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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Square Tomatoes Craft Fair promotes community involvement

The Davis Square Tomatoes Craft Fair is in full swing this month and held their first fair on Dec. 1. The fair has been going on once a month since August 2012.

The upcoming fair will be on Dec. 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Central Park at Third and C streets in downtown Davis. They scheduled two fairs for December and will reconvene in February 2014.

According to event planner Sally Parker, the craft fair is named in honor of Davis’ own invention — the square tomato, known for its improved transportation capacity and controversial taste.

Since its first event, the craft fair has gained considerable acclaim by the Davis community and will continue to develop and expand with its number of vendors and activities.

“We started out in the parking lot of the Davis Food Co-op and then we moved here last November — and we’ve been in Central Park ever since,” Parker said.

There were approximately 30 vendors and a band at the Dec. 1 event, selling crafts ranging from artisanal jewelry, knitted pieces and even dog biscuits to name a few of the products.

“Long ago, we were much smaller. We’re hoping one day to put up signs in Central Park telling people about the Square Tomatoes Craft Fair … What I would love to have is a lot more students and performers come out here. I’d love to have singing and dancing to create a lively environment,” Parker said.

Parker, who teaches at the UC Davis Craft Center, was inspired to found the event in order to create an accessible, fun and fair environment where artists can share their trade with the community. Carol Wheaton, a knitter, helps with publicity. Quilter Betsy Peterson helps with ideas and vendor recruitment. A number of the other vendors at the event also teach at the UC Davis Craft Center.

“Vendors pay for a spot here, the object of this fair is to give vendors a chance to have a nice venue with low middleman prices which means both vendors and visitors get a bargain,” Parker said.

In addition to teaching, Parker has run a business for the last five years called Tiny Worlds Jewelry. She sells necklaces, earrings and bracelets formed with artisanal glass purple, green and iridescent beads, each personalized with plated-silver animals. Her current pieces feature squirrels, foxes, snakes and rabbits.

“I cast lots and lots of animals — spirit foxes and Mayan design in bronze and silver … a spirit fox is a Japanese fox with nine tails. The more tails, the more power it has,” Parker said.

The craft fair, Parker explains, typically will have some sort of theme to match the season. This aspect of the fair has been a hit with families and students as it provides an interactive aspect to the art.

“For Halloween, we had instructors teaching how to make sugar skull charms. We’ve had geology day where we had a timeline corresponding to geological events,” Parker said.

Dec. 1’s event had a holiday time feel to it — one of the seasoned vendors was selling a gimmick sweater randomly appliquéd with bells, Santa and reindeer, endearingly coined the “Ugly Christmas Sweater.”

“We’ve been in the business for 10 years. We’ve been doing the ‘Ugly Christmas Sweater’ item for about three years. I like peoples’ reactions to the sweaters,” said vendor Jan Shores.

The craft fair continues to grow each time, and always welcomes new vendors. One such first-time vendor, Tina Wang, sells homemade dog biscuits and collars, of which all of the proceeds will go to Scooter’s Pals Dog Rescue.

“I got involved two years ago and found that I wanted to gain experience training a few dogs. By now I have fostered 12,” Wang said. “The dog cookies are a hit … we will probably sell all of them by the time the fair ends! This is my first time at the craft fair and it’s been a great experience. It’s a great way to advertise and connect with the community.”

In addition to vendors, the fair features a traditional American Jazz band that Parker explains plays “danceable swing and jazz.” The New Harmony Band contributes to the holiday vibe by playing renditions of well-known holiday tunes.

It consists of nine members mostly from Davis and Sacramento, and is based out of the New Harmony housing community apartments that are designed to serve disabled people.

“This is our third time performing at the craft fair. We’ve been having a great time here, the first time we played we had a lot of the community dancing … it was really lively and nice,” said the band’s cornet player, Eric Zilbert.

One band member comments on the fun nature of the craft fair.

“I like where people can look at items they might realistically purchase. The craft fair is interesting because you can look at professionally made art and get it for a reasonable price,” said band member Michael O’Hearn.

He adds that the craft fair has fostered a wonderful environment for building community, one they have aspirations to continue working with.

“I hope our music brings good company and sounds,” O’Hearn said. “I hope we can welcome people to the fair and make people feel better through our music.”

According to Parker, the fair improves the atmosphere of community in Davis for a variety of reasons.

“Square Tomatoes is great for visitors … You can dance, look for bargains, see new designs, talk to artisans and learn how they make their crafts,” Parker said. “Square Tomatoes is a great place for vendors.  It provides beginning artisans to find an entrance into the business world.  Most artists must search a long time for a gallery. Square Tomatoes provides an immediate way to meet the public.”


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