Thurston County Fair celebrates small vendors and charities with Holiday Bazaar

The Thurston County Fair’s Holiday Bazaar is a big deal for small businesses and South Sound charities.

The bazaar began at noon Friday with an array of holiday-themed gifts, arts, crafts and snacks. Food and clothing donations will be collected on site to benefit the Thurston County Food Bank and Community Youth Services. Bazaar organizers expect 2,000 to 5,000 people to attend the two-day event, which runs all day Saturday at the fairgrounds, 3054 Carpenter Road SE, Lacey. Parking and admission are free.

The event also encourages people to shop local, said Kathy Bailey of the Thurston County Fair Board. All items for sale must be handcrafted and “noncommercial,” Bailey said, noting that several vendors are hobbyists or retirees who are looking to make a little extra money.

“They’re not big businesses,” she said. “They’re your neighbors.”

One of the bazaar’s main attractions is food, including tacos, kettle corn and jams.

Lisa Lengstorf, owner of Olympia-based Le’Saric Gourmet Caramels, said Sicilian salted caramel is her best-selling flavor. Although the business thrives with online sales, Lengstorf said she enjoys meeting customers and watching them smile when tasting one of her original recipe caramels — they melt in your mouth and don’t stick to your teeth.

One repeat customer visited the bazaar Friday specifically to buy her caramels, she said.

“I felt honored,” said Lengstorf, who staffed the booth and handed out samples with her husband, Eric. “I’ve loved caramel since I was a child.”

Barb Roble sells handmade blankets and pillows at her Kozy Komfort booth. The most popular item, she said, is the Seattle Seahawks pillow. She had several Seahawks pillows wrapped in plastic to keep them dry in the rain. Other best-selling blankets and pillows pay homage to NFL teams, college sports, local high schools and comic book heroes.

Roble, a Montesano resident who attends bazaars around the region, also is selling pine cone bird feeders on behalf of her granddaughter.

“There’s more bang for the buck up here,” Roble said of the Thurston County bazaar. “I like the exposure. It’s a much more diverse set of clients.”

The bazaar attracts artists, including Lakewood resident Noko Shannon, who brought more than a dozen original pieces created with the Asian brush painting style called sumi. The simple paintings depict elements of nature, including trees and fish, all done in a minimalist style that uses as few strokes as possible.

Shannon’s paintings are part of a larger display by Jeanette Martin, who set up a booth at the bazaar to bring attention to her friends’ artwork. Martin’s booth includes spiritual poetry by C.R. Cooper and landscape photography by John Skelton.

“I really want people to see their work,” said Martin, who gave away free copies of a Cooper poem called “Christmas in the Alley.”