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A festival for the senses fills Lake Park with crafts

The annual event in Lutz continues today. Total expected attendance is 35,000.

By JOSH ZIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 3, 2000


LUTZ -- Ann Beaver's covered stand was awash in color Saturday, a bright morning sun shining through her artful display of flavored oils and vinegars.

She had company. As customers eagerly dipped chunks of bread into her culinary potion, others sank nacho chips into her daughter's bright red and yellow sauces, including one extra hot version, aptly called "Florida Presidential Salsa: One taste . . . you won't care who won."

Meanwhile, Beaver's husband, Charles, pitched his wood engravings and knives.

The activity marked yet another appearance for the Beavers at the GFWC Lutz-Land O'Lakes Annual Arts & Crafts Festival, a popular event that is expected to attract 35,000 people to Lake Park over the weekend.

The festival is a family affair spanning four generations. Ann Beaver, 69, stepped into her mother's shoes 20 years ago. Charles Beaver joined her two years later. On Saturday, their granddaughter, 11-year-old Ryan Beaver, helped out.

"I wouldn't tell you how much we make in two days," Ann Beaver said. "We do very well, enough to take a Caribbean cruise."

Despite their successful history here, she is throwing in the towel and the rest of her family may follow. She disappointed many people by telling them she was "too old" to continue another year.

But the festival itself appears poised to last for a long time.

The worst-kept secret was that vendors began selling wares before the official start time of 10 a.m. By that time, about 250 booths had formed a virtual people magnet that kept a force of police, Boy Scouts and youngsters in military fatigues busy directing traffic and parking. The afternoon crowd was expected to be even more hectic.

The fragrance of candles, wreaths, Cajun food and funnel cakes filled the air. The booths were packed with handcrafted wood objects and leather goods, along with photos, paintings, jewelry, glass angels and hand-painted clothing.

Catching a breather in a chair under a tent, Lutz-Land O'Lakes Woman's Club president Phyllis Hoedt was weary from arranging such a busy event.

The group spends the entire year arranging the event, she said. Most of the spaces in the restricted festival are gone by March, taken on a first-come, first-served basis.

Some vendors, in fact, already have signed up for next year. Slow-to-respond vendors are left to scrap for the remaining spots.

The group hopes to raise more than $10,000 for local charities this year, Hoedt said.

Festival rules require vendors to make what they sell. Shoppers, many of them looking for Christmas gifts, appeared happy with the offerings.

Shannon Oshier was determined to find an ornament to top her Christmas tree.

"Usually, this is a very nice arts and crafts festival," she said. "A lot of creative people. It's unique, made by hand. No two (objects) are the same."

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