Jean-Paul Courneya, MS, bioinformationist at the Health Sciences and Human Services Library, was in a buoyant mood Dec. 1 at the 10th annual UMB Handmade and Homemade Holiday Craft Fair, offering shots in small plastic cups to shoppers milling about the Elm Ballrooms at the SMC Campus Center.
But the cups didn’t contain eggnog or cider. They were filled with flavored kale chips.
“It’s my gimmick for encouraging people to dive in,” Courneya said as he prodded passers-by to take a shot of kale. “It’s this leap of faith sometimes, especially for people who are repulsed by kale. I don’t know what is with kale. Maybe because it sat on the side of the plate, unloved, for centuries. Now it gets a little bit of exposure.”
Courneya and his daughter, Skyler, were representing the family business, Outlier Snacks, which debuted at the UMB craft fair in 2015. “We were at a table on the outside, and we just had such an energy that day,” recalled Courneya, who now hopes to soon sell his products at Roots Market, a natural and organic food store in Clarksville, Md., and Olney, Md.
Courneya and other vendors with UMB ties filled the campus center’s second floor, overflowing into the lobby. The fair has grown significantly since its 2009 kickoff, moving from Westminster Hall to the campus center and from 20 vendors to more than 60 this year.
There has even been a vendor waiting list in recent years, said Nancy Gordon, UMB’s executive director of protocol and special events, who says the craft fair is one of her favorite events.
“Everybody’s here to have a good time,” Gordon said. “They’re shopping, there’s holiday music playing, everybody’s in a good mood. We work hard on this event, but it’s just a fun day.”
With those holiday tunes filling the air, shoppers could choose from a large variety of items that ranged from scented candles and soaps to hand-painted wine bottles; Old Bay-flavored peanuts to cupcakes large and small; wreaths and tree ornaments to greeting cards and canvas paintings, just to name a few.
Amid the diversity of items, there was a thread that tied the vendors together: the love of crafting or cooking.
“This is my dream job one day,” said Katherine Ordonio, BSN, RN, clinical research specialist for orthopaedics at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, who was selling sports- and holiday-themed drink coasters. “I just love it. I love crafting. It’s my passion. It’s my stress reliever.”
Cheryl Williams-Smith, manager in the Sponsored Projects Accounting and Compliance Office, was selling baked goods with her husband, Donald. She calls it “my little side gig.”
“I only do this once a year, so this UMB fair is my kickoff to baking season,” she said. “I love to bake. I love to cook.”
Anita Mickens, development coordinator for the University of Maryland Medical System Foundation, was selling handmade jewelry and magnets along with her sister. Mickens says that she’s been crafting for more than 10 years and that this was her fourth time selling at the UMB fair.
Asked what makes the UMB fair special, she said, “Out of all the fairs we do, it’s the presentation — the presentation is a little different. It’s uniform throughout, so it gives it a different feel. And you have the holiday music playing, so it feels more Christmasy or holiday-ish.”
Sarah Pick, MS, director of marketing and public relations for the School of Medicine’s Institute for Genome Sciences, was selling items made of fused glass at the fair for the eighth year. She says she’s been working with glass for 10 years, has two kilns at her home, and sells her wares at fairs and a shop in Ellicott City, Md.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said of the UMB fair. “Students, faculty, staff, they come to shop, and that’s great. People that you work with come to sell items, and you realize they’re people that are in different departments, different schools. There’s just a lot of creative talent around the room.”
To see more photos from the craft fair, click here.
— Lou Cortina