Gala planned to launch 2019 Winter Arts Faire

Left, Metlakatla artist Jack Hudson, left, sitting at his table of carving tools and Native designs at the 2008 Winter Arts Faire, looks at a couple of carving knives Nathan Jackson brought in to show him. Photo by Hall Anderson

This time of year wouldn’t be complete without the Winter Arts Faire, a First City holiday fixture that has thrived in Ketchikan for years.

The annual event will kick off with an opening gala from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday at the Saxman Community Center.

This is the first year since 2016 that there will be a gala to launch the Winter Arts Faire.

“The Friday evening gala is back,” said Katy Posey, program director for the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council.

The gala will allow attendees the first look at the vendors and their booths, with the opportunity to make purchases before the “official” opening on Saturday.

The price of admission is $5, and the gala will provide appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages.

The fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday at the Saxman Community Center.

The Winter Arts Faire was started in the 1980s, and became a KAAHC-sponsored event in 1991.

According to a KAAHC annual report from 1990, “The faire was originally organized by the Southeast Artisan Association and had become such a success that the SAA asked the KAAHC to take over coordination of the event.”

“The Winter Arts Faire has become one of the KAAHC continued programs and the faire is well on its way to becoming the winter equivalent of the Blueberry Arts Festival,” the report concluded.

However, Posey said that the Winter Arts Faire is different than the much-loved summer event.

“(The Blueberry Arts Festival is) not just art. Blueberry is this huge gigantic event,” Posey said.  “The Winter Arts Faire is just art.”

“The Winter Arts Faire is definitely designed for the artists. And it’s promoting artists, and that’s definitely a key component,” she added.

Decades after its inception, the Winter Arts Faire is still going strong.

According to Posey, over 80 vendors will be selling their wares from booths throughout the weekend-long event.

“We start taking applications for the Winter Arts Faire booths Sept. 1,” Posey said.

“We give returning booth vendors a month to return to their previous booth, so that they can maintain that location,” Posey explained. “And then we open it up to the general public.”

Posey said that after applications were opened to the general public, booths were assigned to vendors in a “first come, first serve” style.

“(The Saxman Community Center) has two levels, a gymnasium, and an auditorium and two lobbies that will be jam-packed with 83 booths,” Posey told the Daily News about the event. “It’s the most we’ve ever had.”

To make room for the high volume of applicants, Posey said “we put people in places there’s never been places before,” which filled the space at the community center. A waiting list was opened in the case of last-minute cancellations.

“There’s jewelry, there’s stained glass, embroidered (goods), there’s handcrafted dolls and bears, caramels and candies and jams and jellies, there’s bone jewelry, I mean, handmade beads and T-shirts and stickers,” Posey said. “It’s everything.”

“I would say it’s a lot of work but it’s a lot of fun work,” Posey said about the preparation for the event.

“It’s not a bazaar, it’s an arts fair,” said Kathleen Light, executive director of KAAHC. “It’s two-fold. So it supports artists creating, so it’s economic. It’s economic benefit for them, but also for the community because that money stays in town instead of people shopping online. So those artists are being supported by the community so they can continue to create.”

According to a vendor booth information packet from KAAHC, “The Winter Arts Faire is reserved for items created and designed by the vendor” and “all work must be original.”