The hustle and bustle of the holidays is around the corner, and the University Women’s Association has gotten a jump-start on the season.
People ambled through the Pioneer Park Civic Center as string music filled the air. A three-level bazaar filled with vendor booths left plenty of room for shoppers to beeline to their booths of choice or linger at several, browsing jewelry, jellies, pottery and more.
“You know, everybody has their own wish list, but there’s quite the variety out there,” UWA President Ruth Lyle said.
The University Women’s Association has been a nonprofit supporting University of Alaska Fairbanks since 1952. The group has held its annual holiday bazaar since 1968, member Pat Ivey said.
Now in its 51st year, the bazaar has long been a sign of the holiday season coming to Fairbanks. There are some vendors who have been turning up for the annual affair for years now.
“We have some vendors who’ve been here in excess of 30 years,” Ivey said. “There’s a couple of them.”
Vendors at the event do not have commercial stores, Ivey noted, adding that she thinks this is one aspect of the UWA Holiday Bazaar that helps it stand out in the season.
Lyle also noted that everything sold at the bazaar is handmade.
“It can’t be a corporate item that they buy and then sell here,” Lyle said. “So if you shop here it’s crafts that people have made: there’s food, there’s carvings, there’s knives, there’s pottery, there’s knitting and hats, there’s just all sorts of interesting things.”
Proceeds from the event go toward scholarships for UAF students. Last year, 13 students received a total of $18,100 in UWA scholarships. For 2019, 12 students have received UWA scholarships.
So, in the spirit of holiday giving, tables went up inside Pioneer Park and guests came out. Even for longtime bazaar shoppers, there were some new sights.
“We have 26 new vendors this year,” Ivey said.
Ornaments made of spotted seal skin in the shape of mittens were laid out at one booth.
“I’ve got Native art and I’ve got mammoth ivory, walrus ivory, bailene, whale bone,” said newcomer Barry Nayokpuk, of Shishmaref.
Nayokpuk is the grandson of Herbie Nayokpuk, a legendary Iditarod musher known as “The Shishmaref Cannonball.” A new vendor this year, he brought pieces from Shishmaref for the bazaar.
Nayokpuk carried Iditarod cards at his table, alongside a variety of handmade jewelry, ornaments and pieces of art. Polished ivory pieces stood in contrast to black display stands.
“It’s good. A lot of people come through here, a lot of traffic. … You get to talk to a lot of people, meet a lot of new people. Everybody’s nice,” he said, looking at the steady stream of people wandering through.
Lori Love, on the second floor, was also a new vendor this year. Her booth for Kravin Raven Vanilla Inc. included a number of vanilla products — vanilla beans, vanilla salts and spiced sugars, fruit extracts and, of course, vanilla extract.
Vanilla is high in antioxidants, Love explained, and her spice mixes stand out as an unusual product for the usually sweet treat.
“I’m trying to change the perception of it’s just a sweet spice. It’s also a savory spice and so when you mix it with other spices, it has a lovely complexity to the palate. It’s just delicious,” Love said.
She said she was loving her first year at the bazaar.
“Everybody’s very kind,” she said. “The people shopping are just wonderful and they’re very receptive to learning about something different.”
There were also plenty of returning vendors. Ayumi Bakken, whose northern lights photos glowed at passersby, returned for her third year over the weekend. Her metal prints hung on display panels, while others were specifically framed in front of lights.
“These are see-through prints,” Bakken said of the semi-transparent prints, “so it is good for windows or decoration.”
The light coming through the back of the photo lit up the northern lights into a living, miniature night sky.
Because this was her third year as a vendor at the bazaar, people whom she knows came through, as did those who wanted to get holiday gifts. Overall, it’s a fun place for her, she said.
Bakken noted that the green-hued aurora photos were the ones people gravitated to this year, most of them selling out by Sunday.
As the afternoon wore on, live music played from the third level, filling the venue with tunes from the top floor to the bottom.
Back on the lower level, Margaret Rye was selling qiviut, or muskox wool, products. Hats, scarves and even little earrings styled to look like balls of yarn, were for sale on her table.
“I buy raw fiber and have yarn made here in Fairbanks,” she said, “and then, when I get the yarn back, I dye the colors, and design the items and do the knitting specifically for craft shows like this, so I can show people what I make and then they can pick out things to buy.”
She noted that the wool is soft and lightweight but surprisingly warm. As shoppers visited her booth, she showed how the hats stretch to fit people’s heads. The qiviut booth has been a fixture at the bazaar.
“I’ve been doing this show for 15 years on my own, and my business partner had done this show for 10 years prior to that,” she said.
Among photos, ceramic arts, clothes, food and other wares for people to pick from Sunday afternoon, the bazaar remains a longstanding tradition.
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMlocal