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The Home Crafters of Cape Breton are busily putting the finishing touches on their handmade crafts as they get ready to show them off at the upcoming annual Christmas Festival of Crafts, beginning November 17.

The craft show is often referred to as The Big One because of both the large number of artisans selling their products and visitors looking to find one-of-a-kind items for themselves and those on their Christmas lists.

This year is no exception. Susan Mason MacDonald, an organizer with Home Crafters of Cape Breton, says there is a waiting list for vendors looking to sell their crafts. She says there will be at least 180 crafters selling crafts at 212 tables.

Those numbers mean that not only are they bouncing back from post-Covid era numbers, last year there were 175 vendors, but that they are growing the crafter base. Pre-Covid the show typically attracted about 190 vendors. That’s good news for the local crafters.

“We have at least 70 new crafters this year,” says an excited Mason MacDonald. “Up to 25 percent of those who will be there will be new to the show.”

Many of the new vendors are younger crafters while others are bringing new talents and products to this year’s show. We have some very “talented, talented people,” says Mason MacDonald. This year’s festival includes the work of a blacksmith, for example.

It is not only the size of ‘The Big One’ that makes the three-day show unique. What some Thirders might not know is that all the vendors are living in Cape Breton Island. It is one of the requirements of the show. Another is that all the crafts sold must be handmade by the crafters themselves.

The Home Crafters of Cape Breton is proud of the high standard that it set for their artisans, says Mason MacDonald. The organization goes beyond the regulations established by governments. For example, all crafters who sell food must have a food handlers’ course. Those who sell cosmetics must be certified through Health Canada to ensure that all the ingredients are approved for use in Canada.

For the first time in many years, this year’s show will not be held at Centre 200. While the location change wasn’t planned, it is the result of a scheduling error, Mason MacDonald and the crafters are taking it in stride.

“It is a perfect location,” she says of the Emera Centre in North Sydney. “We went to have a look around and while there are some differences, it is a great space. There will be more crafters upstairs, for example.”

Like Centre 200, the Emera Centre is fully accessible. Although there is no elevator, the Emera Centre has a lift, and the organization has arranged for individuals to be present to help those who need it get safely inside.

Mason MacDonald says that just like previous years there will be a table of crafts which is donated each year to a local community organization as well as a chosen legion.

The Christmas Festival of Crafts starts on Friday, November 17 and runs until the 19. For specific details, be sure to check out the Community Matters section in The Third, found on the last page.

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