Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 18, 2018

Craft show a ‘family reunion’

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News | Sep 01, 2017

MT. PLEASANT (GTNS) — We are creatures of habit, it is said. For instance, if you want to know if a person is attending church, look where they normally sit and you will have the answer.

The same adage applies to vendors selling their wares at Crafts in the Park, the show hosted in Mt. Pleasant’s Central Park in conjunction with Old Threshers Reunion.

Some of the 97 vendors, who reserve spots for the show, are open for business at their usual locations. John Pasakarnis, owner of J&L Purveyors, Downers Grove, Illinois, has had the same spot on the Central Park green since he first brought his preserves, Vermont maple syrup, pure sorghum, salsa, popcorn, pickled vegetables and several types of pickles to Mt. Pleasant in the mid-1970s. Although it is not known whether Pasakarnis is the longest vendor, his nearly 50 years of spending Labor Day Weekend in Mt. Pleasant would rank high on the list.

The “L” in J&L stands for John’s late wife, Ladena. He said it is not as enjoyable flying solo, but presses on as he nears 80 years of age; he turns 80 in January.

As he advances in age, he said he has cut the number of shows down to around 10 a year. “Whenever I think it might be time to throw in the towel, I see the friendly faces of repeat customers and it is an honor to see them.”

Pasakarnis, however, says he sees fewer and fewer repeat customers each year. “It has really tapered off, I guess age has caught up with them. The people here are so friendly, they are just like a neighbor or a friend.”

Pasakarnis’s neighbors for the past 34 years has been Ed and Tammy Riney of St. Francisville, Missouri, who own E&T Enterprises. Tammy said the couple has been here so long that a tall tree next to their stand in Central Park was little more than a sapling when they started bringing their goods to Mt. Pleasant.

E&T specializes in handmade signs. “Ed does the wood, I do the painting,” said Tammy, of the various styles, knickknacks and Christmas gifts they sell.

Reflecting back on her 34 years at the craft festival, she said the show has expanded greatly. “When we first started, there was a little bit of crafts and a lot of antiques. There was more elbow room at that time.”

While Tammy readily admits that profit is the driving force behind the show, the bond developed between vendors and customers and fellow vendors ranks a close second. “We have a lot of repeat customers from year to year. It is kind of like a big family, hopefully, a big happy family. We enjoy coming here.”

Call it beginner’s luck because Brandon Heidt, Ankeny, owner of Epic Eateries, has one of the prime locations in the park. His Epic Eateries is the first shop seen upon entering the park from the northwest corner. Epic Eateries manufactures hybrid spices that can be used either as a spice or a dip.

Heidt said he began his business nearly five years ago and it has been so successful that he was able to quit his full-time job and go with Epic Eateries. Heidt decided to do the Mt. Pleasant venue this year because it was recommended to him by a fellow vendor.

During the spring, summer and fall months, he does a lot of farmers markets which swell his annual show count to about 160. He has displayed his products in states as far away as Texas, but mainly concentrates on the Midwest. “Iowa has a lot of shows, but I also go to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Missouri,” he stated.

Another relative newcomer is Theresa Lacina, Iowa City, who owns Organic Iris, which manufactures unique non-toxic products. Lacina said she began by making vegetable-based soap, but now concentrates more on products made from beeswax. She buys beeswax from an Iowa beekeeper, melts it and blends it with herbs and spices to create items from melts to scented roses.

Last year, she was so impressed with the festival that she knew she had to come back. “It was the biggest show I’ve had to date. I would really recommend local vendors to become involved in this.”

Lacina said she is confident this year’s show will equal or surpass last year’s and said Saturday is the key to the vendors’ success. “Last year, we were just crazy busy on Saturday, and I’ve been told that is always the big day for this festival.”

Another vendor making a second appearance is Phyllis and Melanie’s Stitching. The mother-daughter team hails from Jefferson County, Wisconsin.

PMS sews quilts, Christmas tree skirts, embroidered towels, dog bandannas and trick-or-treat bags among other things.

Word-of-mouth brought PMS to the show. “A lot of people told us it was a good event,” Melanie said.

She said the show has become one of her and her mother’s favorite events and plans to continue making the annual 5.5-hour trip “as long as the sales stay good. We stay in Fort Madison, and we already are getting to know a lot of people which makes it become like family. The people here are so nice.”

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