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Junior League's Holiday Gift Market growing fast

TAMPA — In a single lap around the Holiday Gift Market, you can cross everything off a holiday shopping list: Shoeboxes the size of treasure chests, flip-flops with changeable straps and saucer-shaped garlic graters are all on sale this weekend.

But you'll have to elbow your way through the crowded aisles first.

With 140 local and national vendors set up this weekend at the Junior League of Tampa's seventh annual fundraising event, the Holiday Gift Market is outgrowing its space in the Entertainment Hall of the Florida State Fairgrounds.

"We are maxed out," said Junior League president Betsy Graham.

Between high demand from merchants and a crowd of 10,000 shoppers expected this weekend, Graham said the Junior League already is planning to move next year's market to the larger Expo Hall.

The change of venue will give sharp-eyed shoppers a little more room to wander through.

"It tends to be a little tight," said Tampa resident Erin Greco, who navigated the booths with her 6-month-old son in a stroller. Instead of repeating last year's Saturday spree, she went Friday afternoon.

Ticket sales and booth fees go toward the Junior League's 11 community projects, which benefit foster children, disadvantaged youth and literacy and education programs.

Together with its annual campaign, the Holiday Gift Market will collect $250,000 this year for those causes, Graham said.

The Holiday Gift Market is a big draw for people looking for one-stop shopping or unusual, one-of-a-kind gifts.

"Women come here to spend," said Chicago-based vendor Michelle Urban, who sells shabby-chic handmade pillows.

Even with the economic downturn, spending is "way up" this year, she said.

To avoid peak shopping times, Junior League leader Graham suggests arriving early or coming late.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at swang@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443.

>>If you go

Holiday Gift Market

Where: The Entertainment Hall of the Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 N U.S. Highway 301 in Tampa.

When: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Cost: $5 admission plus $5 fairgrounds parking fee.

Junior League's Holiday Gift Market growing fast 11/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 11:44pm]
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