For the 46th year in a row, the autumn colors and cooler temperatures will be greeted by an ongoing favorite community event. This year, the Cheshire Craftsmen will hold their annual fair on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 5 and 6, and invite the community to view the many exquisitely crafted, locally created, handmade items for sale.
“I think the fair comes back year after year in part because of the time of year,” said Betty Lysik, president of the Cheshire Craftsmen. “It is so pretty in Keene and it is just a fun time to get together, as many of us are friends.
“All our exhibitors do such a good job on creating their displays and for them the fair provides an outlet for the sale of their products, either directly at the show or when word gets out that someone saw something unique.”
Lysik noted that for shoppers and visitors to the fair, there is almost certain to be something for everyone. Pricing for some items starts at just a few dollars and runs the gamut up to the hundreds for some of the larger and more-detailed pieces. As an artisan, gaining admission to the Cheshire Craftsmen is juried, which in turn assures a wide selection of craftspeople representing a variety of trades and superior skills within their field.
“We have 31 vendors this year and 35 members, so when everyone gets their application for the show, they fill it in right away to be sure they get a spot at the fair. This year we will have some lovely photography, beautiful pottery, handmade soaps and lotions, sterling silver jewelry, hand-painted items, carved wooden toys, quilted works and even a line of pickles,” Lysik said.
“We have a couple of new vendors as well, including one with maple products from right here in New Hampshire, another with autumn-themed home decor and a new jewelry person, too.”
For some of the Cheshire Craftsmen, their work is a full-time endeavor. Others are retired, so the income made from their sales is an important revenue stream. Regardless, the fair brings the talents of the artisans in the Monadnock Region to their neighbors in a convenient and accessible way.
“I think it is a great way for the community to support local artisans. Everything is handmade in New Hampshire by a craftsman and buyers can take pride in knowing any gift they buy, or anything purchased for themselves, is one-of-a-kind,” Lysik said. “The fair has a big following and some of us have repeat customers that come from all over the world and buy at the fair and then ship the items home. Even for those who have come before, there is always something new at the fair.”
When the first fair started more than four decades ago, it was originally held on the campus of Keene State College in the gym. This year, the fair will be held at the Keene Recreation Center, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both days. As Lysik noted, there will be “plenty of parking and free admission and we will have refreshments and food provided by a nonprofit as a way for them to raise money.”
“The purpose of the Cheshire Craftsmen is to promote the arts and artists in Cheshire County and beyond. We are a nonprofit, so everything goes back into advertising for the show,” Lysik added. “There are not too many members who have been here for 46 years, but even those who have been around for a while are still excited to do this.
“It is just a pleasure to be in the group, and personally, I most enjoy the participation from all the other craftspeople to set up and get ready. There is a camaraderie and friendships and all our members are such good people. It is always a joy to work with everyone.”