Alice O’Donald said she’s the “quality control” operator for her husband’s scroll saw art business.
It’s a title she gave herself as a joke to make sure Bill O’Donald “stays in line,” she said with a laugh.
For about three years, Bill O’Donald, 77, a retired Penn State construction supervisor for the Office of Physical Plant, has taken his talents to a new level by using a scroll saw to make Christmas tree ornaments, puzzles and pictures from scrap wood donated by furniture stores.
He said he finds a design, cuts the wood, sands it and puts a clear lacquer on it. He does that in a 30-foot by 50-foot shop behind his Howard-area home. His wife just adds the accessories — and nicknames — to his woodwork.
“It’s tricky,” O’Donald said. “For some of the smaller things, it can take 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half to cut, but it all depends on the piece of wood.”
His first creation was a dradle-like looking ornament. Alice O’Donald said she called it the “teardrop.”
“There were a lot of tears shed from this one,” she said. “That’s how it got its name.”
O’Donald was one of 116 arts and craft vendors featured Saturday at the annual Bald Eagle Area Fall Craft and Gift Fair at Bald Eagle Area High School.
It was an event that’s been organized by Bald Eagle Area students and teachers since at least 1997, said government and economics teacher, and student council adviser Diane Lucas.
This year, some proceeds will go toward the student council, the Spanish club and the junior class that organizes prom.
“A lot of it comes from setup fees and concessions,” Lucas said.
A total fundraising amount wasn’t counted Saturday, but Lucas said student government annually raises about $700, while the Spanish club raises about $3,000, and another $500 goes toward the junior class prom.
“A lot of our budget and trips are based on how much we raise,” Lucas said.
Spanish teacher and club adviser Andrea Simpson — with help from the Spanish club president, junior Regan Dyke — contacted returning vendors in May, and reached out to new vendors in July. By Halloween, all vendors applied and were scheduled to participate in the fair, Simpson said.
“At that point, we had already hit our max,” she said.
Simpson said the number of vendors was up by about 10 from last year, but also included some student groups.
The Bald Eagle Area FFA — formerly known as Future Farmers of America — partnered with Parsons Tree Farm, of Julian, to sell Christmas trees.
Vice President Emily Trigg, a senior, said some proceeds from the sale would benefit the FFA.
She also said it gave her additional sales and marketing experience to help sell some of her own products from a small business she started about two years ago.
Trigg began making homemade lye and glycerine soaps from ingredients at her family’s Pleasure Hill Diary farm. She said a lot of it is goat milk-based, and is sold by the ounce.
“It helps a lot with career development,” Trigg said.
Staff and advisers said the fair probably couldn’t go on without help from students.
“There is so much student involvement from helping organize the event to actually working with vendors and even finding a way to showcase their own products,” Simpson said.
About 25 students, with the help from parents and teachers, started setting up around 5 p.m. Friday. By 7 a.m. Saturday all vendors were situated at their stations. The fair lasted from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, and was cleaned up by students, teacher and parent volunteers Saturday night.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s one huge labor of love,” Simpson said.
Small businesses shine at craft fair
It was Small Business Saturday, and it was safe to say the vendors at the annual Bald Eagle Area Fall Craft and Gift Fair hosted some of the smallest businesses around.
It included more than 115 small business vendors from central Pennsylvania that sold homemade crafts.
But to rookies and veterans of the trade, it was important to buy local, and buy small — even if their craft was only a way to pad their pockets and keep themselves busy away from more full-time jobs.
Small Business Saturday is an annual national holiday held the Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to patron small businesses.
An emailed statement from Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, said the day allowed people to recognize “the role entrepreneurs play in our economy.”
“Small businesses are the majority of employing firms in this country, supporting people with good-paying, family-sustaining jobs and enabling individuals to play essential roles in their communities,” he said.
And in a reminder phone call Friday night to people in the Bald Eagle Area School District, the automated message by district administration encouraged locals to check out the craft fair while supporting local small businesses featured this year.
They even noted the national campaign.
For Dawn Pluebell, the fair at Bald Eagle Area High School was her first.
She made handcrafted ornaments inspired by the cupcakes she made from her at-home bakery, Midge’s Sweet Treats.
“I just can’t get myself to make the same ornament twice,” Pluebell said. “I get an idea and just run with it.”
She showcased more than 100 homemade Christmas tree ball ornaments — some that looked like the cupcakes she baked, others that were beaded, more that had knitted yard around them from a design learned from her mother, and some that looked like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Minions.
“It’s just a side business that’s new, but fun,” she said.
Pluebell has been designing ornaments for about three years.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s nice that people come out to support the small businesses in the community — just helps with the little things,” she said.
Pluebell said she runs an at-home bakery from her Port Matilda home and also works at Kohl’s.
By Britney Milazzo