FORT WAYNE – Economists and thinkers bemoan America’s change from an economy that makes things to one that consumes things.
Those people have never been to a craft fair.
When looking over what appears to be an endless array of vendor tables offering items such as handmade soap and enough kitchen towels to soak up a good-sized lake, one could easily get the impression all anyone ever does anymore is make things.
We may be a nation of consumers, but at the 22nd annual Bishop Dwenger High School Music Boosters Craft Bazaar on Saturday, it appeared that our consumption centers on craft items and handmade jewelry.
More than 100 vendors sold items such as small articles of clothing, made for American Girl dolls, and custom-made pins. There were purses and untold numbers of potholders. There were rosaries next to a table of leather goods, Tupperware and gently used children’s books.
You could buy local honey or earrings from a girl eating pizza. There were tiny tutus for aspiring ballerinas and a table of nothing but hair bows.
Near the cloth books for babies were redneck glasses – Ball jars attached to glass candlestick holders.
There were bedazzled shirts and sweaters, Avon products and an old sled turned into a Christmas decoration.
One vendor specialized in items featuring Fort Wayne landmarks, including the iconic General Electric sign and Powers Hamburgers, while another had three flavors of caramel corn.
Knit hats were a popular offering, and one vendor was selling dog treats. Another had a big bucket of raw African shea butter he was putting into smaller containers, making the entire area smell like, well, butter. Across the aisle were jar candles with scents like Over the River, Welcome Home, Campfire Marshmallow and Twigs N Berries.
If you wanted a clock made out of old vinyl LPs, you could choose from records made by Jimmy Buffet, Bob Seger, John Mellencamp or Eric Clapton.
One table had glass blocks featuring sports team logos and Christmas lights, another sold cornhole sets. There were wooden nativity scenes and a Noah’s ark, pillowcases and – no, really – furniture.
It seemed that every other table was selling handmade jewelry. America may not manufacture a lot of things anymore, but good Lord can we make handmade jewelry.
David Foster Wallace couldn’t chronicle the jewelry being made and sold under the Music Boosters’ banner Saturday.
There’s a galaxy of jewelry, and visitors could choose from a dozen flavors of fudge to eat while shopping for it.
But the most popular vendors Saturday were undoubtedly those at Table 80. They were offering mixes – kits to let consumers make their own food to consume. They had mixes for soup, including Tater Soup and something called Snowman Soup, two dozen mixes for dips, such as El Toro Habañero dip, Raspberry Cream Cheesecake Dip, Sweet Tomato dip and Cheesy Chili Bacon dip. There were also a dozen cocoa, coffee and tea mixes.
What made the mixes so popular? Free samples.
A nation of consumers, indeed.