I’m not the world’s most enthusiastic shopper, but I really dig finding the perfect Christmas gift for someone I love. And my favorite way to find that item is by patronizing local artisans, frequenting farmer’s markets, and hitting up good old church bazaars.
And then there’s the Queen of Portland’s Holiday Craft Fairs, Crafty Wonderland. This hugely popular event, featuring more than 250 local artisan vendors, is scheduled for Dec. 9 and 10 at the Oregon Convention Center (Hall A, 777 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Portland). Hours are 11 a.m to 6 p.m. and admission is free and open to the public. Come and get your Christmas freak on!
Crafty Wonderland does not allow any of their vendors to sell mass produced or imported items, so purchasing a holiday gift at Crafty Wonderland means you are not only supporting a local artisan directly with your money, but you’re getting a one of a kind, handmade gift, something that truly speaks to the personality of the person you give it to.
But I’ll tell ya straight up: the Wonderland can be a total madhouse, especially for the uninitiated and unprepared. Therefore, let me help make your day easy and fun with some tips from a grizzled veteran of the craft fair scene.
# 1. Get There Early (and Prepared)
Arrive promptly, well rested, and having already had your morning coffee. This place fills up fast with serious browsers and shoppers. To maintain your equanimity, take good care to arrive rested and in good humor, then those “maddening crowds” will not madden you.
# 2. Did Somebody Say ‘Swag?’
Another reason to show up early (by 10:15 at the latest) on Saturday is because Crafty Wonderland is giving away vendor-filled swag bags to the first batch of people through the door. What a fantastic way to get you in the mood to scope out some bigger purchases, not to mention get some cool free stocking stuffers!
# 3. Fuel for the Crafty Marathon
Is there food? Yes, and no. The Oregon Convention Center does have food vendors, outside of the Crafty Wonderland event. Wonderland vendors themselves will not be selling food to consume on site. Vendors can only sell specialty packaged foods.
So don’t arrive on an empty stomach. Nothing makes a Christmas shopper crankier faster than low blood sugar. Come with some extra money to buy food from convention center vendors, or pack a lunch. It’s perfectly acceptable to take a break from all the hullaballoo and find a place to sit and enjoy a meal before heading back inside for more shopping. Don’t be shy, you’ll see plenty of other people doing the same thing.
# 4. Stay Hydrated
Christmas shopping is thirsty work!
# 5. ‘She Who Hesitates…’
Love it? Buy it! Avoid my past mistake: I saw something I knew my mom would just adore, had the money in hand, then said, “I’ll just walk around the hall one more time and get it next time I come by.” Well, by the time I made it around the packed hall and back to that vendor, yep, gone! If you love it, somebody else will, too. Get it while the getting’s good.
# 6. Kid Vendors: The Heart and Soul of Crafty Wonderland
Maybe you’re overwhelmed by the crowds; maybe you don’t have much money to spend; maybe you just want to support fledgling, young local artisans. Whatever your reason, do not miss out on the section of Crafty Wonderland reserved for kid vendors. This is my absolute favorite part of this event. Crowds are thinner, giving you a chance to chat with artisans/vendors, prices are lower at the kid’s booths, and it’s great fun! Kids come up with their own very unique gift and craft ideas and nothing feels better than supporting the artistic and entrepreneurial dreams of our city’s youth. Two years back I bought a fantastic Harry Potter Magic Wand from a youth vendor. I kept it for myself, but that’s beside the point. Put your money where your heart is.
Follow these tips and you’ll have a glorious day at Crafty Wonderland, supporting local artisans and crossing names off your gift list. A rare win-win holiday shopping experience!