ST. PAUL - Since 1983, the Visual Arts Centre's annual craft sale has been a holiday staple in St. Paul, filling the St. Paul Rec. Centre with a variety of handmade products.
The event typically takes place the first Saturday of December, but this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-running event will look significantly different.
When the Visual Arts Centre (VAC) board and members started talking this summer about hosting the annual Christmas craft sale, the number of active cases of COVID were still very low in the community.
"We thought we would go ahead and plan to host the sale with all the mandated extra health measures to protect everyone involved in the sale," says Pam Bohn, one of the VAC members. "We were aware that we would have to make changes as the months went on and we would possibly have to cancel the Christmas Sale altogether."
At the time - four months ahead of the planned craft sale - members brainstormed other ideas to support local artisans and crafters who have benefited from the popularity of the annual sale in St. Paul.
"We wanted to make sure we could still connect them with our valued customers who attend the sale each year and support locally made products."
By the time the October meeting came around VAC members realized that hosting the craft sale would be very hard.
"The COVID-19 daily numbers were increasing, there were so many uncertainties about increased restrictions, we were discussing possible insurance issues and liabilities, and we really just wanted to make sure we could realistically protect our community," says Bohn. "Our volunteers also put in so many hours to organize and prepare for the sale. I don't think everyone fully understands what happens in the background to make our craft sale so successful."
The decision was ultimately made to cancel the Christmas Craft Sale and try connecting vendors and shoppers virtually - as many other trade shows and craft sales have done across the province amid the pandemic. The virtual craft sale is being held on Facebook, through a page called "Virtual Christmas Craft Sale by SPVAC."
Shoppers can connect with artisans on the page and purchase handmade items directly through the vendors. All financial transactions are between the customer and the vendor.
"Artists put a lot of love and time in their work, and with all the struggles we have endured the past nine months, supporting local is definitely important," says Bohn.
And while taking the event virtually isn't the same as an in-person craft sale, organizers are hoping those involved - both artisans and shoppers - will still benefit.