Holiday Handcrafter’s Market celebrates 40 years, Oct. 13-14

By Chris Marchand

There are very few public events that can lay claim to four decades of presence in a community. On Oct. 13-14 the Dryden Regional Arts Council’s (DRAC) Artists and Handcrafters’ Holiday Market will do just that at Eagles’ Landing.

The event will open on Friday the 13th (spooky) from 5-9 p.m. and run Saturday (Oct. 14) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

One dedicated local artisan has played a role in nearly every one of the events over the past 40 years, which has become a staple of autumn in Dryden and a hub for the region’s handcrafters in the run-up to the Christmas season.

Weaver and fabric artisan June Aitken of Barclay Crossing has been there from the start in 1977.

“One year at the Best Western a Northwestern Ontario crafts group had a little conference,” said Aitken. “From there we had a display at the high school and then we decided we could make a market of it. When we moved from the high school, we went to the lobbies in the curling club — upstairs and downstairs. That was hard on the exhibitors and on the customers. The manager at the time suggested if we moved the date up before thanksgiving we could use the ice surface.”

Over the years the event peaked at over 70 exhibitors, though has since stabilized to around 40 or 50, says Aitken who has had to bow out of the last few shows as an exhibitor but stays involved in the organizational side of the event — handling the registration.

“We have people from Winnipeg, Fort Frances, Atikokan and Sioux Lookout and we must have some from Thunder Bay,” she said. “We’re the only market big enough to make people come from out of town between Kenora and Thunder Bay.”

The 40th annual event will feature hourly draws of $25 market gift certificates. Admission is free and donations for the Dryden Food Bank will be accepted at the door.

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