Dayton Craft and Artisan Expo returns to Masonic Center for 2nd year

Photo: Artists frequently demonstrate their craft at the expo, this year to be held Nov. 4 and 5

By Tim Walker

Some might call it a compulsion. An artist works in his or her studio, usually alone and in obscurity. They spend thousands of hours honing their skills and perfecting their craft, far from the eyes of the public, until the works of art they create emerge, as if from a dream: unique, different, and breathtaking. There’s just something about handmade art and crafts that inspires us and stirs the soul.

It’s all too easy, in this day and age, to fill your home and surround yourself and your family with prefabricated, factory-produced chotchkies, decorations, and other items, usually imported, and none created with much care or love or attention to detail. The mass-produced junk that we spend our hard-earned money on at the mall and the mega-store bears little resemblance to those lovingly crafted, finely hewn items which are painstakingly being produced on a regular basis by our local artisans, too many of whom toil unrecognized and unappreciated.

With the help of some good friends, however, Rob Eldridge, his partner Willie Reffit, and their wives Danielle and Sonya are ready to change all of that.

The 2nd Annual Dayton Craft and Artisan Expo, a celebration of all things handcrafted, will be held on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 4 and 5, at the Dayton Masonic Center on West Riverview Avenue. Hours are Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. Admission is $5 per person, with children 12 and under admitted free. The event is open to all ages. And Rob Eldridge is, as I said, one of the co-founders.

“The owners of the company,” says Eldridge, “And the ones who work the show and promote it are me and my wife, Rob and Danielle Eldridge, and Willie and Sonya Reffitt. We are a family business – Willie is my brother-in-law. I’m the owner, and he is the president.” That business, River Birch Promotions, initiated the Dayton Craft and Artisan Expo last year, and the families that run it are expecting the event to be even more successful this year.

“It’s an actual expo, because there are people doing handmade crafts on the site,” continued Eldridge. “All items are handmade – we are very strict about that. No direct sales are permitted. Our very first year, we had nearly 70 handcrafted vendors, and we had almost 1000 people show up for the show. We love doing this in Dayton…we have a five-year contract with the Masonic Center. The center works great for us, because it’s right here in town and it’s right next to the Art Institute.”

Eldridge, who has spent 27 years as a meat cutter and 18 as a meat manager for Kroger, was born in Dayton and has been involved in promoting local charity events for many years. “I am also the president and founder of the Muddy Buddies Jeep Wrangler Club,” he continues. “We do several events throughout the year, always tons of charity events. We started doing the Dayton Off-Road Expo at Hara Arena, and we were really surprised at how well that went. So now we do a lot of big events, and I like doing those. And as I’m getting older… well, being a meat manager for Kroger and also being the owner of my own landscaping business, working those two jobs, it’s just getting to the point where my body is telling me I can’t handle that much anymore, if you know what I mean. Of course, I’m actually opening a vintage toy shop in Xenia soon, as well.”

Laughing, Eldridge continues. “I’ve been given a God-given talent, in my thinking, to promote events, and to get people to come to those various events. Our events that we’ve done through the club have just taken off ridiculously, and have always been very successful. And everything we do is very family-friendly, and very family-oriented. I’m actually opening a vintage toy store in Xenia, as well. Our company does a toy show in addition to the Dayton Craft and Artisan Expo. We’re just thrilled with how everything has taken off and how much the public and local artists have turned out to support this.”

The Dayton Craft and Artisan Expo promises to be this holiday season’s premiere showcase for handmade crafts and other artisan-made products in the Dayton area. Thousands of unique items, gifts, and treats for all members of the family will be featured in dozens of booths during the show, and with the added bonus of every item being handmade, this year’s expo promises to be a huge success. Over 70 vendors have already signed up to take part in the event, with more expected. Just a few of the local artists and craftsmen who will take part in the Expo are ‘Papa’s Crafters’, creators of stuffed animals, crocheted items, birdhouses, snowmen to support your favorite team, and coats for your dog. ‘Walking Sticks, Brooms-N-Canes’ will feature their finely hewn canes and walking sticks in a booth, and ‘Garden Glass by Barb’ will be showcasing their unique handcrafted glass decor for your homes or gardens.

With the holidays rapidly approaching, this event promises to be the perfect place to search for those unique, one-of-a-kind handcrafted gifts that just can’t be picked up anywhere else. Make the first weekend in November a happy and handmade one here in the Miami Valley, and make plans to check out the 2nd Dayton Craft and Artisan Expo.

The 2nd Annual Dayton Craft and Artisan Expo will be held on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 4 and 5, at the Dayton Masonic Center, 525 West Riverview Avenue in Dayton. Hours are Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 per person, with children 12 and under admitted free. The event is open to all ages. For more information, see the event’s Facebook page or call 937-307-1773.

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Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at

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