Gambier Craft Sale founder still helping in many ways
GAMBIER — This Sunday will be the fourth time the large and popular Gambier Craft Sale held at the Kenyon College Athletic Center will fall on co-coordinator Mistie Wray’s Dec. 2 birthday. To make matters a bit more challenging for her this year, the event’s 50th anniversary, her co-coordinator — who founded the craft sale in 1969 with a friend — is unavailable due to illness.
But that doesn’t deter Wray, who in her ninth year as co-coordinator, wants to dedicate this event to her friend, event co-founder Joyce Klein of Gambier. Klein still helps Wray with logistics from her home, and though unable to be on hand Sunday, Klein will be there in spirit. Wray will offer craft creators and their customers a chance to sign a posterboard appreciating Klein for all she has done to create the Gambier Craft Sale with her co-founder, Jo Rice. Wray will also take photos and video for sharing. Rice, known for spinning her own wool products like hats and scarves, was an important part of the craft sale during its first decade and will likely be on hand to commingle with vendors.
‘Honesty, I expect people to be lining up at the door to get in at 10 a.m. (Sunday),” Wray said, adding the event runs from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. “Everything our vendors sell is of such high quality that you wouldn’t think you would see it at an event this big. Joyce and I pay a lot of attention to make sure everything sold is an original item.”
This is the 21st year Wray has been involved with the Gambier Craft Sale and expects about 75 vendors on hand, selling homemade and hand-made crafts to more than 1,000 potential customers. Items will range from wooden toy dinosaurs to hand-blown glass, jewelry, wood furniture and fine food.
When she first started as an event helper, Wray worked with Klein in Klein’s food booth. Back then, there were around 40 vendors. Since then, as co-coordinator, Wray said she and Klein have welcomed up to 116 vendors, their all-time high. This year the total is lower due to Joyce’s absence, Wray said, which is heartfelt by all who know her. The event has steadily grown over the years due to Joyce’s enthusiasm, talent and way with people, she added.
“She (Klein) made all kinds of cakes and breads,” Wray recalled. “Her food was so incredibly good that she would always be the first vendor to sell out, and she would sell out every year early. And that’s saying something given the quality of the fudge for sale. It will be a hard hit not to have her there.”
Klein also — for more than 50 years — has run a successful catering business, called Friday Cafe. It has served the Kenyon community with foods like cheese-fllled crepes, Georgian cheese bread, gourmet chickpea soup, and two of its staples that started it all off — pies and coffee. Friday Cafe, which was situated in Harcourt Parish Episcopal Church on Fridays, is on temporary hiatus this semester due to Klein’s illness.
“I know she is going to be fine, and probably back and running by February,” Wray said, adding her friend receives the best of care including that of her husband, Bill Klein, a retired Kenyon Professor Emeritus of English.
Wray and Klein have another connection, dating back two decades or so to when Joyce was on the local Habitat for Humanity board. Wray was an applicant for a Habitat for Humanity home at the time, and Klein supported her application for a home.
“I have my house and have lived in it for 17 years with my family on Upper Fredericktown Road,” Wray said. “I’m eternally grateful to Habitat and to Joyce.”
Wray said it’s small wonder that the Kleins received Kenyon’s Thomas B. and Mary M. Greenslade award, which recognizes outstanding service to Kenyon and the Gambier community.
Wray said she will offer a food donation box on behalf of the local Lions Club, where patrons can make donations to food for the hungry. The Gambier Craft Sale will be held on the Kenyon Athletic Center’s indoor track, which is entirely Americans with Disabilities Act accessible, she said. And Wray, though coordinating the physical challenges of the craft sale this year with little help, will have relatives on hand, two sisters, a daughter and son, to help with duties such as the announcer’s booth.
The Gambier Craft Sale will be offered in a style known as an “Austrian market,” which offers comfortable spaces for vendors, arranged like a craft-making community, rather than limiting vendors to confining booths. Awards given out will be for the vendor with the best space, and the best craft. Everyone on hand will receive a free raffle ticket for vendor-produced prizes. Entry to the Gambier Craft Sale is free and open to the public. Wray has worked on the Kenyon Athletic Center facility rental with Kenyon’s Barbara Kakiris and Justin Newell.