Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Craft Show
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I received an invitation to go to the Country Folk Art Craft Show held in the New Jersey Convention & Expo Center in Edison, New Jersey, I begrudgingly agreed. I figured – what the hell? It wasn’t like I had anything else to do that day. I got there expecting to see some nice little decorative things made from wood, needlepoint – that sort of thing. What I got is what keeps me coming back for more every year. The show I visited on October 23, 2005 was even bigger and better than those I’d attended in the past. The fact that the Expo Center was jam-packed with people is testimony to the fact that people find the craft show an entertaining pastime, and as such, I thought I’d share it with you.
The Country Folk Art Craft Show is an enjoyable experience that satisfies all senses. To get through the front door, you have to pass a huge kettle corn cart where bags upon bags of the sweet tasting popcorn are produced hourly. If you can get past that cart without buying a bag, you have shown amazing restraint. But trust me, once you are ready to leave the Center, you’ll find yourself on line at that cart, mouth watering in anticipation of that melt-in-you-mouth sweet goodness. Once you make it past that cart, you notice the table piled high with cakes of all kinds – chocolate chip, berry, coffee cake – with samples awaiting your arrival. Perhaps you’ll partake in a couple on the way out of the Center. Now, on to the entrance line where adults pay $7.00 and children under 10 years of age pay $2.00. Children? Yes, the craft show is great fun for young and old and you will find that many families, babies in tow, attend the event together. Once admission is paid, your hand is stamped for admittance. This stamp is good for however many days the show lasts, so you only have to pay once and you can attend all three or four days! The fact that the stampers use ink that is only visible under a blue light is a plus. After all, who wants to explain the ink blotch on your hand for the next five to seven days?
As I said, the craft show is something that will please all senses. Take, for instance, the music at the table to your left, just beside the vending machines and rest rooms. That spot is reserved for Golden Oldies where Steve Sauter sells CD sets of Rock ‘n’ Roll from the ‘50s and ‘60s. The prices are reasonable and each set contains a great selection of songs. As you walk through the show, you can hear the music of the good old days, sing along, and smile.
Most people don’t think of food when they think of craft shows. They think of handmade crafts and artistic woodwork. But food is very big at the Country Folk Art Craft Show. With all the samples available at each table, one doesn’t need to eat lunch – but hot dogs and other such fair are available for rapid consumption should you feel the urge.
Country Herbs is always a favorite table to visit. They carry a terrific variety of dips and spreads ranging from spicy to sweet. One can’t pass the table without taking a sample of the dips be it Pizza Party Dip, Country Ranch, Garlic Fiesta, Country Spinach, or any other of the 14 dip and spread flavors available. Each folder is $3.50 apiece, but if you buy five or more, they drop down to $3.00 apiece – a nifty bargain for such amazing taste. Mail orders are available and shipping and handling prices are relatively reasonable as well.
But that’s not the only place you can get tasty dips and spreads. You can head on over to Our Gourmet Pantry where you can find a plethora of soup mixes, dip mixes, seasonings, cookie mixes, pancake mixes, quick breads and more. The folks at Our Gourmet Pantry are special because the do not use artificial ingredients, MSG, or preservatives. All you get is wholesome goodness. Prices are reasonable and the mixes are delectable. Orders can be placed online and shipping prices are great.
Visit the Strawberry Tree Farms table for gourmet soups and seasonings that will make your mouth water. Nutrition, value, convenience and taste are combined to create gourmet food products that everyone will love. If you decide that you would like to order more of their food in the future, Strawberry Tree Farms has a website that is very easy to navigate and right now, shipping is free!
