Old Shawnee Town Craft Fair set for Saturday
Thirty-five years ago, Marilyn Breneman and Judy Owens were looking for something to bring more people to Old Shawnee Town.
The duo ran the then-fledgling museum’s gift shop, which was filled with hand-made crafts made by local artisans.
“We thought, ‘Well, there’s Old Shawnee Days in June, and it would be fun to have a fall activity to bring people to Shawnee Town again,’” Breneman said.
So they talked to “as many crafters as we could,” and the first annual Shawnee Town Craft Fair in 1966 had 50 booths. The event was such a success, the next year, they doubled the number of crafters selling their wears, and the show quickly became a tradition.
This year’s craft fair will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and while Breneman and Owens handed over the reins of the show four years ago, their influence can still be found while browsing the booths in Shawnee Town.
The Shawnee Town Craft Fair became known for Breneman and Owens’ exacting standards. Those who wanted to have a booth had to fill out an application and include a photograph of their craft.
“We juried it, in a sense, by not taking all flower arrangements or all jewelry; we tried to get a variety of crafts,” Breneman said.
The photo also helped them ensure that the crafts were truly handmade.
“We wanted everything to be handmade; we didn’t want anything purchased, anything for resale,” Breneman said.
Breneman said running the fair was a year-round job, with Owens visiting other craft shows to find crafters to invite to Shawnee. They made sure the fair would have new crafters each year in addition to the favorite crafters that came every year.
Even after the city took over Shawnee Town from the Shawnee Historical Society, Breneman and Owens continued to run the fair. Breneman said they enjoyed it — even planning out details such as the portapotties and shuttle buses for satellite parking.
“We loved doing this, we had a lot of fun,” she said. “We had fun going through all the applicants and choosing the people that would be in it.”
Some rain is forecasted for this weekend, but Breneman said for the most part, the weather has been on their side. She remembers only one year that the show was completely rained out and had to be moved to the next day.
“And then on Sunday, it was raining again,” she said. “About 10:30 or 11, it stopped raining, and about 75 percent of vendors were able to come. They said it was one of their best years ever, because people were so eager to come out.”
Breneman said another year, a drizzle caused vendors to cover their crafts, but that didn’t stop shoppers.
“People came to the show anyway and they were all shopping under the tarps covering the tables,” she said. “It was supposed to be my job to keep the weather good, so I was in big trouble.”
In 2007, the Friends of Shawnee Town took over the fair, but Owens and Breneman have tried to visit each year to see all the crafters they became friends with during the 31 years that they ran the fair.
Breneman said she also has reminders of her years running the fair all around her home.
“I still have so many things that I got at the craft fair or in the shop, and they’re just priceless to me because they are handmade and one of a kind,” Breneman said.