By JOSH BROKAW
HUGHESVILLE - November marks the time when those serious about holiday shopping and decor start decking their halls in preparation for Christmas. Ghosts, skeletons and jack-o'-lanterns must be hidden away before elves and Santas can make their jolly appearance.
In Hughesville, Santa Claus commences the holiday season with his annual ride down Main Street at the end of the Halloween parade. Then, people know that the St. Nick's Craft Show will be coming soon.
On Nov. 3, Hughesville High School's halls and gym were filled with shoppers browsing and buying the wares of 110 vendors. The displays spilled outdoors, where several crafty purveyors set up their pop-up tents and bundled up against the gray, unseasonable cold so they could catch the crowd's eye first with their sundry wares.
More snowmen and Santas were available in more kinds and designs, than the most dedicated holiday craft collector could ever hope to accumulate.
For those not looking for seasonal-specific gifts, there were vendors selling handmade furniture, handblown glassware, photographs, paintings and jewelry.
Fudge, jams and pepper jellies were available, and gourmet pet treats, too, though those are the sort of gift, if put under the tree early, that might not make it past sniffing noses and rumbling tummies until the last week of December.
Folks who came out came to buy, and they came out early. Millie Whitmer, of Mount Pleasant Mills, had a snowman-centric array of crafted items on display by the library entrance. It was her second year at the show.
"They cleared me out of a lot of stuff," Whitmer said. "This morning was packed - I did very well last year, and I did every bit as well this year."
With so many crafters showing, a prominently positioned table can be a boon to sales.
Deb Myers, of Hughesville, said that she started in the "back corner of the gym" five years ago, and she's "moved her way up" over the years. Vendors are given the opportunity to reserve their space for the next year, and so move their way up toward the front.
Myers, for her part, was having a good day selling her "recycled" flower arrangements and other repurposed items, like a lamp converted into a stocking-holding lightpole.
" 'Don't throw that away, I'll redecorate it' is my philosophy," she said.
Hughesville's Michael Bower watched his wife Cheryl's table of glasswares inside the gym.
"I actually liked being outside," Bower said. "I was out there three years, but now that she's been coming she doesn't like being outside - and she does the work. I'm just the set-up man and the mouthpiece."
The 2012 craft show, the 17th annual, benefited the East Lycoming Soccer Association, as the show has every year since its inception in 1996. The funds support soccer instruction and facilities for every age level of play in the Hughesville area.
About the same number of crafters have attended every year since the show began 17 years ago, but the crowds have expanded. People came to Hughesville for the show from as far away as Lancaster this year, said ELSA president Raymond Perritt.
"When we started out we were hoping just to have a show that could help fund building the (Hughesville soccer) stadium," Perritt said. "It's just grown and grown since people started putting it online, on Facebook - it's turned into a monster, a good monster."