphasized that didn’t happen overnight and that it’s a testimony to the quality of the crafters.
This year’s fair features 20 classes of crafts, ranging from hand-thrown pottery to carved wooden items to painted glass to floral arrangements to Native American crafts and handmade clothes.
What to know about going to the fair
Admission is free and there is abundant parking.
More than 70 of this year’s crafters will be appearing for at least the second time. Among the popular returnees Rogers mentioned in a press release are Andrew Nasser (pottery mugs), Joyce Lorman of Cape Cod (sea glass décor), Brad Carter of Maine (fresh balsam wreathes), Alex Strokanov of Vermont (Russian style Santa dolls) and Dave Paling (nautical driftwood creations).
Among the new crafters are Lana Quann (The Wandering Brush) of New Bedford, leather crafter John Domingo, Terry Murray (Whimsical Mooses), Rick Alfonso (wooden cutting boards) and Heather Vermillion (hand-knit chunky blankets).
While some crafters accept credit and debit cards, Rogers suggests bringing cash. There are items priced in the $100 to $200 range.
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Local authors Steven Manchester, Alison McLennan and Paulette Boudrot will show their books. Rogers will display his photography.
The Durfee National Honor Society and Durfee Orchestra are both volunteering at the event. Anyone else interested in volunteering should call Rogers at 508-673-1118.
In 2022, the foundation distributed $55,000 in college scholarships to Fall River residents.