FAIRBANKS — Anchorage photographer Didier Lindsey has traveled to Fairbanks to sell his wildlife photographs at the Holiday Marketplace for the past 21 years. He was there the first year in 1992, and he has been there every year since.
When he made the trip north this past week for the holiday gift show, Lindsey didn’t have great expectations.
“National election years are bad years for business,” Lindsey said, sitting on a stool in his booth Saturday at the Carlson Center as passers-by perused the selection of framed wildlife photographs he had hanging on display.
“You only hear how bad things are,” he said. “One side is attacking the other, and all you hear is the economy is going in the tank and taxes are going up. All the negativity makes people spooked on spending money.”
That didn’t appear to be the case Saturday, however. An overflowing crowd of interested buyers packed the floor of the Carlson Center for the second day of the three-day holiday gift show.
“We’re hoping for 3,500 people today,” marketplace coordinator Kris Knutzen said.
While the bottom floor of the arena usually is the frozen home of the University of Alaska Nanooks, on Saturday it was a crowded, Christmas-decorated maze of vendors and shoppers who were looking to get a head start on their holiday shopping.
One of them was Maryann Wood, who had her husband, Larry, in tow. He was the one carrying the bag. She was the one filling it.
“I don’t think Alaska has been hit yet by the economic drop-off, at least not Maryann,” Larry Wood joked after his wife added a few containers of spices she bought from Trueheart’s Blend, a North Pole spice shop, to the already full bag he was hauling.
“She set her watch alarm (to shop) for two hours, and it’s been way over two hours,” he said with a chuckle.
Now in its 21st year, the Holiday Marketplace is the biggest holiday gift show in Fairbanks. This year’s vendor count was 182, though that’s deceiving because some vendors share a booth, Knutzen said. In reality, there probably were more than 200 vendors represented at the event, which continues from
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.
Fairbanks artist Sandy Jamieson said he was doing a “brisk” business selling T-shirts adorned with his humorous paintings depicting Alaskans and Alaskan wildlife. Holiday gift shows like this weekend’s comprise a big part of his sales, especially since New Horizons, once Fairbanks’ most prominent art gallery, shut down a few years ago.
Likewise, Kasha Ostbloom, owner of Moosetard, which makes and sells gourmet Alaskan mustards, said holiday gift shows account for about 40 percent of her overall business.
“What we do in sales now is what carries us through January, February, March and into April until the farmers market opens,” Ostbloom said.
Based on what she saw at a couple of shows in Anchorage and what she was seeing Friday and Saturday at the Carlson Center, Ostbloom said Fairbanksans are being more frugal with their holiday spending.
“Anchorage seems to be freer to spend right now,” she said. “Up here, everyone is preparing for having enough money to pay their fuel bill. People are still spending, but they’re being careful about their spending.”
Kevin McKenzie, a Fairbanks tile contractor, stopped by the Moosetard booth to buy a bottle of mustard to send to his parents in California.
“They like edibles,” he said. “I know they’re going to like mustard and honey and nuts and soaps, and they’re easy to ship.”
McKenzie said he likes the Holiday Marketplace because it has a lot of vendors with affordable products, many of which are made in Alaska.
Gwenn Davis-Guy, who bought two bottles of Fairbanks-made Lead Dog barbecue sauce at the Moosetard stand, agreed.
“I shop local and try to buy things made in Alaska,” she said.
In addition to supporting the vendors who sell goods, the marketplace provides an economic boost to the community of Fairbanks, Knutzen said.
“Eighty of my (vendors) are here from someplace else than Fairbanks, and they need hotels to stay in and restaurants to eat at,” she said.
Lindsey, the Anchorage photographer, is a prime example. In addition to the $550 rental fee for booth space, Lindsey figures he’ll spend about that much again on gas, a hotel room and food.
“I dump $900 to $1,000 to come here, and if I sell $2,500 to $3,500, I’ll be doing good,” he said. “Doing shows like this there are guarantees. You’re not making a whole lot of money.”
Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.