Quality keeps customers coming to Colonel Gray craft fair

Stephen Brun newsroom@journalpioneer.com
Published on December 2, 2008
This is the season of craft fairs and it was Colonel Gray Senior High Schools turn recently. Peggy MacDonald of Petals and Poetry arranges a wreath at her booth. Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

Tony Campbell can attest to the fact that the quality keeps people coming back to the Colonel Gray Christmas craft fair every year.
The Cornwall-based silversmith and gemstone cutter has been peddling his wares at the high school fair for the past eight years.
During this year's incarnation of the fair, Campbell saw evidence of how good work and a well-run event translates into regular customers.
"I looked at two pieces today, and one I did 16 years ago," he said. "Those are the people that come back each year

Tony Campbell can attest to the fact that the quality keeps people coming back to the Colonel Gray Christmas craft fair every year.
The Cornwall-based silversmith and gemstone cutter has been peddling his wares at the high school fair for the past eight years.
During this year's incarnation of the fair, Campbell saw evidence of how good work and a well-run event translates into regular customers.
"I looked at two pieces today, and one I did 16 years ago," he said. "Those are the people that come back each year and the success is going to be in the quality of your work. Colonel Gray's probably one of my favourite shows. It supports the band and it's those type of shows I enjoy doing. You get some major support from the parents of kids who are here."
This year's show was moved up a week so it didn't conflict with other craft fairs like it did in the past.
Campbell, who is a member of the Island Craft Council, said he felt less guilty about attending the Colonel Gray fair this year since it was no longer the same weekend as the council's event at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.
"I would sneak out of here to go see what was going on at the craft council show where I should've been," he laughed.
"It was mostly jewelry at the Confederation Centre, but you have a variation here."
The craft fair scaled back the number of spaces slightly this year to make things more comfortable for the vendors, said registration co-ordinator Bonnie MacDonald.
The spaces sold amounted to 96 different vendors who saw crowds of nearly 4,000 over the two days.
The secret to the success of one of the more popular Island craft fairs - now in its 16th year - lies with the hospitality of the parents and students of the band program.
"It's the entire atmosphere, really," said Grade 11 student co-ordinator Michelle MacDougald about the fair's popularity.
"Everyone's pretty positive and every time I walk by I see students smiling, so I think we all really enjoy opening our school up to everybody."
Grade 12 co-ordinator Emily Smith agreed that the students enjoy the event as much as the people who attend.
"We're a pretty outgoing school," said Smith.
"A lot of the students are around and even if they're not working they're directing people or saying hi. I think the school just makes you feel welcome with everybody around."
The job of the student co-ordinators was to get band parents on board for the planning committee, then each parent has a particular section of the fair they're responsible for organizing.
It's a unique fundraising experience for the band compared to the bottle drives they did in the past, said Colonel Gray band teacher Roger Jabbour.
"It's just awesome to see the kids working with their parents because there's not that many fundraisers that have both working hand in hand. Even though they're working unofficially, they still know they're doing something special here."
The award-winning band also gets to show off its talents and allow the public into their world, said co-coordinator and band parent Andrea Greenan.
"It's nice for us to be accessible and for people to see what the students actually do," she said.
"There's so much negative chat about teenagers that it's nice to see them in a role that they're rewarded for and so the public can appreciate their part in it as well."
First-time vendor Dianne Griffin said the fair's popularity and the organization level was overwhelming.
She and her partner make lighted glass baubles out of P.E.I. sea glass, and even had some people tell them to take their product, called Bowz, to more craft fairs.
"We did these for family and friends and someone said to us, 'Why don't you go to the craft fair'?" she said.
"(Friday) night it was overwhelming, we could hardly even move. I think next year even more people should come out and experience it. It's a great way to get into the Christmas spirit."