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Junior League's Holiday Gift Market will feature more selections for men

TAMPA — Make a shopping list, Aunts to Zookeepers, and the odds are good you'll find something for everyone you care about at the Junior League of Tampa's 14th annual Holiday Gift Market.

"This is our largest yet in both merchants and square footage," said Carlee Bowdoin, co-chairwoman of the fundraiser. It opens with a preview party Thursday evening, Nov. 9, and runs through Sunday afternoon at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Last year more than 21,000 shoppers came through the doors, Bowdoin said. She and co-chairwoman Shelby Tuttle expect to exceed that number by expanding to 180 specialty merchants and adding additional space in the entertainment hall.

"Of those vendors, 80 are new this year," Bowdoin said, "increasing variety in every category ... home decor, custom children's clothing, collegiate items, organic skin products."

The jewelry selection is huge, she said, "From bold statement pieces to delicate handcrafted silver necklaces.

"Also handmade food items such as macaroons, sweet brewed tea and bundt cakes. Blankets and bedding, personalized calligraphy gifts and we have more things geared to men, like cigars and hand-made fishing lures."

For the fourth time, the league awarded a Young Entrepreneur grant to a start-up whose product impressed them. This year's recipient, Lisbeth Pacheco of Ethos Roasters, will sell coffee beans she purchases from small farms in Central and Latin America and Africa, including a women's cooperative in Cajamarca, Peru.

"We work with importers to buy only certified or direct trade beans and roast them ourselves," said Pacheco, 34. She left the corporate world, working in product development for PepsiCo Frito-Lay, to start the craft roastery in Lakeland.

The daughter of two Guatemalan physicians, Pacheco immigrated to the United States when she was 21. "I feel so lucky to be here," she said. "We started with a three kilo roaster and I hope to upgrade after the holiday market."

Action-packed weekend

Preview party guests will get first dibs on the merchandise Thursday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $35 and that includes tastings from local restaurant and live music.

On Friday from 6 to 8 p.m., Pepin Distributing is donating craft beers for Hoppy Holidays happy hour. Tickets are $20 for appetizers, tastings and a commemorative mug.

"We're staying open later on Friday night, till 8 p.m. this year," Bowdoin said, "and closing earlier on Sunday at 3 p.m."

Santa will be around quite a bit over the weekend.

The big guy will be camping out Friday and Saturday for Santa Snaps, $15 for a professional photo from 3 to 5 p.m.

"The theme is a North Carolina Christmas and professional photos will have a vintage camper background," Bowdoin said.

Also, for older kids on Friday and Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m., there's Santa's Workshop, a $20 Kraftologee/Bricks 4 Kids holiday LEGO experience.

Cookies with the Clauses returns on Sunday from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 to decorate a cookie with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Bring your own camera to this one.

"Tickets can be bought online or at the market," Bowdoin said.

Food trucks will set up Saturday during market hours. This year's line-up includes Nico's Arepas Grill (all gluten free), CJ's Traveling Pizzeria and Kebablicious.

Two popular hangouts will be installed. A Man Cave with LazyBoy recliners and leather couches, and six televisions "so every football game will be on," Bowdoin said.

The Mother's Nook will set up with changing tables, comfy seats for nursing moms and coloring books for the babies' siblings.

"It's amazing to be a part of something so big that ends up giving back so much," Bowdoin said.