What does it mean to be an artist, a craft maker, a musician, a booking agent, or an event promoter in 2020? “You better believe it has been a long, hard road this year, but well worth it,” said Kelly Rusk, co-promoter with her husband, Jeff Rusk.
This October for their 45th anniversary event, the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair is filling to capacity once again with artists and craft makers from all over the country. Unusual for this fair is that about half of the nearly 200 makers in the event have never been to Gatlinburg before!
Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair—45th Anniversary
Gatlinburg Convention Center
234 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, TN
October 8-25, 2020
10 am to 5 pm daily
200 plus booths of handmade arts and crafts, many demonstrated, and some personalized, on site.
Admission at the door includes multiple free music shows daily, a free multi-day pass upgrade, and children of all ages enter for free with paid adult.
Face covering and social distancing observed for this event.
For more information, visit our website at www.CraftsmenFair.com or call us at 865-436-7479.
Taking cues from visitors coming for the first time this year, running away from shutdowns in their own hometowns, craftsmen and women from all across the country who have had one event after another cancelled are coming in hopes of connecting with the public, making new friends, and hopefully, sharing their passion with a new customer.
“This summer’s event showed us a couple of things. 1) You can conduct an event like this safely, 2) People really enjoy meeting with one another in person; they missed, and needed those connections.” Hearing the greetings between crafters and old friends after months of being cooped up is the most memorable take-away the Rusks have from the summer event. “These are people who are used to being at 50 to 100 events per year and see each other again and again. Many are like family to each other. That was all taken away this year, and replaced with a lot of waiting, and not knowing how to plan for anything.”
We asked a few of the makers coming to this fair what this year has been like for them.
“Dips are my passion. I have been going crazy (due to shutdowns). I’ve been missing that outlet that live events provide. You don’t know what else to do. We’re fortunate we have had my husband’s income. A lot of these crafters…it’s their whole livelihood. I’ve only had four shows this year. To know this show is going forward is a big, big, big deal.” – Shanna Wyatt, owner Chadwicks Naturals.
Wyatt and her husband have been participating in the Gatlinburg event for several years now, but many sought out this event by word of mouth from others they know in this profession.
Speaking about his wife’s reaction after hearing about the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair from another maker, Tim Coonradt said, “Denise was so excited to hear about (the Gatlinburg) show. We appreciate the promoters doing this show in these times. We’ve had so many cancellations!”
Denise is jewelry designer Denise Amontree. She usually participates in a lot of shows up north with her business, Swirly Bracelets, but not this year.
“We’ve had three shows this year since they stopped in March. There were three this summer in New Hampshire.”
By most accounts, virtual events offered this year brought in a meager showing for the volumes of work that go into marketing oneself in the digital marketplace. It is just not the same as being one-on-one with customers who can connect to your art or craft in person.
“I myself don’t do that well online; I wish it were better, but it’s not great. The summer shows were actually pretty good. You had to wear a mask, but people were thrilled they could go to a craft show,” she said.
Coming to Gatlinburg, Amontree said she couldn’t be happier. “I’m so excited to do a show and to see Gatlinburg.”
When we called to speak with Doug Hain, a maker of bronze, hand-cast bells, he kind of held his breath to see why we were calling. “I’m relieved, I feel fortunate, and we are looking forward to being back,” he said after experiencing so many cancellations to his schedule this year.
“I originally had 30 events scheduled for this year. As events were closing, we booked more.” That took him to a total of 50 events. Out of all of those, only three took place, he said. “(The Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair) event is only the fourth we are getting to do this year.” Some that were cancelled in Pennsylvania, where Hain operates his business, Old Town Wind Bells, are being rescheduled now.
“I’m just happy to be coming back (to Gatlinburg),” said Hain.
“This will truly be a unique event in Gatlinburg. We are looking forward to seeing customers and artists and craftsmen again who we see year after year, but we are amazed how word of mouth has traveled among the maker communities to bring those together for this event who want to connect with the public again,” said Rusk.
“We are taking precautions for a safe event, requiring face-coverings and employing social distancing for the event,” said Rusk. “We’re making sure those who cannot work are paid, and those who do work are getting a raise beginning with this October fair, too.” (Click here for more info on covid precautions.)
“With the appropriate safety precautions, after so many other shows have cancelled, it should be very fun to be back with customers again,” said Wyatt.
Now ranked 10th in the nation, Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair events offer unique and one-of-a-kind handmade products beautifully displayed in 180 or more booths, many with demonstrations by the artisans. All items represented are handmade and of utmost quality and without duplication. Look for exceptional pottery pieces, stained glass, copper art, local candy makers, handmade jewelry, décor, and many more unique items.
The Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair takes place in July and October each year at the Gatlinburg Convention Center in downtown Gatlinburg, TN, near traffic light number 8 on the Parkway. It is located about a mile from the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near other well-known attractions like the Sky Bridge, Anakeesta, and Ripley’s Aquarium in the Smokies. It is only 5 miles from Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, and the Island in Pigeon Forge.
Tickets are available at the door for $10 and include multiple daily music shows, more than 200 booths of arts and crafts often demonstrated by their makers, a free multi-day pass upgrade, and kids 17 and under enter for free with a paying adult.
Daily music shows are included with the price of admission at 12 and 3, except on the last day. This October we are welcoming back a renowned and local, acoustic bluegrass band, Misty River, and The Dennis Lee Band, featuring contemporary country, bluegrass, patriotic, and your favorite gospel tunes. Joining the musical lineup this year is Monroeville, offering original, multi-faceted blends of energetic country, folk, bluegrass, and alternative music. The Pink Cowboy will be making short appearances on the porch on the Parkway side of the convention center, October 13-19, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Concessions are available for sale through the Gatlinburg Convention Center and provided by Holston’s Kitchen of Sevierville, TN.
Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair supports Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries and their ongoing service to our visiting artisans, patrons, and travelers from all over the world visiting this area.
The Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair is the premiere holiday shopping destination! Your one-stop-shop for everyone on your list.