#363–Victorian Belle’s Christmas Bazaar—More successful than ever . . .

It’s the holiday season with more than one holiday shopping bazaar to check out. In my opinion, the Victorian Belle’s is the best and probably the one with the most longevity. This group began with about 12 tole painters 45 years ago. Now, it’s a much larger group, who put on a fabulous Christmas Bazaar each year held at the Three Rivers Casino Resort Event Center on the weekend before Thanksgiving.

They spend all year creating hand-crafted items for the Christmas Bazaar. Expect to find crocheted and knitted stocking caps and scarves, endless variations on Christmas tree ornaments, larger decorative Christmas items for the home, a variety of wreaths, accessories for dogs and cats (especially dog beds), soaps and lotions, candies and fruit cakes, jewelry both lovely and whimsical, and always some Ducks’ and Beavers’ paraphernalia. My favorite is the tole painting on various household items; i have several pieces that I put out during the holidays. And each and every item for sale is hand-crafted.

An example of tole painting.
This year during the start of set-up. You can see the beginnings of structures being built to display sale items.

A few other folks, not Victorian Belles, are invited to join the Bazaar. Isham Hobby Photography was there this year with many gorgeous photos––the 8th year to participate. Two authors––Connie Bradley and I were invited to participate with our books in 2011, and the next year, Karen D. Nichols joined us. So, this year was the 12th for Connie and me and 11th for Karen.  

This year’s Bazaar was very successful. There were crowds there on Friday from 9 a.m. when it opened throughout most of the 10-hour day. At times, shoppers were lined up 9 or 10 deep, waiting to pay for their purchases. Saturday wasn’t quite as busy and had a lull in the late afternoon/early evening before a rush just before closing, and Sunday started off slow before picking up steam. Even though, the Bazaar was held in 2020 and 2021, there were not as many tables, masks were required, and only about half as many folks attended. This year was back to more tables, masks optional, and lots of attendees––back to pre-Covid. I think, folks were more than ready to get back into the Christmas shopping groove.

Here are Karen and Connie back in 2019. (I forgot to take any photos this year.)

For the Belles, the set-up is quite involved. Besides decorating the many tables, they construct a free-standing entry way and several structures for holding sale items. And there are Christmas trees of every shape and variety and nearly all decorated—mostly with ornaments for sale.

Set-up and take-down is impressive to watch. It takes a few hours each year on Thursday that involves the Belles as well as husbands and sons and daughters and friends. Many strong men provide the muscle, and hammers and drills are a familiar sound. And the Belles themselves are everywhere bringing in the results of the past year’s creativity, setting it all up, and applying finishing touches.Then it all happens in reverse on Sunday afternoon during the take down.

And this was me last year. I wore a mask this year, too, except when I was eating. I had basically the same display this year.

The preparation actually starts before Thursday as each participant makes sure they have everything they are going to need. For us three authors, that means making sure we have enough books and getting to the bank for money to make change and hunting down everything else we’re going to need. Then on Thursday morning, we pack everything we’ll need in our vehicles, and that afternoon, head to the Casino’s Event Center to set-up.

When we first started, we only had one or two books apiece, so we fit around one fairly large round table. Nowadays, we need three tables, which some years, we have to provide. This year, we did not have to provide any, but I had my six-footer in my car, just in case.  We bring our own table coverings and holiday decorations, display necessities like vinyl holders with prices, business cards, of course, the books, and in my case, my all-occasion cards with my photographs and poems and my bridges’ chart. We also handle our own money, so we need a change purse and our Square readers and mobile phones to handle credit card purchases.

This is from a previous year, but shows more how it looks when set up.

Once set-up is completed, the actual event is a bit of a marathon. On Friday and Saturday, the hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. We brought crossword puzzles for the lulls, as well as doing a lot of catching up with each other. And each of us made the rounds, doing our own Christmas shopping. We also brought our lunches, which we nibbled on throughout mid-day, and candy treats that we shared with each other during late afternoons.

We all sold more books than ever before. And on Sunday, Connie sold 63 books––a one-day record for us. Over the three days, I sold a total of 42 books and made more than $735. I was very pleased. And Connie and Karen were also very pleased with their sales. And the Belles had record sales. So, it was successful all around.

My bundle of two bridge books for $5 off. I think I sold five bundles.

Here are some of my favorite memories. More than once, a wife would come back minus the husband to pick up one of the ribbon-wrapped bundles I had created of the two bridge books for their hubby’s Christmas present. And there were the heartfelt moments, as well as a few tears, as folks recounted their experiences or that of a relative with cancer, when picking up and looking at my book The Cancer Blog. That book was my biggest seller on Friday.

My most memorable moment, though, was when customer Joyce Harrison came to my table to tell me how she had used The Crossings Guide that she had bought last year. She has used it to walk across every bridge covered in the book with either family or friends accompanying her. She was just so excited about the book. Who knew! After talking to her, I was excited too!

This blue and silver beaded pen is the one I bought for book signings while shopping at the Christmas Bazaar.

Next year, Connie, Karen, and I plan to be back at the Belles Bazaar, and I will be signing my books with my new pen that I purchased this year. It’s covered with tiny blue and silver beads that sparkle in the light.  I just love it! Besides, it matches the blue of five of my six books.

So, mark your calendars for the Victorian Belles Christmas Bazaar in 2023 on the weekend before Thanksgiving at Three Rivers Casino Resort Event Center. See you there!

About crossingsauthor

Judy Fleagle spent 22 years teaching 1st and 2nd grades and 21 years as editor/staff writer with Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines.Since 2009, she has written five books: "Crossings: McCullough's Coastal Bridges," "The Crossings Guide to Oregon's Coastal Spans," "Around Florence," "Devil Cat and Other Colorful Animals I Have Known," and "The Oregon Coast Guide to the UNEXPECTED!!!."
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