If you have a holiday shopping list but aren't up to dealing with long lines at the mall, head toward downtown Tarpon Springs on Saturday and Sunday to shop at the 23rd Annual Thanksgiving Arts and Crafts Festival, sponsored by the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce.
"We've expanded the footprint of the shopping area by about 270 feet of extra space. And we've added more food," said Sue King, the event coordinator. "It's a well-attended festival with great artists who come back year after year. It's really about shopping locally. It's a much more relaxed shopping atmosphere than going to a mall."
Items for sale will be as varied as the names on any holiday gift list, including folk art, earthenware, paintings and wearable art.
Need a piece of unique jewelry or a delicate hand-painted scarf for a gift? Check.
Dips, hot sauces, spicy barbecue rubs for stocking stuffers? Check.
Maybe outdoor items like bird houses and feeders? This festival has it covered. From art to home decor to handmade gifts, most of the items that will be for sale were created by local artists and crafters.
Kristy Seiter and Cristina Marshall of Imagine That By Seiter Enterprises in Tarpon Springs will show their work for the first time at this festival. The best friends use recycled and "upcycled" materials to create works of art that do more than simply look beautiful, including metal and wooden benches, mirrors and artistic signs created from wooden pallets.
"I have a metal fabricating business," Seiter said. "And this is what I've always wanted to do. I want people to have something that they love as much as I loved making it."
Seiter, like many of the artists who will be selling their works, picks up most of the supplies she needs in the local community, thereby helping to support other businesses.
"Those of us along Tarpon Avenue shop locally for what we need. We're all trying to use local people for everything we need," Seiter said. "Some of what we'll have will be our original designs. Some of the pieces like brass candlesticks we have, we'll turn into something new, different and less traditional."
Some artists will come from as far away as Savannah, but most of the artists and crafters live and work in the Tampa Bay area.
Like the arts and crafts, the festival cuisine will be a product of locals. A variety of food and snacks from kettle corn and Italian ices to Greek food, Brazilian fare and seafood will be available for purchase.
Those who shop at the festival on Saturday can purchase tickets to attend another local event that night, the Tarpon Springs Wine Walk, from 4 to 8 p.m. Ticket holders will be able to taste wine and appetizers from more than 25 shops and restaurants downtown and along the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks, and will take home a souvenir wine glass.
"The Thanksgiving Arts and Crafts Festival is a great event," said Sue Thomas, chamber president. "We've been doing this for so long it's really become the start of the holiday shopping season."