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17th annual local arts and craft show begins this Saturday

Published 8:00am Thursday, November 21, 2013

The mass of shoppers expected to descend upon downtown Dowagiac this weekend will have a variety of different stores to browse and purchase gifts from, but one particular spot will have hundreds of unique items they won’t be able to find anywhere else.

The 17th Annual Arts and Crafts Show will be held this Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., inside the Dowagiac Union High School. The event, which will showcase handcrafted goods and art pieces from a number of different vendors, will be held in conjunction with the Dowagiac’s Old-Fashioned Christmas Celebration Weekend, which takes begins this Friday and runs until Sunday.

The nearly two-decades old art show is organized by the Dowagiac-based Theta Mu chapter of Beta Sigma Phi, a non-academic sorority dedicated toward the social and cultural enrichment of its members. Everything from small jewelry items to home baked goods will be on sale at the show, in a variety of price ranges, said chapter President Sherrie File, who organized this year’s event.

“There’s just all kinds of crafts on display,” File said. “We have everything from baby and doll clothes, sweatshirts, a lot of seasonal items, even candy.”

While booths from major national retailers such as Avon, Mary Kay and Tupperware will be present Saturday, a majority of the sellers present will be individual artists, over half of which will be from the local community, File said.

“The Lion’s Club will be there, selling nuts and candy,” said chapter Treasurer Michelle Froehlich, who helped File organize the event. “The Beat Mu chapter sells their cheese balls as well. A lot of people like to come to show to get their cheese balls.”

File, who joined the sorority shortly after graduating high school in 1982, originally conceived of the idea of a local art and craft show to showoff the goods that she and her friends in the chapter were making at the time. The sorority had a booth at the first five events, selling sweaters and Christmas ornaments to visitors.

“When we started out, we only had a few booths in the high school cafeteria. Now we fill up the cafeteria and take up two hallways outside as well. Someday, we’ll fill up the entire school,” she said.

Another reason the chapter started the show was to help fill the chapter’s coffers, File said.

“We all had a bunch of little children around the time we began holding the craft show,” File said. “They were always having to go door to door for fundraisers. We decided we didn’t want do that, so we decided to do this instead.”

Proceeds that the sorority earns from the show goes toward the general fund for the chapter, which they contribute to various causes throughout the Dowagiac community. File said that, throughout Theta Mu’s history, the chapter has contributed money toward local institutions like the library and Dowagaic Middle School.

“Wherever we see an urgent need, we will contribute,” File said.

One particular project that funds from this year’s craft show will go contribute to is toward providing for the needy this holiday season, File said, providing food and clothing toward area families.

The sorority also plans on selling food to hungry visitors to the show. Soup, sandwiches, nachos, donuts, muffins and other snacks will be available for purchase.

File expects a high turnout at this year’s show, due in part the location of the high school and the cross promotion with the Old-Fashioned Christmas Celebration.

“Last year, it was swarming in there,” she said. “When we closed at 2 we still had people coming in from downtown, hoping we would still be open.”

Admission to the show is free.

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