Rich Vezina and Bruce Cronin are among the busiest volunteers in town right now. Co-chairs of the popular Dracut Scholarship Foundation craft fair, they are still fielding calls from crafters hoping for space at the event, scheduled for Oct. 23 at Dracut High School from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Since most of the tables were booked by August, they’ve had to put those crafters on a waiting list, with hopes for a space next year.
The Dispatch caught up with the Rich and Bruce to find out how the fair fits in with entire Scholarship Foundation effort.
Q: How has the craft fair grown over the years?
A: At the first craft fair, 29 years ago, they had maybe 50 crafters. This year we have 186, set up all over the school, that sell only quality handcrafted items. No commercially produced items are allowed.
Q: How important is the revenue from the craft fair toward the scholarships awarded each year?
A: The craft fair brings in about one-fifth of our annual revenues. The Telethon, $10,000 Raffle and interest on the endowments cover the rest.
Q: In an economic downturn, how is the craft-fair business?
A: Many other craft fairs have reported that overall attendance has gone down, but we have still had between 2,000 and 2,400 people come through the door — many lined up and waiting on the sidewalk before we open. In a downturn, many people look at craft fairs as an affordable option to buy quality handcrafted gifts without having to go to an expensive mall.
Q: What factors have made the Dracut craft fair so successful, even as many other craft fairs have disbanded with changing trends?
A: Variety is the key. People look for variety, and we make sure that we don’t have a lot of the same items. We attract only quality crafters, who also appreciate that all the other crafts are of the same quality. And the timing is good — at the end of October, before Thanksgiving. Many people mark the craft fair as the beginning of holiday shopping — making it their annual pilgrimage.
Q: This is a lot of hard work. What is your personal satisfaction?
A: The friendships you make over the years through volunteering. But when you really feel it is Pride Night, when the scholarships are given out, the culmination of a whole year’s work. You talk to the students after and it energizes you for the following year. We also like seeing the thank-you notes from the students. At the September meeting we pass those around and everyone on the foundation reads them and enjoys them.