CAPE GIRARDEAU - It's the weekend before Thanksgiving, and for thousands of women in the area, that means one thing: the craft shows at Cape Girardeau and Jackson.
"There are crafters everywhere this weekend," said Chuck Martin, director of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It is huge because there are an awful lot of people who are shopping for Christmas and are looking for that unique gift. There will be people in our community from throughout the tri-state area."
"My daughter and I always go - we just make a day out of it," said Tona Nicoson of Bertrand. "This is serious shopping. It's a day without the kids, just to go and have fun."
The crowd usually includes "lots of people from Sikeston, Cape - all over," Nicoson said. "You always get to stop and visit - that's what causes some of the jam-ups. You always see people that you know."
"This is my first year, actually," said Kara Kyle of Oran. "It's my first year but everybody I know goes every year at six in the morning to wait in line for tickets."
Kyle explained they don't want to risk not having the first shot at special items that may be sold out early in day, but for her it isn't so much about the crafts as the camaraderie. "It's just going with my friends more than anything - just a women's day out," she said.
This is the 34th year for "A Craft Extravaganza," according to Rebecca Fulgham, executive director of the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri which sponsors the event. "It supports our community arts programming. It provides over 50 percent of our operating budget for the year."
"A Craft Extravaganza" will take place from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Sunday at the Osage Community Center and Show Me Center.
The River Valley Craft Club will hold its 29th "River Valley Craft Fair" from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sunday at the Plaza Conference Center and the A.C. Brasť Arena Building, according to Rick Werner, the club's chairman.
"We have over 400 tables of different types of crafts and vendors from six states," he said. "Usually around 8,000 people come though the doors for the weekend. It's a huge boost to the economy of the whole area."
It's hard to get a firm number on exactly how many people come in for the weekend as most tend to shop at several different venues. "We hit them all," confirmed Nicoson.
"Our average is right around 10,000. We have people that we know of that come all the way from St. Louis for this," Fulgham said.
There will also be crafts available at the Bavarian Halle between Jackson and Fruitland, according to Dixie Burnett of Oak Ridge, who is promoting the craft show for the River City C.B. Club Junior Members.
"We donate to children's groups. This year it's 'Toys for Tots' and the 'Toybox' and 'Christmas for the Elderly' through the Southeast Missourian and the Cape Jaycees," said Burnett. "We also have a special booth set up with Americana and all the proceeds go to 1140th National Guard unit."
This year the event at the Halle will feature a vendor offering handmade doll houses. "She started about two weeks ago doing this, and they are real cute," Burnett said. Another lady will have a stand with authentic Russian nesting dolls, and German smokers, according to Burnett.
"We're open on Friday evening - the hours are from 5 to 9 p.m.," Burnett said, "and then Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m."
Burnett said the craft show at the Bavarian Halle has been held "at least five years" and also draws a large crowd. "On Friday and Saturday we usually have about 2,000," she said.
Shoppers at The River Valley Craft Fair can expect to see "handmade baskets, silk floral arrangements, candles, ceramics, baked goods, needle craft, crochet, woodworking - you name it, we've got it," Werner said.
"The main thing this year is we have a lot of new, very high quality vendors coming in," Fulgham said of the Extravaganza. "If the people haven't come for awhile, they're going to see some real neat stuff. We have some vendors that do leather, copper, pottery and glass as well as anything Christmas you can imagine." New this year on Sunday: "There will be a drawing every hour on the hour for a gift from one of the vendors of the show," Fulgham said.
While many of the crafts appeal to women, "there's things there for men, too," Fulgham said.
In addition to crafts, there will be plenty of food, Fulgham said, including "fudge, kettle corn, roasted nuts."
"We always end up buying a Christmas ornament or two," Nicoson said. "Whatever catches your eye - none of it's really expensive, most of it's affordable, so you can go and splurge a little bit."