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Craft Fair-Family Traditions

One hundred vendors will set up shop Dec. 8 at Muscatine Mall for the fifth annual Handcrafted Christmas market sponsored by Muscatine Area Farmers Market.

MUSCATINE — The Christmas market is one of the biggest events of the Muscatine Area Farmers Market season. This year it will be the largest event the market has ever had.

"It's the greatest Christmas shopping experience ever," said Muscatine Area Farmers Market Manager Jennifer DeFosse.

And her embellishment may actually be an understatement. "A Handcrafted Christmas," as the market is called, will feature 100 vendors lining the corridor of Muscatine Mall selling everything handmade from soaps and quilts to baked goods and Christmas candies.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., shoppers and browsers alike may wander the mall to the sounds of a live bluegrass band performing Christmas music, the sights of festive trees and garlands, and even Santa himself. The right jolly old elf will be at the mall from 1-3 p.m.

The previous largest number of vendors was 80 in the five years the farmers market has sponsored the holiday event.

"This is the biggest one we've ever done," DeFosse said, "so, we're pretty excited."

The majority of vendors are local regulars at the seasonal farmers market and craft throughout the year in preparation for the Christmas market. A few vendors that were recruited from other markets will come from the Quad-Cities and Iowa City, DeFosse said, but no matter where they're from, all goods at the market are handmade.

"The greatest thing about shopping small is keeping the money here," DeFosse said. "And you'll find things at this event that you can't find anywhere else."

And there's one toy in particular she thinks will be a hit with children.

"It's a rubberband machine gun," she said, that fires 100 bands in 10 seconds. "But it doesn't hurt."

"Some kids will really love that," she said. "Parents will hate it."

DeFosse began planning for the market in August when vendors started approaching her about participating.

"A lot of thought and effort go into it," she said.

One of the new food vendors this year is Grandma Letty's Pastries which will offer Mexican wedding cookies, pies and buñuelos — fried sweet dough with cinnamon sugar. DeFosse said all holiday treats may purchased at the market, "for people who don't like to bake."

Hosting the market at the mall has been mutually beneficial, providing much needed parking space for market vendors and visitors and promoting small business. Toni Klaren, mall manager, said the mall has partnered with the farmers market for the past few years for its summer market and when DeFosse approached her about the Christmas market, she was happy to support it, too.

"I am super excited because I always come out and shop that as well for Christmas gifts," Klaren said. "It should be a really good selection. It's really awesome that it's grown so much in just a couple years."

Klaren said shoppers should come out to the market to support small businesses and the unique creations crafters have brought to the community.

"I always promote shopping local because the dollars stay here," Klaren said. "Plus, who doesn't like to get a handcrafted item for Christmas. You can't beat it."

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