SOUTHINGTON – Thousands of people searched for a gift for everyone on their list Sunday at the Aqua Turf.
The annual Christmas Gift Show returned for the fourth year in a row, presenting 227 different vendors and just about any specialty item imaginable.
Many shoppers came in search of the crafter, cook or inventor they bought something from in the past, since the vast majority of booths featured return vendors.
“We have a 93 percent return rate,” show promoter Rob Craven explained. “We don’t have a ton of new spaces opening up each year.”
Newington resident Lauren Heim was excited to find a cookie dough cook she met at last year’s show.
“It’s delicious and different,” Heim said of Unbakeables, offered in flavors like “Midnight Mint” and “Choco Nutter.”
The company is run by Corey Tolkin of Norwalk and her mother. The snacking bites are made from scratch and don’t need to be cooked.
“Everyone loves eating cookie dough, and this doesn’t have eggs in it,” Heim added. “It makes for a great gift.”
Tolkin was one of many food vendors at the show enticing visitors with free samples.
There was also handcrafted jewelry, electronics, clothing, accessories, stocking stuffers, toys and much more.
“We try and give each category of seller a few booths in the show,” Craven said. “It gives small business owners a chance to come out in front of thousands of people and hopefully do really well.”
He gets about 1,000 applications each year, from people across the tri-state area hoping to snag a booth.
That includes local authors, three of which showcased their books Sunday.
Middlebury resident Peter Warren had a 30-year career with the Connecticut State Police and retired 10 years ago to become a writer.
“Books have opened up a lot of doors for me,” Warren said from behind his table. “This show treats me really well. I get to talk to a lot of people and often get invited to speak to different civic clubs and organizations. I don’t equate success to money. I equate success to the opportunities I’m presented with.”
Warren has authored six books – four murder mysteries and two based on the Civil War. His newest release is called “One Brother’s Revenge.” The story begins and ends in Connecticut.
Crocheted jewelry from Nepal could be found close to the entrance, along with its seller, Kristin Parker.
Blessed Hope Nepal is owned by three Tibetan women, the only female entrepreneurs among their ethnic group in the mountains of eastern Nepal.
“I have been working with these particular women for five-and-a-half years,” Parker said.
Besides overhead costs, all profits she earned Sunday go back to Nepal, where she lived for the last 13 years.
Parker moved back to Connecticut recently because of two deaths in her family and is currently staying in Beacon Falls.
Many show vendors knew each other from past years’ events. Ricky Evans, owner of Ricky’s D’s Rib Shack in New Haven and a vendor, made sure to support his favorite soap creator, Reese Piper, from Harwinton.
“We cross paths at all of these events,” Evans pointed out. “I’m here to buy some soap.”
Piper, his brother and their parents make their Ridge Runner Soaps from all-natural ingredients.
“It’s a family-operated business,” Piper said as he let Evans smell one of their newest creations.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or email@example.com.