Are you ready to deck the halls, hang the mistletoe and prepare a feast? For 42 years the Country Christmas Bazaar has been the place to find crafts, treats and make new memories. Celebrate with them again this year at the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds.
This year’s event takes place Saturday and Sunday, November 20 and 21. Admission and parking are free, and organizers expect more than 230 vendors with tables full of goodies. It takes place every year on the weekend before Thanksgiving thanks to Carrie Vessey, Missi Olson, and their entire extended family.
“The bazaar was started in 1978 by my mom, Karen Olson, and her cousin, Marilynn Olson,” explains Vessey. “As both were crafters, they thought it would be fun to bring other vendors together for a small bazaar in the McCleary Community Center. An exceptionally rainy and blustery weekend, hardly any customers visited, so the eight or so vendors spent the weekend trading goods, playing cards and visiting with each other. It must have been a great time, as they planned another bazaar the following year!”
Despite a soggy start, they’d created something magical. Since Karen Olson’s passing in 2017, running the Country Christmas Bazaar has become a true family affair. “My mom was an amazing woman, and it has literally taken a team of people to do what she did single-handedly,” admits Vessey. “My sister-in-law, Missi Olson, is in charge of everything vendor-related and I help with everything else it takes to plan and organize this massive event. On the three days of the Country Christmas Bazaar (including set-up day), we have the help of our husbands Travis Vessey and my brother Jason Olson, cousins Mark, Heather, and Casey Bassett, close friend Katy Moore, and our children: Jayden, Kyle, and Kassedy Olson, and Grant Vessey. We call ourselves the Red Shirts as we wear red Country Christmas Bazaar attire to be easily identifiable to our vendors and to anyone needing help. It is a fun, exciting, busy, exhausting weekend and we love every minute of it!”
The Country Christmas Bazaar was a part of the family since day one. “Growing up, it was not uncommon for my mom to get bazaar calls during dinner or at any time of day, which could take up to 30 minutes or longer as she happily visited with her vendors, who grew to be friends,” says Vessey. “She had a knack for getting to know people and for staying connected with those around her. I know that so many people, including her long-time vendors, miss her and the connection they had. Now during the bazaar, it is so common for us to get hugs, listen to stories of ‘that one year when Karen…’, or even share some tears because we all miss her so much. It is an emotional weekend for our family, but one that we are so proud of, and we know that we are being watched over by someone who literally could do it all.”
There are three rooms of vendors and this year’s sales list is currently full. Space is offered to returning vendors first with extra slots going to folks on their extensive waiting list. Only handmade and hand-crafted items are allowed, commercial sales are not permitted. To join the list of potential sellers, simply email contact information and photos of your goods to email@example.com or call 360.482.2717.
Vessey and the family are excited for this year’s return, especially after last year’s COVID closure. They’ll be welcoming what she calls: “the most talented vendors in the Pacific Northwest! Their creativity, skills, and talents are mind-blowing. We’ve got current home decor for any time, fall, winter, or holidays; refurbished furniture; soaps, lotions, bath, and body products; delicious baked goods; artisan foods; candles; glass art; paintings; crochet and knitted work including blankets and scarves; woodworking; metal art; handmade toys; dolls and doll clothes; a variety of jewelry designers; paper products; birdhouses; fresh greenery and planters; various sewn products; pet supplies and toys; quilts; baby clothes, baby bedding, and baby accessories and so, so, so much more!”
But more than a place to shop, the Country Christmas Bazaar has sparked a community-wide festival atmosphere. “The Country Christmas Bazaar has become a tradition for so many people,” says Vessey. “It also has sparked the bazaar weekend in Elma, with other organizations benefiting by hosting smaller craft fairs at the same time, taking advantage of the visitors to the area. We are proud and humbled to be able to organize something that has such great benefit for so many people, including our amazingly talented vendors.”
The Country Christmas Bazaar runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, November 20 and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, November 21 at the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds. Share the event via Facebook and come ready to shop, enjoy lunch and get into the holiday spirit.