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Fall festival offers abundance of crafts

Local area residents flock to the Jaycees Fairgrounds in Jefferson City for the annual Cole County Extension Fall Festival. More than 160 vendors sold a wide variety of crafts and goods.

Local area residents flock to the Jaycees Fairgrounds in Jefferson City for the annual Cole County Extension Fall Festival. More than 160 vendors sold a wide variety of crafts and goods. Photo by Deborah Cote.

The late summer heat couldn’t dissuade hundreds of visitors from attending Saturday’s 37th annual Cole County Extension Fall Festival.

From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Jaycees Fairgrounds bloomed with canopied booths that displayed items ranging from woodcarvings to handcrafted soaps to custom aprons and purses.

Harvest and Halloween-themed merchandise was a common sight at the festival. Several booths featured seasonal autumn wreaths with red leaves and squash, while witches and pumpkins adorned many of the tables. As the festival drew to a close, one young girl excitedly waved her new purchase: an artificial spider affixed by a string to a long black wand.

Nan McCaslin, who specializes in creating sculptures from old dishware, was one of more than 150 vendors selling wares at the event.

She said her creations were inspired by the realization that her daughter wasn’t going to entertain all of her old glasses and plates.

“I wanted a way to use them,” she said.

McCaslin’s “whimsical garden totems” — towers made of alternating cups or dishes and saucers — quickly drew a crowd. Each totem was a unique smorgasbord of shapes, designs and patterns.

“It’s kind of a whimsical look you put out in the yard,” McCaslin said.

On the other side of the fairgrounds, Jim Rathert showed off his handmade mugs and mouse pads, which featured images of state wildlife. Rathert, a former photographer for the Missouri Department of Conservation, has been running his business out of Jefferson City since he retired seven years ago.

With the help of a St. Louis distributor, Rathert has been able to sell his products at stores throughout the country. What he appreciates most about the job, he says, is the artistic license it provides: he takes his own photographs and designs each of his items by hand.

“I like it because I do everything,” he said. “I’m in complete control.”

Jefferson City resident Judi Jecmer said she typically goes to the festival to look get ideas for gifts for her grandchildren.

“I like to look, mostly,” she said. “Some years I can get carried away.”

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