Selling their wares for a good cause are, from left: Mary-Ellen Tressy, plus Dracut High students Erin Bufe, 16, and Kiley Murphy, 17., VALLEY DISPATCH/BENJAMIN J. MCELROY

BY JENNIFER AMY MYERS, Valley Dispatch Staff

DRACUT — Thirteen-year-old Raymond Kapala is a born salesman.

While his mother, Julie, was selling her handcrafted, musically themed clocks and keychains, young Raymond was demonstrating marshmallow shooters that were flying off the shelves at the 24th annual Dracut Scholarship Foundation’s Craft Fair Oct. 22 at Dracut High School.

What is a marshmallow shooter? A simple, yet effective toy made of PVC pipes that enables one to use the strength of their breath to shoot mini-marshmallows at a friend, enemy or just across the room.

“We saw someone else selling them at another fair for $15 and figured it would be a lot cheaper and easier to make them ourselves,” said Kapala, who sells his creations for $7 each or two for $12. “Me and my dad have wars with them all the time.”

More than 200 crafters set up shop throughout every nook and cranny of Dracut High School, hawking everything from Christmas decorations and fleece hats and blankets to handmade candles, fudge and jewelry made from vintage bottle caps.

Mark and Linda Crocco manned one of the more unique tables at the fair, selling all-natural soaps, lip balms, bath fizzes and other assorted items that they make by hand at their Tyngsboro home.

Linda and her friend, Joyce, who has since moved to Arizona, started JoyLin Naturals six years ago, using a soap recipe that Joyce happened to have, and the business has expanded and blossomed every since. The Croccos sell their goods at 12 to 15 craft fairs a year and through their Web site:

“I am allergic to a lot of things, so I wanted to make something basic and natural without all of the artificial ingredients and chemicals found in store-bought soap,” Linda said.

The Coccos offer an amazing array of tempting scents, including lemongrass oil, chocolate raspberry almond, cran raspberry oat, lavender, lily of the valley, olive oil and lime spearmint.

Gus Skamarycz, a Tyngsboro beekeeper, provides the couple with fresh honey for those bars that include the sweet nectar.

Crafters from near and far flocked to Dracut on Saturday. Ken and Jackie Malandrino of New Boston, N.H., packed up their trailer full of custom-made foot stools, candy dispensers, and rocking horses, making the trek down to Dracut the night before the fair and sleeping in their trailer in the high school parking lot in anticipation of the big day.

“We were looking for a business to start in our spare time that we can continue into retirement for some extra income,” Jackie Malandrino said. “Now we are doing 20-40 shows a year and traveling all over the place.”

Their creative candy dispensers consist of a mason jar placed upside-down on what looks like a tiny wooden desk. Each is outfitted with a unique knob, decorated with the logos of different sports teams, flowers or other characters.

“These are great with the cold-and-flu season coming up because you don’t have everyone putting their hands in a candy dish; this is much more sanitary,” Ken Malandrino said.

The fair, one of the largest and oldest in the Merrimack Valley, benefits the Dracut Scholarship Foundation, a group that has awarded $1.3 million in scholarships to 1,220 deserving DHS seniors since 1957. This past spring, 40 members of the class of 2005 walked away with $83,900 in scholarship funds.

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