This Black Friday weekend saw residents shopping local for the holidays, including at the annual Sterling Fall Festival, which took place at the Sterling Community Center on Friday and Saturday.
T.J. Walton, one of the volunteers at this year’s fall fest, said she was surprised at how many people from around the peninsula came to browse the different wares available.
“Some of the people have told me that they have been doing this for years and they just keep coming back,” Walton said Saturday. “This was my first one, so I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m definitely going to bring more money next year.”
Karri Ambrosini, who has attended the Sterling Fall Festival in the past, said that this one was slightly less attended than usual. Ambrosini was at the front of the community center offering $1 “grab bags” that each contained a single lollipop. If the lollipop was wrapped in a special piece of fabric — much like the golden ticket from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory — the person who picked out the bag won a free quilt made by Ambrosini. Next to Ambrosini was Jody Hatt, owner of the She Shed spa in Soldotna, who was offering visitors the chance to enter a drawing for a free facial at her spa.
Ambrosini said that she had given out a few quilts this weekend, but she normally goes through 1,000 of the grab bags during these events, and she still had about 500 left by the end of the day Saturday.
This year the Fall Festival operated a little differently than in the past, because of the severity of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the state. The vendors’ booths were arranged around the community center so that foot traffic went in one direction, and signs were on display asking different family groups to stay 6 feet apart. All of the vendors and most attendees were wearing masks, and sanitizer was available at every booth.
A popular gift this year came from Becky Moore of Joyful Crafters, who had a variety of her “cozy pillow loungers” for sale. The pillow loungers are large pillow cases designed and sewn by Moore that can fit four individual pillows. Once filled, the pillow lounger can be used as a portable chair or cushion, and Moore had one on display cushioning a camping chair in order to demonstrate its utility. Walton said that she bought one for her rocking chair at home.
“I know she (Moore) went through a lot of stock,” Walton said. “She even went home last night and made a custom order for me that she brought this morning. I’ve got a wooden rocking chair at home and that’s going to make it so much more cozy.”
Artisans young and old could be seen selling their wares in Sterling this weekend — from Don Soderstrom and his decades of experience doing granite etchings by hand, to 10-year-old Nathaniel Shaw, an aspiring blacksmith who had a number of his handmade hooks and other custom metalwork on display.