A steady flow of people walking through Black Bear Casino’s convention hall was welcome for the over 100 vendors at the Craft, Art & Vendor Fair hosted by the Cloquet Chamber of Commerce from Oct. 29 to 30.
Attendees could shop for anything from Christmas ornaments and baked goods to handmade crafts and beyond.
With classic hits playing over the speaker system and a buzz from people shopping, Carolyn Gilbertson said it felt like things were getting back to normal. Gilbertson, along with her husband Rich, run Gilby’s Acre where they sell homemade fudge, baked goods and also rugs.
“I am so glad to be back,” she said. “I’ve noticed this has been one of my busiest years, people are just dying to get out and shop and chat.”
Gilbertson runs the fudge and food side of the business while her husband makes the rugs. Her husband got into rug making because she had a loom in their basement and after he put it together, they realized he was a natural at it.
“I like to tease him, I say, ‘he stirs my fudge pots and I tie his rug knots,’” she said.
Gilbertson said one new thing she has had to look out for this year is figuring out the supply of certain items. For her jams she has had a tough time sourcing jar lids compared to previous years.
“You couldn’t find a jar lid to save your life,” she said. “I got those lids from a friend of mine’s mother who lives in southern Wisconsin close to a hardware store that actually sells lids.”
Cloquet Chamber of Commerce office manager Alyson Leno said there had been a consistent amount of people at the fair all morning.
“We have seen a lot of bags going out, so people are doing a lot of good shopping,” she said.
Leno said the fair gets local vendors but also vendors from across the state and some from as far as North and South Dakota. The chamber of commerce tries to make sure there are no vendors selling the same items, and if they are similar each vendor has their unique spin on it.
With the wide variety of goods and the chamber advertising the fair as an opportunity to buy Christmas gifts, attendees have been taking advantage of it to buy early presents this year.
“It is nice for it to be in one space and they have a lot of different options to choose from,” Leno said. “Some Christmas (fairs) later in the fall have been canceled already, so I think people were really excited that we still held it.”
Attendees were happy and surprised with the quantity and variety of vendors. Barb Larsen and her friend, Carol Misiak, normally visit Black Bear Casino but decided to check out the vendor fair.
“We know that (the fair) is really nice, and it’s twice as big as I’d thought it would be,” Larsen said. “I was overwhelmed when I walked in the door.”
Larsen and Misiak were not looking for anything in particular, but Misiak was hoping to get some early Christmas shopping done.
Nancy and Scott Peterson run Galvanized Guy, where they sell plasma cut shovels, cans and any other metal items along with blankets, tableware and other home decor.
“This is always a very busy show, and today the traffic has been very nice,” Nancy Peterson said.
The Petersons are another married couple who work at different ends of their business. Nancy focuses on the blankets and home decor, while Scott works with the metal pieces. Everything at Galvanized Guy is made by hand, as opposed to using a machine program to cut the metal art pieces.
They also produce custom work, and the couple even looks to purchase old metal items to use for themselves.
Galvanized Guy has been a part of the fair for four years and it gets the same booth for each event.
“We have some regular customers who seek us out, even to just say hi and see if there is anything new they have to have,” Nancy Peterson said. “It’s a community — the folks on the corner down there … are always in that spot.”