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story.lead_photo.caption Craft hunters browse the booths during last year's Hatton Arts & Crafts Festival. The craft fair returns from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. this Saturday. Photo by Helen Wilbers / News Tribune.

HATTON, Mo. — Hatton's population will multiply many times over this weekend during the 48th annual Hatton Arts & Crafts Festival.

"Overwhelmingly, we're running into more people who hope we will have it and can do it safely," said Daniel Plain, Hatton Extension Club president.

Sponsored by the Hatton Extension Club, the fair features 160-plus vendors selling handmade items. Despite the ongoing pandemic, vendor spots were full by the end of August, according to the event's Facebook page.

The festival runs 8 a.m.-4 p.m., giving craft enthusiasts a whole day to find their next treasure. Vendors will offer just about every handcrafted item imaginable: cozy crocheted accessories, candles, holiday decorations, jewelry, soaps, mums, furniture, kitchenware and much more.

Plain noted some people will drive hours to visit their favorite vendor booths, such as fan-favorite hair bow vendor Bugga Boo Bows.

"Last year, she had 10 or 12 fans who made custom shirts," Plain said. "It's quite impressive."

The fair centers around the Hatton Community Hall and stretches for a quarter-mile throughout town.

Children can enjoy free wagon rides, and seven food booths are scattered throughout Hatton. The Hatton Extension Club will be serving coffee, home-baked pies and doughnuts and heartier lunch fare, too. Funds raised through food sales will go back to the Hatton Extension Club to fund various scholarships throughout the North Callaway R-1 School District.

"I focus more on the eating than the craft-buying, but my wife makes up for me," Plain said.

The festival averages about 5,000 attendees per year — less when it's rainy and cold and more when it's sunny and warm. Most of the booths are located outside, so weather matters.

"People only want to stand in the rain for so long," Plain said.

The National Weather Service currently partial sun and crisp temperatures for this Saturday, with a high of 60 and a small chance of rain after 1 p.m.

The pandemic may also have an impact on attendance, but Plain's not sure what that impact will be. The craft fair committee heard from several older vendors that they weren't comfortable with attending this year, but they also heard from vendors — some new, some returning — that were overjoyed the fair was still on.

"So much of their season has been canceled, this might their first or second show they've been able to attend," Plain said, adding he suspects many shoppers will feel the same way. "This could potentially be one of our better years."

This will likely be the biggest event to take place in Callaway County since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharon Lynch, director of the Callaway County Health Department, said there's no state- or county-level rules that would prohibit such an event. Lynch added she's reassured by the event largely taking place outdoors.

"I'd be more concerned if it was a huge indoor event, but it's an outdoor event," she said. "Everyone just needs to be careful, avoid standing in large groups of people and just spread out a little bit."

She noted sunshine and enjoying the outdoors are beneficial for mental and physical health. Additionally, CCHD employee Mylene Dunn is a long-serving member of the festival committee and has reviewed food safety with other committee members, Lynch said.

Plain said the decision to push ahead with the craft festival followed much discussion among club members, as well as looking at how other major events around Missouri have been handled in the last few months.

"We've heard about a couple smaller events around state that have had tremendous success," he said.

Though masks won't be required, other precautions are in place, Plain explained. There will be fewer indoor vendor booths and more space between booths indoors and outdoors. Additional outdoor seating areas will encourage visitors to spread out while enjoying snacks and meals. Signs will remind attendees of healthy practices and direct traffic on a one-way course among the booths. Handwashing and hand sanitizer stations will be scattered across the grounds.

"Quite a few of our vendors have said they'll be selling masks," Plain added.

Hatton is located about 25 minutes from Fulton. To reach Hatton, starting at Kingdom City, drive west on Interstate 70 or Old U.S. 40 for 3.7 miles, then turn north onto Route M. Drive for 5.1 miles and then turn west (left) onto Route E. Hatton is about a mile down the road.

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