In Strafford, artists open their homes for the holidays

  • Signs are up for Christmas in Strafford. Carolyn Johansen—For the Monitor

  • Bird sculpture crafted by Fred Dolan. —Courtesy of Fred Dolan

  • Signs are up for Christmas in Strafford. Carolyn Johansen—For the Monitor

  • Rick Gagne's crafted wood boxes will be part of Christmas in Strafford. —Courtesy of Rick Gagne

  • Rick Gagne's crafted wood boxes will be part of Christmas in Strafford. —Courtesy of Rick Gagne

  • Rick Gagne’s crafted wood boxes. Courtesy of Rick Gagne

  • A handmade bowl by Diane Waldron. —Courtesy of Diane Waldron

  • Hand-painted ornaments made by Elena Wikstrom. Courtesy of Diane Waldron

  • Bird sculpture crafted by Fred Dolan. Courtesy of Fred Dolan

  • Bird sculpture crafted by Fred Dolan. —Courtesy of Fred Dolan

For the Monitor
Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, thank goodness. If you’re not in the Christmas spirit yet, no worries. The antidote to the big box/mall/online craziness is right around the corner.

This weekend, crafters in the town of Strafford will open their homes to display and sell their creations in the 28th annual Christmas in Strafford event.

Nutcracker soldier signs have already popped up all over town to mark the locations. To celebrate the 28th anniversary of the event, some homes are also marked with a gift box. The 28th person to enter the home will receive a gift.

There are 17 home, studio and farm sites, some with multiple crafters. In addition, 24 more crafters will set up shop at the Strafford Grange, Waldron Store and the Bow Lake Church.

“Because it’s the weekend after Thanksgiving, everyone is relaxed,” said Mary Hoyt, who has organized the event for the last few years. “There’s still time to shop and people have a lot of fun going from house to house.”

The crafters turn their homes into gallery spaces, moving the furniture out of the way, making room for visitors and setting up their displays. It’s a lot of work, and it starts early.

“We are in the throes of converting my studio into the Christmas in Strafford ‘retail’ zone, a feat unto itself!” said Fred Dolan of Fine Wildfowl Creations on Monday.

Food is an important part of the weekend. Enjoy coffee, baked goods and lunch at the Grange (open Saturday only). Homemade soups, stews, sandwiches and dessert are available to eat there and to bring home. Many home sites offer refreshments to visitors, and a number of vendors sell homemade jams, jellies, salsas, candies, maple syrup and maple products.

Looking for some greenery for the season? Check out Journey’s End Farm and Barn Door Gap Gardens for wreaths, swags and lots of other outdoor and indoor decorations.

Spinners, knitters and crocheters can buy yarn and roving (fleece that has been carded, then twisted into a long narrow bundle that is ready to be spun into yarn) from alpacas at Indigo Moon Farm and sheep at East Wind Farm.

The wide variety of items for sale also includes pottery, carved and painted waterfowl, wooden jewelry boxes, painted tablecloths and scarves, reclaimed wood items, paintings, organic beauty and skin care products, candles, coiled fabric bowls, jewelry, Christmas decorations, crocheted hats and scarves, and even gifts for your canine pals.

There is far too much to list everything here, so it’s a good idea to download the list of vendors from the website for a detailed list of offerings and a map so you can plan your day.

Hoyt, who has been organizing the event for the past few years, said that the event started in 1990 with a few women who thought it might be fun to open up their homes and invite the people in town to visit. From there, it has grown to its current size of more than 50 vendors at 20 locations.

“Every year we have somebody new,” she said. “Generally, we have between 16 and 20 houses and we just added the Bow Lake Church last year.”

In the past, Hoyt said, the regulars at the Grange expected to claim their spots as usual each year. But starting a few years ago, crafters were given spots on a first-come, first-served basis because the number of applicants had grown so large.

This year, spots at the Grange were filled by March. And Bow Lake Church, which wasn’t made available as a site this year until October, filled immediately upon the opening announcement.

Besides the festive atmosphere, the quality of the work is what keeps visitors coming.

“Everything has to be handmade,” Hoyt said, “homemade by the person that’s selling it – no reselling. We have at least four League of New Hampshire Craftsmen in our fair. We try so hard to keep the quality up so people aren’t disappointed when they come.

“If it’s not handmade by you we don’t accept it,” she said.