Perhaps my favorite food table in the entire craft show is the Capt. Marriner's Seafood table, where you can sample some of the most amazing soups you ever tasted. The Marriners family began their foray into the seafood business over 60 years ago when Captain Frank’s grandfather came from Norway and settled down in Brooklyn, building a fleet of fishing vessels in the 1940’s. The business has moved locations, but the business always remained in the family. Having been around the business since he was a child, and with over 19 years of experience working the family boats, Captain Frank Marriner now offers his own line of Cape May Style soups, chowders, and frozen seafood specialties. The soups are a tad costly at $54.99 for twelve 15oz. cans, but the taste is worth the expense. My particular favorite is the New England Clam Chowder – the chowder is thick, not watery like some, and the flavor is intense without being overpowering. I’m very picky about my clam chowder, so believe me when I say that Capt. Marriner’s Seafood sells the best clam chowder I have ever tasted.
The Vicki's Country Creations table featured an assortment of cinnamon roasted almonds and pecans in half pound or pound packages. They also offered a wide variety of country gifts from the decorative to the adorable - all at fairly decent prices.
But if it’s candy you’re craving, you’ll find no shortage of it at this show. First, take a peek at Smyles Chocolate Factory, a table heaped with a variety of caramel apples, fudge, chocolate dipped bananas and cheesecake. Smyles Chocolate Factory totes their caramel apples as the finest on the East Coast. They have a special secret recipe that they use on the “Extra Fancy grade Granny Smith apples from Washington State”. The apples come with a variety of toppings. Each apple is $4.50 apiece. There is a minimum order of $16.00 online, but with such a variety of toppings to choose from, I don’t think you’ll have any problems finding enough apples to fulfill the minimum.
Walk a bit further through the show and you’ll find Donna's Delights, which boasts the “finest handmade chocolates around”. Donna’s Delights offer a variety of chocolates, fudges, sugar and salt free chocolates, sugar free fudge, and sugar and salt free cake mixes specially designed for diabetics. They even make baskets and party trays upon request.
My favorite sweets table, however, is Fudgie Wudgie, which sports quite possibly the best fudge I have ever tasted! The gentleman at the Fudgie Wudgie table stated that the secret to the fudge is that they use less sugar and more flavor. The fudge fairly melts in your mouth and you can sample just about any flavor they have – milk chocolate, maple, peanut butter, and more. They also stock chocolate covered pretzels, truffles, and a wide variety of chocolates. I couldn’t resist and just had to buy a half pound of chocolate fudge.
Handmade Crafts & Furniture
Now that you are done sampling all the goodies, it’s time to check out the crafts. Our first stop is The Murphys Cottage Crafts where custom designed furniture is the specialty. Here you’ll find pantries, shelves, tables, entertainment centers, bedroom pieces, cabinets, and more. All of the items that they presented at the craft show were made of pine, but they can make items from maple or oak upon request. Their furniture is finished with latex paint and light stain and comes in a variety of colors. You can even preorder pieces at their website so they are guaranteed to be at a particular show.
But furniture is not all Murphys Cottage Crafts has to offer. You can find items crafted from iron like kitchen and bath accessories, candle holders, flag poles, topiaries, and more. They also have a variety of floral wreaths and garlands. Custom orders are welcome here, so visit their website at themurphyscottagecrafts.com.
If it’s wood crafts you’re into, you’re in for a treat. At some of the tables, these folks are still creating items and it was a special treat to watch one such craftsman carving a figurine from wood on the spot. Stop at Pods, Petals & Pine where you can find handcrafted, hand painted wooden collectibles at a fair price. Another such table is Creations and Beyond where John and Pauline Dragula do their best to supply customers with a wide assortment of wood crafts. Schulz Home Crafts sports a wide variety of wooden crafts including electric lanterns of various shapes and sizes.
Perhaps you are looking for more than just wood. Ceramic Decoratives, run by Ron and Vickie Stitt, sell ceramic items for every use in the home. Each item is “cast, cleaned, fired and hand painted or finished so that no two are alike.”
Trinkets and Such
One can find a tremendous assortment of trinkets, ornaments and other such items at the Country Folk Art Craft Show which makes this an ideal spot for folks to do their Christmas shopping. Petit Tresor boasts a line of unique gifts such as collectible limited edition Faberge musical eggs, hand-painted perfume bottles, Jay Strongwater style picture frames, pillboxes, jewelry boxes, compact mirrors, business card holders, miniature boxes, and more. Angel Friends & Company sports a variety of – you guessed it – angelic decorative items.
