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Occoquan Craft Show Kicks Off 42nd Year

Crowds poured into the Occoquan Craft Show.

The Occoquan Craft Show kicked off its 42nd year running with a bang on June 4 and continued through June 5. The show runs twice a year annually, the first weekend in June and the last weekend in September. The Spring Craft Show offers work by both contemporary and country crafters and artisans from Occoquan and from all around the United States.

“There’s a good crowd this year and considerably more vendors," said Pat Thomas, Craft Show Director. "We have 276 vendors this year with a lot of quality stuff and some new vendors. I see a trend that the show is bouncing back as the streets were packed by 11am.  I think we’ll get about 8,000-10,000 attendees the first day.”

People are less nervous about the economy, Thomas said. "Vendors said their sales are fine and people are more comfortable to spend this year.”

For Nishi Langhorne, this is her second time attending the show and she is planning on being here again in the fall.  She is artist and owner of Magnetism, a hand-crafted jewelry company.   

“I was here last fall,” she said.  “We did well last time and I’m hoping to do as well or better this time.  The weather is supposed to be beautiful which attracts the people.  Last time, I didn’t know the system.  I didn’t know how to price, how to display, and how to accommodate as many people as possible in the tent.” 

This was the third year for Linda Condray, artist and owner of Walking on Broken Glass who sells mosaic, fused and traditional stained glass art.  “So far the crowds look good,” said Condray.  “My sales usually go in spurts, but we lucked out and have gorgeous weather.  I’m very happy with the Occoquan show and I’ve always done well here.”

Larry Rom, salesman for the Jellyfish Man booth is fairly new to the show although the company has sold its wares in Occoquan at both Spring and Fall shows for the last three or four years. 

He explained how great it was to see everybody enjoying their product, preserved farm-raised jellyfish encased in resin after having lived their natural lifespan. The jellyfish are bioluminescent so they glow for two to four hours after being exposed to light.  “Customers walk up and think it’s amazing. It’s a way to capture Earth’s natural beauty and recycle it into art.”

Katherine Weisinger has been doing her art for about 23 years and attending the Occoquan show for about five years with her company Forest Flower Jewelry.  In this time, she has become somewhat of a craft show celebrity as show patrons return year after year to buy new pendants for the necklaces they have already purchased from her. 

“People remember me as they make friends with me and they come year after year to add to their collections,” Weisinger said.

Her art begins with real leaves and flowers that are hand-painted and covered in modified laquer to preserve or intensify their colors.  She makes the jewelry cards she displays them on by hand out of vintage Valentine’s Day cards.  She considers her work “vintage cottage.”  Weisinger spends half her year in Ohio and half in Florida, but she misses the human contact of the shows during her downtime.

Happy faces lined the streets of the historic town of Occoquan as customers walked from tent to tent perusing and purchasing the artists’ wares and eating the various culinary delicacies the food vendors were selling.  An interesting addition and culinary treat at the show was turkey legs and fried Oreos.

Thomas' goal for the future of the show is to market it enough to fill it up like it used to when the streets were lined with about 350 vendors.  Some of the current marketing is done through advertisement to vendors in Crafter Magazine, but most of their vendors hear about the show through word of mouth, Thomas said.

For more information on the Occoquan Craft Fair, visit www.occoquancraftshow.com.

nobody important June 06, 2011 at 02:44 AM
This event was no where close to what it was in years past...attendance was dismal at best and duplication of vendors was everywhere....There were a minimum of 7 vendors selling funnel cakes and there were 5 greek food booths...whats up with this???? The big problem with this festival is that several years ago they started allowing imported junk to be sold and the true artists and real crafters pulled out, along with the buyers of quality arts and crafts....now there is a different "class" of people who attend the festival and it is not the same,and never will be until they start jurying the event and stop duplicating the food vendors...they have a long way to go...
nobody important June 06, 2011 at 02:48 AM
When a show starts to fail the first thing they do is start selling real estate....this is happening at Occoquan and it is so sad....Some vendors were allowed in two weeks before the event,,,well past the deadline for applications,,,the director doesn't even abide by her own regulations....
Potomac Soap Company June 06, 2011 at 11:17 AM
I agree somewhat with the above comments. I have been a resident of Prince William County for over 30 years. The Occoquan Craft Shows used to be the cream of the crop and had tens of thousands of visitors over the weekend. With the down turn of the economy a few years ago I had noticed a change in the craft show scene as a whole. Earning 10X your booth fee was the norm, now many are lucky if they recoup their booth fee and other expenses let alone break even. Spend money on gas or food or gifts? I remember when only handmade items were allowed into the show. When I go to a craft show as a customer myself I expect "crafters" not importers. As a vendor, I had a very positive experience this weekend. Volunteers were very helpful and courteous. Other vendors and merchants and alike were friendly and chatty. My sales were not as high as I would have hoped, but I was pretty successful. And if I didn't make a sale to everyone who walked into my booth, they now know I am located in Occoquan and can come back and make a purchase when ready. It was a great opportunity to meet locals and nearby residents and let them know where my shop is.
Rachel Leon June 06, 2011 at 12:57 PM
Thanks to both of you for sharing your comments!
Lorelei Kennedy June 06, 2011 at 01:46 PM
As a attendee for 15+ years and an employee of one of the merchants for the past 3 years I have seen this show have it's ups and downs. I honestly feel that the show has been in decline for the past few years, this was Pat Thomas's first show as the Craft Show Coordinator and I think she did a great job working with the info she had, applications that came in, and dealing with the mini crises that popped up here and there. I will say I was happy to see a well organized set up and tear down, better bus arrangements, More street signage in Lake Ridge and Woodbridge and a new variety in vendors. Give it time, I bet Fall will be that much better, and with the help of the merchants and vendors spreading the word we can all get even more creative artists and bus loads more attendees to these events!

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