The number of vendors at the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce's 50th annual Arts and Crafts Show on Saturday was half the number at the fair's peak, but visitors still found a bounty of appealing and unusual merchandise.
Under sunny skies today, the weekend-long event attracted steady crowds to the historic Town Hall Green, corner of Old Post and Beach roads.
"I think there's a good variety," said Margaret Taylor as she walked among tents on the green early Saturday afternoon. "There are some really unique vendors."
Taylor said she bought two hand-blown glass items that glow in the dark, and she also liked towels in the shape of animals, pens made from unusual materials and "Vera Bradley-looking pocketbooks." Taylor said she also liked the event's atmosphere and the amount of space between vendor booths, but she thought too many vendors sold jewelry.
Geri Spollett of Fairfield, wife of the Rev. David Spollett, minister at First Church Congregational across the street from Town Ha;; Green, liked the music performed by violinist Lenny K., who had agreed to play at the fair in exchange for having a booth.
"It added a great deal to have the music," Spollett said. "I always love these little things on the green. They're a nice way to bring the community together." Spollett said she also bought a glow-in-the-dark glass ball and enjoyed seeing the variety of jewelry on sale.
Christine Volpe of Killingworth, who staffed the "Glow in the Dark Glass" booth, said Saturday was her first time at the Chamber of Commerce's Arts and Crafts Show and that she liked it. "The setup is really nice, everything has gone smoothly, which is key, and we're here for two days, which is a good thing," she said.
Volpe said most of her hand-blown glass items have a nautical theme and she pointed to glass encased figurines of jellyfish, frogs, dolphins, turtles, sharks and starfish. She said she designs the creations and has them made in California, Massachusetts, Washington and the Carolinas. Phosphorous pellets in the glass make them glow in the dark, she said.
Volpe's creations ranged in price from $15 to $180. She also sells 30-pound aquariums made of glow-in-the-dark glass but didn't have any of those at her booth on Saturday.
Neil Pabian of Fairfield, staffing the "Wooden Ages" booth that sold ballpoint, rollerball and fountain pens made from unusual materials, said Saturday was also his first time at the chamber's show.
"It's beautiful down here. It's a great day," Pabian said. "I'd love to see more people, but who wouldn't?" His booth included pens made from shredded money, a jaw bone from an alligator, a Rolex watch, spent military ammunition and a prickly pear cactus skeleton. "Just about anything can be made into a pen as far as I'm concerned," he said.
Pens ranged in price from $20 to $1,500. The pen made from a Rolex watch was the most expensive pen on sale, while the alligator jawbone pen was priced at $100 and the prickly pear cactus skeleton pen was priced at $300.
Pabian said he got the alligator jaw bone from a friend associated with the TV show "Swamp People" and that he grows cactus for his pens at his shop on Connecticut Avenue in Bridgeport.
Pabian's pens are encased in acrylic and accept standard refills from Staples. He said his best selling pen isn't a writing pen, but a perfume holder in the shape of a pen. "You can touch up with cologne or perfume anytime. They're great for traveling and legal on airplanes," he said.
The temperature Saturday was a little warm for a quilt, but Barbara McMellon and her daughter, Laurie Baird, owners of Lordship Quilts in Stratford, hoped visitors to arts and crafts event were thinking ahead for the comfort quilts would bring during cold weather. "Our biggest time for fairs is in the fall. It's a little hard to sell quilts when it's 90 degrees outside," McMellon said. She said Saturday was her first time at the chamber's fair, but added that sold quite a few quilts at a fair on the same green held last fall by the Kiwanis Club.
McMellon said she and Baird made all the quilts, which ranged in size from table runners to a quilt for a queen-sized bed. She said quilts made from tee-shirts are popular as high school graduation presents if people saved their child's tee-shirts over the years. Those quilts sometimes include high school athletic jerseys, she added.
The price of quilts ranged from $25 for a table-topper to $450 for a queen-size bed, McMellon said.
Jennifer Rainis, owner of "A Shore Thing," sold bookends, picture frames, night lights, mirrors, wreaths, ornaments, candleholders and soap holders that include sea shells, and also sold wooden signs with a Fairfield theme. "I grew up in Fairfield so it's kind of close to my heart. A lot of the shells that I use I've actually collected on Penfield and Southport beach," she said.
Rainis said the chamber's show was only the second fair she's attended as a vendor and she liked the atmosphere. "It's very nice, people are very friendly," she said.
Merchandise at Rainis' booth ranged in price from a dollar to $40.
Other vendors at the event sold jewelry, hair accessories, paintings and photographs.
Patricia Ritchie, president and CEO of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, said 42 vendors were at the arts and crafts show. "There's fewer, but the quality is better," she said. "This gives the artist a chance to spread out a little bit, which they love."
"We've been hit by the economy as have the artists, so the show is smaller, but it's better quality," she added.
Ritchie also noted that she turned some potential vendors away from the show because the chamber requires vendors to make everything they sell. "If they don't make the stuff themselves, they can't be in the show," she said.