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Groton craft fair raises funds, bonds community

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Lynn Olcott, of Cortland, sells her handmade knitwear at Saturday’s craft show in Groton.

Ostensibly, it was supposed to be a simple French Club fundraiser to send a few kids to Quebec next spring. But really, Saturday’s craft fair was just an excuse for Groton to be Groton.

“There’s a lot of pride in Groton,” French club adviser Annette Twitchell said between interruptions to tell someone where the Christmas wreath prices were stashed and an admiring sniff of a fresh, warm cinnamon roll. “We can do great things if we get together.”

The great thing, in this case, is the $20 fee each of the 113 vendors paid to show their wares. That’s $2,260 to help defray the costs of the annual trip. Added to that are the proceeds of a silent auction, fundraiser to help Haiti recover from Hurricane Matthew and other events.

Twitchell expects to clear between $3,000 and $4,000 in the event’s sixth year.

But that’s the excuse part. The real event is watching neighbors bump into neighbors wandering through the junior-senior high school. Sounds of Bing Crosby wafted through the cafeteria; assorted gossip wandered the halls with the shoppers; the din echoed through the
gymnasium.

“It’s so cute, “ Lucy Dates of Groton said over a finger puppet made of alpaca wool as Gerry O’Hara of Moravia described how he recently rescued 13 alpaca from Pennsylvania, bringing his herd to 42. “The little faces: How can you resist?”

O’Hara’s table was in the upstairs hallways.

In the gym, Twilight Alpacas sold mittens and hats woven from alpaca wool. “This is a good venue for us,” said Irene Kulis of Venice Center. She and husband Jeff keep 19 alpaca. It was their third year in Groton. “We’re trying to work it into our retirement.”

If it was fabric, you could find it somewhere: wool and alpaca; fleece and fiber, cotton and yarn. Lots of yarn, a veritable cornucopia of crochet. Between that came goats milk product, essential oils, wood crafts. If people could make it for fun, they could sell it for money.

Between the gym and the library, Jaelynne Harriott and Brooke Brecht skipped basketball practice to staff the silent auction. The freshmen, both 14, get credit to defray the cost of the trip to Canada the more they volunteer — it’s part of the stress on service that Twitchell said the event incorporates.

“Many people are using it as an opportunity for the community,” Twitchell said. She lost track of the other fundraisers included in the French Club fundraiser.

Kristen Wishart didn’t even realize the event benefited the French Club. “It does?” she asked at the school’s main foyer, where she was taking a survey for the Groton recreation program. Her efforts were almost, but not quite, stymied because so many people walking in the door were from someplace else: Lansing, Cortland, Virgil.

That’s just how Groton rolls. “One of the things that drew me here is the sense of family,” said Twitchell, who moved to Groton 27 years ago. “You don’t ever give up on family.”