By Joel Hall
With many of its members aging, the Stately Oaks Arts and Crafts Guild will welcome visitors to the Christmas House and Bazaar, a Jonesboro tradition for 30 years, for the last time this week.
From Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m., to 5 p.m., daily, Stately Oaks Plantation will host the bazaar, charging $1 per person for admission and $5 for an optional lunch of homemade vegetable soup, cornbread and an assortment of desserts made by Amanda "Big Mama" Roberts.
Bazaar-goers will be able to eat, and shop for a wide assortment of holiday decorations, crafts, and gifts.
Thirty years ago, Jonesboro was a very different place, according to Barbara McDonald, a life-long resident and co-founder of the Stately Oaks Arts and Crafts Guild Christmas House and Bazaar. According to her, one had to travel to Hapeville to buy groceries, or into Atlanta to buy arts and crafts supplies.
McDonald and a friend, Maureen Smith, both of whom had a great interest in arts and crafts and were attending a macramé class around the time, decided to create an event on the Southside, in which people could purchase holiday gifts and trinkets more conveniently.
McDonald and Smith built the Christmas bazaar inside Smith's house, featuring all kinds of hand-made Christmas decorations, pins, ornaments, clothing, jewelry, and various other knick-knacks. The event was later moved to Lake Spivey Country Club, and eventually to Stately Oaks. With the help of several other industrious women, the two founded the Stately Oaks Arts and Crafts Guild.
"When we started this, you had to drive to the other side of Atlanta to buy a ribbon," said McDonald. "We thought that there was an interest on this side of town."
Before the $1 stores and inexpensive foreign labor flooded the marketplace with toys and trinkets, McDonald said bazaars such as this were the only places that some people could buy their decorations, if they didn't know how to make things themselves.
"We all come from a generation of parents who were raised during the [Great] Depression," said McDonald. "We didn't buy anything we could make. We didn't throw away anything," hence many of the trinkets are crafted using items found in nature, such a such as peach pits, sticks, pine cones, lichen, Spanish moss, and the seed pods from magnolia trees.
As time has progressed, however, the task of creating the bazaar has become too much for the guild's members, all of whom are over sixty years old. While guild members are sad to see the bazaar run its course, they said it was time to let it go.
"We have no young blood anymore," said Smith. "We're capable of running around, but our bodies are getting old. Everybody is retiring and moving, and a lot of things.
"We're sad that we're giving it up, but we're so tired that we could care less," joked Smith. "Once we get it open, we'll be really happy, than sad on the weekend," when it's all over, she said.
McDonald, the oldest member of the guild at 76 , said that setting up and taking apart the bazaar alone requires a lot of manual labor, and that outside help is hard to find.
"Your younger people just aren't interested in this kind of stuff," said McDonald. "We have one husband that's willing and able," to help with the set up. "Everybody else has bad knees and bad backs ... we feel sad about it, but we also are tired."
"It's a lot of hard work, but it's fun, hard work," said Roberts, who has sold her soup at the bazaar for more than 15 years. "The women here have known each other their whole lives. I'm going to miss it."
Roberts said that while the last bazaar would be bittersweet, she expected it to do well.
"It's a tradition here and I hate to see it go," she said. However, she added, "We've always had good crowds. I think we'll have a good time."