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Finding the perfect gift Crafters and vendors help Fairfield prepare for Valentine's Day

Union photo by Ashley Duong

Rochelle (left) and her daughter Marly McMahon (right) traveled from Albia to participate in the Valentine’s Day Vendor and Craft Show in Fairfield. All of their items were handmade.
Union photo by Ashley Duong Rochelle (left) and her daughter Marly McMahon (right) traveled from Albia to participate in the Valentine’s Day Vendor and Craft Show in Fairfield. All of their items were handmade.
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FAIRFIELD — When most people think of Valentine’s Day gifts, the first thing to come to mind may not be handmade leather items or knives. But that’s exactly what Robert Quick brought to Fairfield to participate in the Valentine’s Day Vendor and Craft Show held at the Boarders Inn & Suites this past Saturday.

“Guys need gifts too,” Quick pointed out.

The leatherworker was one of over 30 vendors from across southeast Iowa selling homemade items to local shoppers searching for gifts for the upcoming celebration of love.

Quick, who lives and works in Keosauqua, began working with leather about 6 years ago after retiring from the military. He decided to make his hobby into a small business this past December, and the Valentine’s Day show was the second vendor fair he had ever attended. He brought an assortment of items, including leather glasses cases, wallets and keychains, and knives with handcrafted handles and covers.

“I make everything, handmade … It’s fun showing off the craftsmanship,” Quick said.

Rochelle McMahon and her 11-year-old daughter Marly, who traveled from Albia, had a more typical Valentine’s Day spread on their table. Mugs with sweet messages as well as small chocolate flower bouquets decorated their corner of the fair.

For the Valentine’s Day show, the mother-daughter duo began making items a month in advance.

“We do it as a family,” Rochelle said. Making gift items is a hobby and passion they do for fun. The McMahons have been crafting for several years and generally tailor their items to the theme of each show.

“The most fun thing to make was the tick-tack-toe bags,” Marly said, which was the item she was tasked with assembling.

Like the McMahons and Quick, many of the crafters were using the show as an opportunity to share their talents and unique interests. Staci Jasper, picked up jewelry making about 5 years ago after discovering the jasper gemstone.

“The gemstones that I use are all jasper,” she explained, “I came across the gemstones on the internet one day and I’ve always been a crafty person so I thought I’d try my hand at making jewelry.”

Her fascination with the stone blossomed into a side business. Jasper is a Valentine’s Day show veteran and has participated every year since it began 3 years ago.

“How busy I get depends show to show, it depends on what people are looking for. I have a lot of heart shaped stuff out today,” she said.

The vendor fairs held at the Boarders Inn & Suites provide smaller crafters and businesses a place and opportunity to sell their items.

Rhonda Thompson and Ann Krouse have organized and run craft and vendor shows in Fairfield for the past several years, both at the hotel and the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center.

“We put these on and try to find a place to help vendors sell their stuff … all of it comes back to the community because what they take in, they spend back in the community,” Thompson said.

“We started it because we sold stuff and there was nowhere in town to sell so we started these shows, that way there’s a place to set up and sell stuff,” Krouse added.

Thompson and Krouse have 10 more shows planned for the rest of the year. The next vendor and craft fair will be held at the Arts & Convention Center on March 28.