Santa’s Art Shop is this weekend

Ann Cousineau

Santa’s Art Shop is this weekendAfter months of making lists and checking them twice, all the attention to detail will become visible as Ridgecrest’s holiday tradition comes alive at the 35th Annual Santa’s Art Shop. Thousands of shoppers are expected to visit this weekend’s event, Dec. 1-2, at the Desert Empire Fairgrounds, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday.

“We’re taking up a family tradition started by another family years ago,” said Pat Farris, new owner of the Santa’s Art Shop business. “Santa’s Art Shop is such an important Christmas tradition that I felt this would be a great project for my family. Undertaking large events is not new to my family. We’ve gained experience with events like the balloon festivals, air shows and community centennial celebrations.”

Before changing hands and families this spring, Santa’s Art Shop was a family tradition for the Spindler family since the early 1980s. “The event was originally started by Beth Allen and Vivian LeBow in 1977,” said Terri Middlemiss who took over the business about 1980 and launched the family tradition.

“June Spindler, my sister-in-law, took over in June 1997 and continued until selling the business to Pat Farris this year. We have many memories of our years at the event, including a niece who grew up ‘under the Christmas tree’ and eventually became a ticketseller as a teenager.”

“June and Jeff have made the transition smooth,” said Farris. “They’ve been very supportive, helping us every step of the way in preparing for this year’s event. We’ve also had the pleasure of working with Mike Leming, Desert Empire Fairgrounds chief executive officer, who has been most helpful.”

At least 150 vendors will set up their displays in their assigned spaces spanning all three buildings and adjoining walkways — totaling a 33,000-square-foot exhibit area. Shoppers will be delighted with the fascinating variety of gift items made locally or brought here from as far away as Las Vegas and Arizona.

It could be said that there will be everything from soup to nuts at this year’s exhibition.

“We’re very excited about the enthusiasm of vendors,” Farris added. “This is a true arts and crafts fair, with beautiful and original handcrafted gifts at reasonable prices. Many of them have a long history as part of Santa’s Art Workshop. There will be vendors with dried soups, nuts, woodwork, ready-to-wear children’s clothing, photography, paintings, jewelry and much, much more.”

Strolling carolers will entertain visitors as purveyors offer tasty treats — old Christmas snack favorites and warm beverages like hot chocolate. The event will feature many familiar faces, including Santa Claus. Altrusa’s Christmas Tree Lane will also be among the dazzling displays capturing the attention of shoppers looking for unique holiday gifts. Tickets sold for this fundraiser will conclude with a raffle giving away fully decorated trees including gifts for a total value of at least $300 each.

First timers to the event are expected to travel here from outside the valley. “We broadened our umbrella for advertising to attract communities beyond the Indian Wells Valley,” said Farris. “This is growing to be another signature event drawing visitors to our wonderful community.”

Over recent years, messages have popped up on a Google search of “Santa’s Art Shop” on the Internet. These cozy notes seem to sum up the sentimental feelings of longtime residents who have woven heartstrings tugged at the mention of Santa’s Art Shop as it became part of their family holiday traditions:

2010 — “Every year, the first weekend in December, our town holds a Santa’s Art Shop. It started out as just a few ladies that had to go out of town to sell their handmade items. So they decided to invite other people to our town, and it has grown since them. It fills up all three of the buildings at the Fairgrounds and the walkways between. If you are anywhere near Ridgecrest, CA, between 9 and 5 Saturday and 9 and 4 Sunday, stop in. It is well worth the trouble.”

2005 — “We had to get up early this morning. OK, not exactly early, but earlier than I like to on a Saturday. Santa’s Art Shop opened at 9 a.m. this morning, and my dear wife insists that we are on line waiting to get in when they open the gates at 9. … I have heard that they average over 200 exhibitors each year. Every year we find vendors who have come from as far away as Salt Lake City, Southern Oregon, or Nevada. Apparently we are one of the regular stops on the holiday craft tour that a lot of these vendors make every year.

“I know that it takes us anywhere from two to three hours to wander through the place and that is if we don’t stop and talk to anyone.

“My dear wife’s tradition is to dress the whole family up in Christmas sweatshirts or sweaters and Santa Claus hats. Well, the whole family except for me. I refuse to dress up. My standard outfit is blue jeans, a flannel shirt and my Christmas hat … a baseball cap that is built like a Santa Claus hat, or is it a Santa Claus hat with a baseball cap brim on it? Either way, it’s a pointed red hat with a white pom-pom and a green brim. Embroidered on the front, in gold, are the words ‘Bah Humbug.’

“I got this hat several years ago at an after Christmas sale at Kmart. In the 15 or so years that we have been going to Santa’s Art Shop I could have sold that hat twenty or more times. Usually to some guy who is tagging along after his wife with his arms full of stuff, or to many of the vendors husbands. But I don’t sell.

“We had a pretty good day today. We didn’t get more than four booths into the first building and my dear wife was already sending me out to the car with my arms full. She bought a really cute stuffed Father Christmas that was seated on a wooden chair.

“My oldest daughter bought some Christmas presents for a few of her friends. I picked up a couple joke gift ideas for the next couple Christmases.

“As a family we always look forward to Santa’s Art Shop each year. We get good decorating ideas, some good gift ideas, and always find some new decorations for the house.”

Story First Published: 2012-11-28