BREWER, Maine — Sandy San Angelo left her Bucksport home about 9 o’clock Saturday morning. By the time she visited the Christmas fair at St. Teresa Catholic Church shortly after noon, she and her fellow shoppers had stopped at similar events in her hometown, Winterport and Hampden.
“I go to fairs every year,” San Angelo said as she looked over the wares for sale in the parish hall on South Main Street. “I enjoy it. It really gets me in the Christmas spirit and I always find unique gifts I don’t find anywhere else. And, the money goes to support churches and VFWs and other programs.”
The fairs may be holiday treats for many, but they also raise funds essential to keeping the heat and lights on in churches and other nonprofits.
Brewer resident Janet Tourigny, who has attended St. Teresa’s since her birth nearly 80 years ago, said the fair has raised between $4,000 and $5,000 a year since it was first held in 1988.
“We have a lot of people who come every year,” Carmen Rice of Brewer, who helped out Saturday, said. “People start asking in October if we’re going to be having the fair. And, they come early. We opened at 8 a.m. and people were lined up outside the door at 7:30.”
In addition to selling handcrafted, baked goods and other items donated by parishioners, St. Teresa’s also sold hamburgers and hot dogs. By 12:30 p.m., the church had gone through nearly 50 hamburgers and about 35 hot dogs.
While fairs are a tradition at many schools and churches, Bangor Christian Schools on outer Broadway held its first Christmas fair on Saturday, according to Carroll Conley, advancement director for the schools, as a fundraiser for the Athletic Club. After the Fall Festival fell a bit short of its fundraising goal, Jacinda Heath of Carmel, who attends Bangor Baptist Church, offered to help.
The owner of a company that makes customized handbags, totes and slings, Heath said she knew enough local crafters like herself who would pay $20 for vendor spaces to raise at least $400. Conley said with food sales, the event was expected to raise about $1,000 for the club.
That was good news to Abigail Groski of Hampden. The 14-year-old plays soccer and softball at the schools she has attended since she was a toddler. In addition to being an athlete, Groski also sold the Whimsical Wire jewelry she makes.
“It’s been a pretty good day,” she said of her first craft fair. “I’ve sold a lot.”
Groski said that most of the money raised at the fair would be used to pay for transportation to and from games. Some, she said, would be used to buy and maintain equipment.
“It means a lot to me as athlete to help raise money for us,” she said. “And, this is a fun way to do it.”
No one at the Hampden Highlands United Methodist Church fair could remember when it was first held. Darla King of Hampden said Saturday that she’s been a congregant for more than 25 years, and the fair had been on the church calendar long before she arrived.
“This is one of about 10 fundraisers we do a year,” King, who has organized the fair for the church on Kennebec Road for several years, said. “We’re quite well known in the area for being a quality fair. We have some members who are very talented and sell their crafts here for less than they do at craft shows.”
King said that last year’s fair raised $8,200.
Like many other congregations, the Hampden church sells wreaths at its fair, but it also ships them to the family and friends of buyers.
“Mailing them for people really increases our wreath sales,” she said.
Hampden Highlands UMC spends about 15 percent of its annual budget on mission work, according to King. Part of that overall effort included items made in Nicaragua being sold to raise funds for a youth mission trip there next year.
Shaylah Goss of Hampden has been on the trip three times and plans to go again. She said Saturday that she joined the church nine years ago at the age of 14.
“It’s meant the world to me,” she said of her trips. “You don’t know what faith is until you go to a country like Nicaragua and see how much they give to theirs.”
Goss is a preschool teacher and devotes much of her time to working for nonprofits, secular and faith-based, which work overseas. She said the group sold more items than it had expected to at the fair.
“I think this is one of the best fairs around,” Goss said. “It really kicks off the Christmas season for me.”