By Joel Hall
For thirty years, a handful of Clayton County women have preserved the art of making handmade crafts by putting on a highly-anticipated, annual Christmas House and Bazaar each year.
The tradition will end this Saturday when the Stately Oaks Arts and Crafts Guild hosts its final arts and crafts bazaar.
Long before the Holiday at Home Parade, people looked forward to the bazaar as a way to kick off their holiday shopping, said Sally Crowe, a Clayton County resident and widow of former Morrow Mayor George Crowe.
"It's a tradition," said Crowe. "People would start their Christmas shopping here. People who have moved away have come back just for this."
"I've been coming for a long time and I'll be sad to see it go," said Beth King, a retired Clayton County schoolteacher, who has attended the bazaar almost every year since its inception.
"I come for the snicker-doodles," one of the many desserts and baked goods on sale, alongside various arts and crafts, she said. King said that she also enjoys the camaraderie of the ladies who operate the bazaar.
"They are so personable," said King. "You feel at home when you walk in the door."
Amanda Roberts, who runs Big Mama's Soup Kitchen, a long-standing feature of the bazaar, said that the warm feeling is nothing intentional. "We're just Southern, that's just the way it is," joked Roberts.
Roberts said the bazaar is a "special time" for her and that she looked forward to it every year. "Sometimes, this is the only day that we see people" who are regular customers at the bazaar. "We have a good group here, and we've done a good job."
Helen Varville, a Jonesboro resident for 19 years, was visiting the bazaar with her daughter for the first time on Wednesday.
"We have been trying to come for so many years and we finally made it," said Varville. Originally an immigrant from Hungary, Varville said the bazaar was reminiscent of the kriskringelmart, or Christmas bazaars in Germany.
"This is a smaller version of it, but this is nice," said Varville. "I'm just impressed that the ladies have kept it for as long as they have. I know it's a lot of hard work."
Casey Simpson, a docent at Stately Oaks, said that many visitors came to the bazaar on Wednesday not knowing that this was to be the last.
"I've had to break the bad news about it today to a lot of people," said Simpson. "Kids have grown up coming here ... women have grown old coming here ... it's kind of a hard thing to see go," he said.
Barbara McDonald, co-founder of the arts and crafts guild, said she would like to see the bazaar continue, as long as a group of young people could "do all of the hard work moving all this furniture."
McDonald was sadden to see the bazaar coming to an end, but said that everyone was upbeat. "It's sad talking to everyone, because they are going to miss us and all," she said. However, "people have been nice and have been very responsive. We really enjoy interacting with the people."
The bazaar will continue through Saturday, from 10 a.m., to 5 p.m., at the Stately Oaks Plantation in Jonesboro.