Holiday craft show gives a family feel to shopping

Vendor Sue Schleer offers samples of her homemade truffles at last week
Vendor Sue Schleer offers samples of her homemade truffles at last week's Hilltop Holiday craft show. She was joined by 80 other vendors selling knit scarves, baked goods and handmade soap.
— image credit: Celina Kareiva

John Whitten is barely visible behind his wall of Jalapeno jelly. But though he seems out of place among the braided rugs and handmade jewelry of this year’s Hilltop Holiday crafts show, Whitten estimates that he’ll do eight or nine similar events before the end of the year.

“It’s one of those things that my wife did for years,” said Whitten of his jelly recipe, which he samples with Ritz crackers, slathered in cream cheese.

“She gave me the choice of crocheting something or making this Jalapeno jelly,” he laughs.

Neighbors, customers and the generally curious descended on Bellevue’s Hilltop Holiday craft show for its fifth and final day, Saturday. They picked through racks of scarves, sampled truffles and chatted with vendors about technique. The annual craft show featured 80 different booths.

“People come back every day and they call it their show,” said event coordinator Cameron Amann. “They like this small facility and the closeness…When they come, they know one another. They’re neighbors.”

The craft fair circuit sees many of the same faces, but Amann says that Hilltop is unique for its local and entirely homemade selection of products. Vendors come from as far as Snohomish and Bellingham, and while the facility is small, there is a huge waiting list for prospective vendors.

Amann suspects that many craft show customers are drawn to its community origins.

“A lot of people are supporting the little business people now. That’s been really cool to see,” she explains.

This was Sue Schleer’s first year at the show. Schleer, who used to work in the construction business, began making cakes and treats for her daughter after being laid off several years back. On her 40th birthday, when her friend presented her with a stack of business cards, Schleer decided to turn her hobby into a business. She still makes cakes, but on Saturday found herself showcasing an array of truffles, featuring flavors like salted caramel and pistachio.

“It can be hard to stand out at these things,” admitted Schleer of the crafts fair scene. “But if you have a good product, you’ll find a way.”

Above all, Schleer says that the chance to interact with customers can be a lot of fun.

“People come up and look sort of serious…And then you talk to them,” says Schleer. “They taste it, and their whole body just relaxes. I love that.”


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