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Shop unique and handmade gifts at National Holiday Gift Show

By Tara Pettit

Photo: 12,000 shoppers and over 370 booths are expected at this year’s National Holiday Gift Show, Friday, Nov. 27-Sunday Nov. 29 at Hara Arena

Once the Thanksgiving turkey has been eaten and the last piece of pumpkin pie has been stuffed down, it’s time to pull out the Black Friday ads. As you flip through the pages of each big box store’s catalog, you will probably find the same uninspiring ideas for gifts.
Luckily, there is a more fun way to shop for gifts in the Miami Valley. If gifting creatively and thoughtfully is your goal for the holidays this year, look no further than Hara Arena’s 35th annual National Holiday Gift Show to help you find that perfect gift for someone special.
Since its debut, Miami Valley has flocked to this craft and handmade gift extravaganza.
“The show began as an all-handmade gift show, meaning that each item had to be at least 80 percent handmade,” said Karen Wampler, Public Relations Representative for Hara Arena Complex.
While some long-time gift show enthusiasts look back longingly to the days of an all handmade show, the majority of today’s shoppers are pleased with the greater diversity of merchandise.
In the show’s early days, the emphasis was mainly on holiday decorations and décor, almost defining the show as a one-stop shop for Christmas preparation, Wampler said. However, throughout the years the show began to broaden its scope to become a one-stop shop for all gift ideas. Today the show offers everything from jewelry, clothing, glass, candles, furniture, art, toys, collectibles, memorabilia, books, CDs and ceramics.
“Many of these gifts offered can be personalized or customized,” Wampler said. “It’s one of the show’s great strengths.”
Shoppers from all over the region have visited the show with obscure gift ideas or to buy for people with unusually specific interests, only to leave with the perfect item.
One year, Wampler remembers, it was a grandmother hoping to find anything having to do with frogs for her granddaughter. She ended up having to decide between the clothing with frog appliques, the stuffed frogs, the lawn art frogs, the personalized books with frogs, the jewelry with frogs…
Another year Wampler recalls a shopper who was challenged to find a gift centered around curling, her fiancées favorite sport. Although she wasn’t able to immediately find what she was looking for, she found a vendor who made metal frames with customized magnets. Out of the vendor’s imaginative determination and resourcefulness, she ended up creating a curling-themed frame set overnight for the shopper. The shopper was elated to have purchased a personally made gift that perfectly suited her fiancées tastes.
“It’s not uncommon for vendors to entirely sell out of their inventory and spend Saturday night of the show picking up supplies, or in the case of one particular vendor from a past year, grapevines from the woods adjacent to Hara Arena, to restock their booths for Sunday,” Wampler said.
It’s small, personalized efforts of vendors that has helped the gift show uphold high-quality craftsmanship with creativity at the center of its focus.
The National Holiday Gift Show has always been immensely successful, drawing thousands of people annually. It became apparent from its very beginning that Miami Valley had formed its very own one-of-a-kind Thanksgiving weekend tradition.
What has developed into a 35-year community-based tradition has even evolved into individual and family traditions as the show continues to see an increase in mother-daughter shopping rituals and the formation of “shopping posses” that take the gift show by storm each year.
“We have several groups of shoppers that come in with bright, matching holiday sweatshirts,” Wampler said. “They share shopping lists, fan out through the show, communicate through cell phone (and one year headsets) and try to knock off their collective shopping lists so they can celebrate their shopping triumph with cocktails and dinner later that evening.”
Wampler and other gift show coordinators have seen the continuation of family traditions as girls who once attended the show in its earlier years with their mothers now coming as mothers and even grandmothers. There are often instances where three generations of women are at the show shopping together, a testament to “why we call the National Holiday Gift Show a Miami Valley Thanksgiving tradition,” Wampler said.
Wampler encourages those who may have never attended the gift show to check it out and even perhaps begin a Thanksgiving tradition of your own.
Once Black Friday hits this year, think outside the box (literally outside the big box stores) for more creatively inspired and unique gifts that Hara Arena’s National Holiday Gift Show continues to offer the Miami Valley. Not only will you leave with the perfect gift, but you will leave with the experience of taking part in a 35-year-old holiday and community-centered rite of passage.

The National Holiday Gift Show takes place Nov. 27-28 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and Nov. 29 from 12 p.m.-4 p.m. at Hara Arena. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children 12 and under. Bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to For the Love of the Children (F.L.O.C) and enjoy a $2 discount off the admission price. Parking is free. For more information, please contact show director, Cynthia Monie at 937.278.4776 or cmonie@haracomplex.com or, visit the website at haracomplex.com.

Tara Pettit is a regional journalist and communications specialist with a focus on the arts, social/environmental justice issues and community activism. She is passionate about cultivating intentional community and engaging in collaborative creative projects that make healthy community possible. Reach her at TaraPettit@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Tara Pettit is a regional journalist and communications specialist with a focus on the arts, social/environmental justice issues, and community activism. She is passionate about cultivating intentional community and engaging in collaborative creative projects that make healthy community possible. Reach her at TaraPettit@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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