Target has shiny red carts and Amazon lets you holiday shop in your pajamas, but to find unique, handcrafted gifts from local artisans, craft fairs and markets are your best bet.
And in the coming weeks, you’re in luck. Craft fairs around the area range from a Holiday Bazaar at University Park that sells unusual items from around the world, to the annual juried Winter Craft Market and options for kids to browse inexpensive gifts, such as the Elves’ Gift Shop at Park Forest Middle School.
In Lemont, it’s a “Weihnachtsmarkt,” also known as the 8th annual German Christmas Market held in the grain elevator and coal sheds at the historic Granary. Ron Smith, a Christmas in Lemont committee member, said the event was started by Chris and Penny Eifrig.
“Chris was born and raised in Berlin, where they had outdoor Christmas markets,” Smith said. “When they came to live most of the time here, they thought the coal sheds were perfect for a market.”
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This year, the Dec. 2-3 event features 20 vendors selling local products. There’s also music, bratwust and hotdogs, treats and beverages. Smith said the event started out small, but he credits the location itself for growing popularity of the event.
“A lot of people like coming just to see the elevator and coal sheds,” Smith said. “It’s a different view than most people have at any of these markets.”
The Winter Craft Market at Mount Nittany Middle School celebrates its 41st event on Dec. 3. The juried show features all handmade items from more than 70 artisans who work in jewelry, ceramics, fiber, wood, mixed-media, metal, glass and more.
“A large percentage of the craftsmen showing at the Winter Craft Market are also participants in The People’s Choice Festival or The Central Pa. Festival of the Arts,” said Heidi Urbanski, a member of the Winter Craft Market committee. “Our show allows you to see these same artisans in an indoor, relaxed environment.”
Last year, more than 2,000 people attended the show, which helps support a local nonprofit every year. The market will be held for one-day-only this year, with extended shopping hours.
“Our show has become the unofficial kick off to the holiday shopping season in Happy Valley,” Urbanski said.
The Holiday Craft Fair at Ferguson Township Elementary takes place a little later in the season — Dec. 10 — and with kid’s crafts and a free wrapping station, chairwoman Brandi Wagner said the annual event is aimed at family-friendly fun. Vendors at the fair have two requirements: all wares must be handmade, and there must be at least one item on their table that costs less than $5.
“That way, kids can purchase gifts for their friends, families or teachers,” Wagner said.
Vendors interested in taking part in the Holiday Craft Fair can email Wagner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Craft fairs and markets
Fall Craft and Gift Fair, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Bald Eagle High School, 751 S. Eagle Valley Road, Wingate.
Holiday Bazaar, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 2, Matson Museum of Anthropology, 409 Carpenter Building, University Park. anth.la.psu.edu.
Christmas Bazaar, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 2 and 9 a.m.-noon Dec. 3, Park Forest Village United Methodist Church, 1833 Park Forest Ave., State College. 238-2657.
Stocking Stuffer Antique, Art and Fine Craft Sale, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 2 and noon-4 p.m. Dec. 4, Centre Furnace Mansion, 1001 E. College Ave., State College.
Lemont Christmas Market, 5-8 p.m. Dec. 2 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 3, the Granary, 133 Mount Nittany Road, Lemont. www.lemontvillage.org.
Juried Winter Craft Market, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Dec. 3, Mount Nittany Middle School, 656 Brandywine Drive, State College. www.wintercraftmarket.com.
Elves’ Gift Shop, 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Dec. 3, Park Forest Middle School, 2180 School Drive, State College.
Handmade Holiday Market, 5-9 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 10, Bremen Town Ballroom, 105 E. Main St., Millheim.
Holiday Craft Fair, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Dec. 10, Ferguson Township Elementary School, 215 W. Pine Grove Road, Pine Grove Mills. email@example.com.