The title of this section is a tad off. I mean, the entire craft show represents art of a sort, each table showing off someone’s artistic talent in a variety of ways. So, to clarify, this section is to celebrate the tables that sported photos, paintings, and framed art. The Postage Stamp Art table was quite interesting. Each frame contained an enlarged version of a postage stamp and the actual stamp itself. There was a variety of framed postage stamps at this table including celebrities, cartoon characters, and more. The CSSC: Crafted Sports & Stamp Collectables table contained all sorts of sports and stamp memorabilia. The Framing Lodge was on hand with beautiful artwork set into equally remarkable frames. The prices are a tad steep, but the high quality affords the high price. Lori C. Unfus presented her Country and Primitive Tole Paintings at her table. But my favorite table, by far, was the one sporting the wares of Connie Biggs, Nature Photographer. The photography presented at this table was remarkable – some of the pieces were award-winning photographs. The prices were high, but the talent and beauty made you forget the cost.
Toys for All Ages
Susanne’s Corner featured dolls, knit crafts and more. I had the opportunity to watch as the proprietor of this table braided hair for a doll she was making on the spot. IMPS Handmade Christmas Ornaments table didn’t just contain ornaments for all occasions. They also had terrific wind-up antique metal toys. I used to love these toys when I was a child and when I showed such enthusiastic interest, the proprietor gave me a special treat. She wound up an antique metal chicken and placed it on the floor. The chicken walked a couple of steps and then laid an egg. It did this every couple of steps. Thank you IMPS for that special show!
I was quite surprised to turn the corner at one point during my journey through the Country Folk Art Craft Show and find myself facing an armory of sorts. It was J & J’s Armory table and this was their first visit to the Country Folk Art Craft Show. Being somewhat of a blade connoisseur, I was quite happy to gaze at the various knives, swords, throwing stars and other such fair. Though it was unusual to see such a table at a craft show, I think the owner of J&J’s Armory made an excellent business move. While the wives stock up on crafts, ornaments, and the like, the husbands can peruse the blade collection, purchase a few at a tremendously reasonable price, and grunt happily. Oh, who am I kidding? I vaguely remember grunting myself!
The craft show sported clothes and accessories for all ages. There was jewelry, children’s clothes, jackets, and more. At the Bib Lady table, you could personalize both children’s and adult-sized gifts. Besides personalized bibs, the Bib Lady also has a supply of children’s sweatshirts and tees with adorable sayings such as “Patrick was a saint. I ain’t.” and “It’s not easy being a Princess.” At the Bib Lady’s website, you can order children’s robes, pillow cases, personalized baby blankets, fleece blankets and more.
Denims from Gull Cottage supplied Craft Show patrons with artistic denim jackets and shirts. The jackets were beautifully embroidered with a variety of artistic patterns and objects.
BR's ArtWear, Inc.'s clothing display was simply amazing. The company specializes in men and women’s apparel containing comical hunting, fishing, golf, seasonal, and nature designs. The designs are either silk-screened, appliquéd or embroidered onto the clothing. And we’re not talking cheap grade shirts either. The clothes at this table are high quality. Their online catalog contains over 60 designs on assorted shirts and hats. Prices in no way reflect the quality of the work and I would gladly fork over $38 for the Cat Family sweatshirt, a relatively new addition to their line.
In closing, I would like to apologize to all the folks that I didn’t get to write about in this article. Yes, there were more tables that didn’t make it into the main body of this article – homemade candles, American Indian arts and crafts, jewelry, Christmas ornaments. The reason – it was impossible to fit them all! There is so much to see and do at the Country Folk Art Craft Show that you will find yourself walking through the entire show a dozen times and contemplating coming back the next day on the off chance that you might have missed something. One low price for so much entertainment! I can’t wait to go to the next show! Hope to see you there!
Looking for the next Country Folk Art Craft Show in your area? Check out our Country Folk Art Craft Show schedule at G-POP.net - Country Folk Art Craft Shows.