Haven Holiday Market Brings Holidays Home Safely
by James Coulter
Shawn Meade has several palm trees in her backyard. Several branches and other parts fall from them. Her husband, James, wanted to burn them. She did not want to throw them away. So she decided to use them for her arts and crafts.
Upon discovering she could paint on the leaves and branches, she began painting them. She initially painted basic shapes. Her husband took it one step further and used them to create more elaborate sculptures, which she then painted. When they learned they could sell their crafts, they decided to do so through the annual Haven Holiday Craft Show in Winter Haven.
“We put our hearts and souls into it, and it is good to see people appreciate it,” she said.
She and her husband started Treefish to sell their painted palm art. They have been attending the Haven Holiday Market ever since it first started. Their return customers keep them coming back time and again every year. Many come from as far as Orlando, Sanford, and Clearwater.
They also love the camraderie among the other vendors, as she always walks away with something from somebody else, she said. And, of course, people always buy what they have to sell. They even sold many items before they finished setting up their booth.
“It is good for Sergio [Cruz, the organizer] to host an event like this,” Shawn said. “It gets people a chance to make money, especially right now when it is hard to do. So good for him for standing up and giving people a chance to make some money. There are people who need it right now.”
Meade was one of nearly 92 vendors who set up shop within Central Park in Downtown Winter Haven during the Annual Haven Holiday Market on Saturday. Everything from homemade wreaths, trees, ornaments, and other arts and crafts were sold to get locals into the holiday season.
Jay Allen, who sells raw honey through Pat’s Apiaries, has been attending the annual holiday event ever since it first started. She sells raw honey made from orange blossom and palmetto. The honey is sold raw, as it was never heated over 125 degrees, and it still contains pollen, which allows her to trace where the honey originated from.
Her main motivation for returning to the event ever year? “I make money,” she replied. “I haven’t sat down since I’ve been here.”
“I have been doing this market since it started,” Jay said. “I stopped all my other markets because this has been the best. These markets are the best.”
Sergio Cruz and his wife Andrea, publisher and editor respectively of 863 Magazine, started the event seven years ago as a way to allow local artisans and crafters to sell their wares one week prior to Thanksgiving, giving them a head start on the holiday season.
Their first event started with a humble 62 vendors. Their numbers grew to 162 last year. Their numbers decreased slightly by 92 this year; however, despite these uncertain times, they still drew a good turnout, Sergio said.
“It was harder because we have a lot of artists and crafters who are scared, they are living with fear, they are totally fine but they are afraid to go out and be exposed to COVID-19,” he said.
Preparing and setting up this year’s event proved challenging, as their event had to meet social distancing guidelines. Booths were set up far enough from each other, and every vendor was wearing a mask, Sergio said.
Overall, the pure energy and enthusiasm among the people keep the event going time and again each year. Not even the looming threat of a pandemic could prevent people from coming out for early holiday shopping.
“The people, the energy, they are amazing,” Sergio said. “The people inspire me. The people show me the energy how happy they are, and they encourage me to make it better next year. So every year we have been better.”