How did such a unique event ever come about? Well, let’s see…I guess you could say it all started when I was just a girl. The crafting bug hit me at a very young age. I didn’t realize at the time I’d one day need a place to display and sell what I did for fun. Not much was sold in the early years, it was just something I liked to do. Years went by and creativity continued to grow. I participated in a few small shows but when my children were in elementary school it took a different turn as the teachers kept me busy providing them with plenty of holiday pins and decorations. When they were older, I moved on to a different arena. It was no longer the little things that could be toted to school but the inventory got bigger and so did the need to display it. My mom became my partner in this wonderful adventure and we would host an open house at my home the beginning of December. This was by invitation but seemed to grow over the years. One particular year, I guess it would’ve been about eight years ago, we were in the middle of some renovations and there was no way to have things ready for an open house in December. We had been a part of Alpha Ministries for many years and John Glenn, the pastor and close friend, mentioned to me that I have my open house at Freedom Ranch where we have Church in the Woods. What? That sounded like a perfect idea! Not only would it be for my personal invited guests but for the whole community and those around us to be able to participate and attend. We are now on our 8th Craft Fair in the Woods. After the first year we decided we needed a permanent date set to keep this thing going because it was a good thing so the decision was made for this event to be the second Saturday in November. It’s been growing bigger and better each year.
The beautiful location and our many talented vendors are the biggest attractions for our visitors. At Freedom Ranch, this peaceful place surrounded by large cypress, oak and cabbage trees, the vendors and visitors get a wonderful taste of nature. If they want to dig a little deeper on the ranch, swamp buggy rides are offered throughout the day to explore the property. It’s a good thing we have some rodeo competitors and horse trainers nearby because they give an arena demonstration that is a real crowd pleaser along with a local farrier that demonstrates his talent and work. There’s something for the whole family.
I sure couldn’t provide the meal at my open house that we all get in the woods as Alpha Ministries and their many volunteers serve some great barbecue dinners along with good old swamp cabbage. Yes, the cabbage is a big hit too. I have to remind my husband of that every year as he gathers his hard working crew to go to some local ranches to cut and prepare this tasty treat that I’ve been enjoying since childhood. Who would’ve ever thought that part of a tree could taste so good?
The main event is our many very talented artists and craftsmen that participate with us every year and as we grow more are joining. We have fine art, once a year crafters (like me) and everything in between. We require that everything sold is handmade or homemade which we have found that our visitors really appreciate. Each year offers new talent and new products.
I kind of miss the open house sometimes and this is a far cry from painting that big plaster of Paris frog on Mamas’ dining room table when I was little but to be a part of this gets more exciting every year. What started out as a family thing sure has grown and I’m very grateful that we have this wonderful place to offer such an event to our community and those surrounding us. It may be one of those things you have to come see for yourself so come on over to the southeast side of Okeechobee County and join us for a day “in the woods”.
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