Carver-Hawkeye Arena hosts craft fair

BY MARISA WAY | APRIL 08, 2010 7:30 AM

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Carver-Hawkeye Arena this weekend will echo with a new sounds: not basketball shoes squeak-squeaking on the floor, or volleyballs slapping against forearms, or wrestlers thudding on the mat.

The sounds will comprise soy candles thumping onto tables, the thud of oak furniture, and tings of jewelry. Carver-Hawkeye will host a craft fair from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 11. Admission is $4; anyone who is 10 or younger gets in for free. The show takes place twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.

Tom Callahan, who organizes this and other craft shows across Iowa, said he has been coming to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for 16 or 17 years. Although there are numerous venues that might seem more appropriate for hosting a craft fair, he said, his motivation for choosing the sports arena is entirely practical.

“Well, it’s got two things,” he said. “First of all, it’s got plenty of parking, and it’s got a lot of restroom facilities. And those two things are kind of key.”

Callahan said space is a major consideration because he expects anywhere from 2,500 to 4,500 people to show up for the event. In addition to a large crowd, all 196 of the spaces reserved for those who bring goods to sell have been sold out for the show.

Michelle Murray, one of the many exhibitors, shares her 18-month-old soy-candle business Soy in the City with a partner. The candles are made in her home in Cedar Rapids. Getting ready for a show requires some planning, she said.

“For us, we just make cases and cases of candles,” she said. “[We make] our top sellers. As far as time, we spend about a week prior to the show preparing for it. It’s not too hard, but it sure is a lot of fun.”

From her home, Murray said, she and her partner have found a way to make between 300 and 400 candles in a single day.

One benefit of having exhibits at craft shows, she said, is that they provide opportunities to expand business and reach new clients. Soy in the City has gained international clients because of experiences at previous shows.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Murray said. “Tom does a really good job of advertising the show.”

Callahan said his experience in advertising and organizing shows comes from 20 years in the business, and through the years, he has learned what is good for the shows, such as advertising on television, radio, and in newspapers. He also learned about what can be harmful for a craft show.

“[The exhibitors] can’t sell a product that they did not make,” Callahan said. “It’s hard to stay on top of those to make sure they’re all making what they say they’re making.”

The policy means to protect the exhibitors from competition with wholesalers who are able to sell their products for a cheaper price, he said. Paying more for the homemade goods ultimately gives buyers a higher quality product, he said.

“They’re very good at what they do,” he said. “That’s one of the things we’ve noticed about the craft people who follow us — they will not sell a product if they don’t think it’s done 100 percent correctly.”

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