Candy maker molds own Bellefonte Victorian Christmas tradition

Bellefonte resident Lowell Krape, 83, has been making candy nearly all his life.

He started with his father when he was just 13 years old at Krape Confectionaries. Later, he opened his own seasonal candy business, with his wife, Nancy, from which he brings to the Bellefonte Victorian Christmas arts and craft show every year.

Krape was one of about 70 other vendors at the arts and crafts show that took place at three different venues Saturday.

When visitors entered the YMCA in Bellefonte, Krape’s Christmas Candy was one of the first stands people ran into. Other craft show locations were at Bellefonte elementary and middle schools.

“We stop by here year after year to buy a treat for the kids,” said Sandy Ringwald, who was buying stocking-stuffers for her 13 grandchildren. “It’s a perfect simple gift the kids will like, while still supporting one of our own.”

Krape called his work a labor of love.

“I’ve been doing it my whole life,” he said. “It’s a second nature, a little fun at times.”

The Krapes use a corn syrup, sugar and water mix, and pour it into any of the 400 molds they have to make the holiday candy. The lollipop is a candy Krape said is the most popular treat this time of year. The business is seasonal, running from Oct. 1 to the end of the year.

Sally Houser, Bellefonte Victorian Christmas organizer and chairwoman, said since the event started 32 years ago, it has grown into an all-weekend-long event with dozens of holiday activities for those of all ages.

Visitors were able to take carriage rides around downtown Bellefonte as actors portraying Charles Dickens’ characters, graced the borough and mingled with visitors.

The wintry weather didn’t put too much of a damper on activities. However, carriage rides stopped in the late afternoon to give the horses’ hooves a break from the chilly ground and the Festival of Trees at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology closed four hours early Saturday. The Festival of Trees will continue noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Houser said despite the snow, the other activities of Victorian Christmas were still getting heavy foot traffic. She thought the weather put visitors in the holiday mood, and estimated between 8,000 and 10,000 people would visit Bellefonte this weekend.

“It’s one of those wonderful holiday events for everyone,” Houser said. “And its growth has been extraordinary.”

She said the arts and crafts show has been an event since the beginning, starting with just 30 vendors and growing to about 70.

This year, Houser said the event should raise about $25,000 that goes right back into next year’s event. By February, a committee of 17 would discuss ways to improve the holiday tradition and then meet numerous times until next December.

“It’s just one of those events that gets people in the holiday spirit, and we always look for ways to bring more people out and make it better,” Houser said.

Other events Saturday included breakfast with Santa, live entertainment, the homes tour, children’s activities and a Christmas party.