Retail therapy alert!
It won’t be long before one of the city’s biggest maker fairs hits the metro. Of course we’re talking about Holiday Swing—coming to Union Station the weekend after Thanksgiving. The event is so impressive the folks at Buzzfeed called it “one of the top indie craft fairs in the world,” says curator Katie Mabry van Dieren. “We’re definitely a top destination in the Midwest for handmade gifts. We had about 400 artist applications, but only 150 made the cut. They’re all regional, all from the Midwest!”
From humble beginnings in 2011 with a small, local group of Etsy vendors, The Strawberry Swing Indie Craft Fair has grown into a behemoth shopping extravaganza. “It’s definitely been fun to see how far this has come. It’s become a tradition,” Mabry van Dieren says, laughing. “We had 17,000 people attend last year’s Holiday Swing. This year, we’re hoping for even more.”
One look at the rundown of specialized artists and you’ll quickly realize she’s not kidding about all the talented vendors involved. “There’s going to be something for everyone,” she says. “Each brand you’ll find at the Swing is like a mini-store. They have all perfected their craft-show presence, so you feel like you’re going into a different shop in each booth—every single one is a little pop-up store.”
Take Archival Designs, for instance. “They’re an amazing husband/wife team who create ceramics—unique pieces, too—everything from a garlic grater to a bowl with a built-in spoon rest for your pancake batter.” Another crowd favorite? The team from Messner Bee Farm. “From candles to lip balm—they have amazing honey-based products created from wax and honey harvested from their Raytown bee farm,” she says.
Given the one-click addiction of online shoppers, Mabry van Dieren says her show definitely has hit a soft spot with people who like to see/feel/sample what they’re buying and of course, kibitz with the artists themselves. “We require the artists to be on-hand at their booths because people are excited to see what vendors we have and meet their favorite artists in person,” she says. “I want the people who buy to meet the people who create—simple as that.” Popular, longtime vendors will be on hand, but Mabry van Dieren promises a slew of new faces who are sure to dazzle.
And when she says there’s something for everyone—she’s 100 percent serious. Guests are often gobsmacked by Holiday Swing’s sheer variety. “Feel free to buy whatever tech stuff you want on Black Friday, but everything else you can find here,” she says. “From knitted hats to perfume, T-shirts to wooden cutting boards. I mean, everything. So much cute baby stuff is on display too. We have something for everyone, even gourmet marshmallows made locally touting flavors like lavender and peanut butter.”
New this year? Mabry van Dieren says she is most excited about an exclusive, ticketed pre-shopping event for those who want to beat the rush. “We’ve heard from people who are eager to pay to get in early—so we’re going to do limited pre-shopping. Tickets are available now, but I’d expect them to sell out quickly.”
And never fear, there will be plenty of food trucks parked outside Union Station to help keep your blood sugar up during your shopping blitzkrieg. “Plus, Union Station always has the most festive venue for the holidays,” says Mabry van Dieren. “This event is designed to get you in the holiday spirit since it starts on Small Business Saturday. You can support 150 different small businesses under one roof.”
For Mabry van Dieren, each event she throws is a labor of love and she’s quick to point that out. “I am most proud of the fact that small, independent businesses are able to make a living doing what they love, ” she says. “People in Kansas City really come out to support the vendors.”
The 9th Annual Holiday Swing
Date: November 30th and December 1st
Location: Union Station: 30 W Pershing Rd. Kansas City, MO 64108
Hours: Saturday, November 30th, 10am – 7pm & Sunday, December 1st, 10am – 5pm
For more information click HERE