The Maker Fair just keeps getting bigger, offering more vendors, more handcrafted items and more food. And predictably, people keep coming year after year.
The newest iteration, the eighth, which features a record 200-plus vendors, takes place Saturday, Oct. 12 at the Nicollet County Fairgrounds. This will be the third year the show is held at the St. Peter location, and organizers say it’s been a happy change.
“We outgrew the Blue Earth County Fairgrounds spot. Parking was a big asset going to St. Peter Nicollet County Fairgrounds. It’s a better venue, easier to find,” said Karen Dirkx, who leads organization, along with her husband Scott. “It’s been awesome. We had over 4,500 people come last year.”
The Maker Fair started at the Blue Earth County Fairgrounds eight years ago under the leadership up Sara Krosch, of Vernon Center. She moved out of state, and the Dirkx family took over, along with some others. The last three years, Karen and Scott have led the way.
They’re getting some help from family, though, like their daughter, Sarah Dirkx, and their niece, Kelly Youngbloom. The latter joined as a volunteer a couple years ago and last year signed on as an organizer. Youngbloom thinks the fair is special because of its commitment to genuine handcrafted and handmade items.
“We require everyone that sells to hand make their items,” she said. “Whether it be canned goods, hats, clothing, accessories. I know there are other craft vendor fairs out there that also allow direct sale vendors, but we don’t.”
The vendors are also “vetted,” Youngbloom noted, to ensure they are offering handmade products and offering something unique.
“We don’t want to have 27 vendors selling hats,” she said.
Each year, there is a “good mix” of returning and brand new vendors at the Maker Fair, so those who have been before can find old favorites but still see something new. This year, organizers are also adding more food trucks.
“You can literally spend all day there,” Youngbloom said. “With 200 vendors, you’re going to get hungry.”
Speaking of food, Brenda and Mike Rasmussen will be on hand at the fair Saturday, as they have been since the first year in St. Peter. The duo makes a number of products, including salsas, Bloody Mary mixes, pickles, pickled vegetables and now jams and jellies.
“Right now, it’s called Mike and Brenda’s Salsa and Bloody Mary Mix,” Brenda said. “With adding all the extras, we’ll probably be changing that soon.”
The two started making their products about 30 years ago while living in the cities. They moved to a property on German Lake and didn’t have room in the kitchen to continue. But the two moved to another new residence, just outside Henderson, and started creating again about nine years ago.
The Maker Fair is always a boon for them.
“We set up and sell all of our products. We sample as much as we can,” Brenda said. “This is probably one of our biggest shows. Selling on the spot is the big thing there. Or they’ll taste it, and they’ll say ‘Hang on to it and I’ll come back to get it.”
But it’s not just about the sales. The Rasmussens also enjoy the camaraderie.
“Just getting together with the other vendors, and whoever is putting on the event,” Brenda said. “You kind of become a family, because you support each other and there is something you have in common. It’s rewarding when you have returning customers or someone comes up and says ‘I’ve heard about you guys.’”
And that’s exactly the vision Karen and Scott continually have in mind, as they go back to work organizing each year.
“Seeing our vendors so excited growing their small businesses, and seeing the shoppers getting a jumpstart on the holidays and finding those unique handmade items,” Karen said. “It’s just great.”