Students searching for holiday gifts need look no further than Smith Union. The 14th annual Sunsplash Craft Fair today will be the biggest yet from from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Craft Center Manager Bonnie Pardue, who has coordinated Sunsplash for 10 years, said 75 vendors will be present—and she had to turn away at least 30.
"[The fair has] gotten bigger and bigger every year," said Pardue. When Pardue first began organizing the fair, it started on the first floor of Morrell Lounge. It then had to be extended to the the second floor. But with increasingly popular interest from students and community members, the fair had to expand even more.
"Last year was the first year we extended to the third floor, and this year we are going to be going down the Sargeant Gym hallway," said Pardue.
Vendors have to pay a $60 table fee, which is invested in the event and advertising. She suspects this year's high demand for vendor participation was due to the new Maine Street banner advertising Sunsplash and anticipates that the increased publicity will also draw a large crowd of shoppers.
The more shoppers and vendors, the merrier, said Pardue.
"It's very good PR for the Brunswick community and Bowdoin College," said Pardue. "They love to shop and eat in the grill...it just makes a really warm holiday feel between the two communities."
In the spirit of the season, Sunsplash is giving away 15 door prizes, including homemade vases donated by the Craft Center. Students and community members have been filling out raffle tickets all week long and will be able to do so at the event as well.
There are also prizes for attendees who correctly guess the weather, although "two years ago there was no power in the building for Sunsplash," recalled Pardue with a laugh. "Nobody guessed that."
The excitement of Sunsplash is part of its charm. Eager vendors typically arrive at 6:30 a.m. to set up, though they are not required to be in the Union until 7:30 a.m.
Community bakers have been preparing their best pies for a bid at top honors from Program Advisor of Student Activities and pie aficionado Christine Drasba.
"This is the first time we've done that," said Pardue. "We try to do something different every year."
The event's atmosphere will be completed by the sound of live violin throughout the Union, vendors throwing pots and spinning yarn, and—of course—the gaggle of eager shoppers.
Kathleen Blue '12 has attended Sunsplash two years in a row.
"I love it," she said. "I got a bunch of presents freshman year for my parents...[there is] this guy who makes clam people that dance and sing. I got my mom one of those, and it is now on our mantle piece."
Pardue highlighted some of the perennial crowd favorites of the event.
"The woman that does all handmade mittens and hats out of recycled sweaters is very popular," she said, as are the "soap people" and the vendors who make "polar bear jewelry."
"It was nice to buy gifts that weren't things that you could buy anywhere else," said Rachel Cañas '13 of last year's Sunsplash.
She plans to attend again this year.
"I'm going to knock out all of my holiday shopping," she said.
Pardue is looking forward to the relief that comes when the fair kicks-off smoothly, though, she admitted, "I'm already planning for next year."