At 10:49 a.m. Saturday, autumn quietly arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, almost an hour after the annual Fairfield Kiwanis Club Juried Arts & Crafts Fair got under way for the 21st time on Town Hall Green.
Even though the fair, which continued Sunday, was not specifically a celebration of the autumnal equinox, the transition from summer to fall was evident among many of the 65 vendors.
There were some, like Jen Rainis of Fairfield, whose A Shore Thing booth featured beach decor made from seashells and weathered wood. There were others, like Ken and Pat Piddington of Monroe, whose Red Barn Crafts included a host of Halloween and harvest wreaths, wall hangings and floral arrangements.
"I'm very seasonal," said Pat Piddington. Her wreaths were made of thin apple slices, leaves and small pumpkins, and her floral arrangements included cat tails and other fall foliage.
One crafter sold stacked plush pumpkins, black cats and rotund stuffed pumpkins wearing witch hats.
The necklaces and bracelets of several jewelers were not obviously leaning in the direction of one season or another, but the colors of their natural minerals and gem stones were reminiscent of summer and fall; the aquas and blues of apatite, turquoise and Amazonite representing the shore and the yellows, oranges and reds of amber, citrine and garnets evoking images of Autumn leaves.
"There's no end to nature's unbelievable-ness," said jeweler Jane Weiner of Hamden, who participates in several shows on the Town Hall Green each year.
Nature was also well represented in a new feature to the annual fair this year: the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk booth invited children to touch several living sea creatures, bones and fossilized teeth.
"I like looking at all the animals and touching the crab. The horseshoe crab was my favorite. I didn't think the legs would feel smooth. I thought they would be rough," said Rachel Logue, 8, of Fairfield.
Dustin Walters, 7, of Fairfield, was so excited to touch the tooth of a Megalodon -- an extinct knd of shark -- it prompted him to tell an aquarium employee he wanted to "bring my scuba diving suit to the aquarium and jump into the shark's tank." Sharks are his favorites, he said.
The fair also featured arts and crafts, a farmers' market, baked goods, the sale of potted mums, grilled food, kids' activities including an inflatable bounce house, and music by 3 in The Pocket.
Glenn Barnhard of Fairfield, the presidential advisor for the Fairfield Kiwanis Club and co-chairman of the crafts fair, said they were able to attract double the number of vendors this year that in recent years, in part because of the incentives the club offered to the artists and crafters, including a lower entry fee. "The economy is tough and they need a break," Barnhard said.
Despite the still flagging economy, Barnhard said he expects the fair will bring in record proceeds. "We are anticipating making 50 percent more money this year. This year I'm hoping to net $8,000. Everything we make, short of expenses, goes back to the community and helps local children in need," he said.
The fair also helped the women who rely on the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, a faith-based organization that helps the homeless, the hungry and the addicted. A weekly crafts workshop at the mission teaches women to make beaded necklaces that they were selling at the fair.
"It teaches perseverance and patience," said mission client Tanya Turner of Orlando, Fla.
Kellie Creigh of Ansonia, another client, said the jewelry-making is fun but also has a purpose.
"It teaches them how to manage a little business, how to purchase (supplies), how to design. It teaches them how to work with their hands and elevates their self-esteem," said Nancy DeMaille, director of women's services for the mission.
The fair benefits the programs of the Fairfield Kiwanis Club, which was chartered in 1961. Kiwanis' service projects include pediatric trauma, safety, child care, early development, infant health, nutrition, and parenting skills, according to its website. Other projects work to stop substance abuse, help the elderly, promote literacy, and support youth sports and recreation.
"I like the Kiwanis. They do a lot of good things for kids," said Bert Mercado of Norwich, who was at the event to sell his wife Nancy Johnson-Mercado's "functional and decorative" stoneware pottery for a third year.
For information about the Fairfield Kiwanis Club, visit www.fairfieldkiwanis.org