Whimsical Paintbrush Co., a small business that specializes in watercolor cards, is one of 66 vendors at this year’s St. Bridget Holiday Happenings Craft Show. Photo courtesy of Holiday Happenings
Holiday Happenings: A mainstay for more than 50 years

RIVER FALLS – It’s become tradition for many areas families to attend the St. Bridget Holiday Happenings Craft Show the first Saturday of December. And this year, the craft show promises another year of festive fun from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the St. Bridget School gym.

As far as the planning committee can tell, which includes event organizer Lauren Baillargeon, registration coordinator Doreen Cegielski and marketing manager Sally Jilek, the event has been operating for a least 50 years.

“It has remained an event with the St. Bridget Parish Community, involving the Women’s Ministry and the St. Bridget Parish School,” the committee said. “The standing date is the first Saturday in December.”

This year 66 vendors will be featured in the school gym. Shoppers can find anything from jewelry, children’s items, Christmas décor, soap, and artisans who paint and carve.

The show is popular because it features handmade crafts, Baillargeon said.

“Every item is unique and well-made,” she added. Cegielski and Jilek also believe it’s popular due to tradition.

“The local area has come to expect this fun holiday and social event the first Saturday of December each year (with the exception of 2020,)” they said. “It is unique in that all merchandise is hand crafted by talented local artisans. Shoppers have the opportunity to purchase products they will not find in stores or most online outlets. The variety and uniqueness of the vendor creations are always popular draws for shoppers!”

Additionally, it has always been a community social event offering lunch for purchase and enjoying onsite with family and friends. Takeout items, such as homemade pies, are also available.

The organizers make the most of the St. B’s School facility by arranging all of the vendors in the school gym and entrance foyer for the convenience of set up and the accessibility for the shoppers. Planning for the next year starts immediately after each show. The committee is assisted by parish staff members.

“We discuss and determine how the show went and what elements we may or may not want to adjust for the next year,” they said. “Each August, invitations are sent electronically to previous vendors welcoming them to participate in December’s show. Registration forms are sent electronically to interested vendors and they may register until early November, unless no more spaces are available. They are then placed on a waiting list if desired.”

Baillargeon works behind the scenes to sign up parish school students to help with set up for the vendor spaces and the lunch area, as well as layouts for tables and traffic flow. Marketing begins at the same time as registration.

“This year we put our registration forms online for simplification and better communications for the vendors,” Baillargeon said. “This project was started in the 2022 spring and took about three months and we are very happy with the new online registration process.”

The vendor registration fees raise funds for many causes and parish needs and the wider community. Each year after the event, the committee surveys the parish organizations for their specific concerns and how these funds may support those needs, the committee explained. Sometimes these needs consist of replacing worn or broken equipment, purchasing new equipment, supporting ministries, or sponsoring attendance at special church events. The school Athletic Association and the eighth grade students raise funds by serving the lunch and offering take home desserts as well as operating one of the vendor tables. Proceeds will be used to fund the volleyball, softball and basketball programs, as well as eighth grade graduation, Baillargeon said.

“This provides a service opportunity for our parish families as well as funds for their group’s needs,” the group said. “We are so pleased to sponsor this enjoyable event that unites the community in support of talented, local artists and the needs of our wonderful community.”

November 22, 2022