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Lions Art Fair draws big crowds to islands, raises funds for kids

By Staff | Apr 2, 2009

One of the island’s most popular seasonal draws – the Sanibel-Captiva Lions Club’s Arts & Crafts Fair – took place last Friday and Saturday, bringing thousands of tourists and locals alike to the grounds of the Sanibel Community Association.

While the primary purpose for the event is to support the local Ions’ efforts in raising donations for the various causes that they support, all who attended the two-day event came to peruse the many artists and crafters tents, purchase one-of-a-kind creations, nibble on festival favorites and enjoy live entertainment both inside and outside the venue.

Ginny Waldheim of Fort Myers, who creates colorful and unusual hats out of honeycomb paper – invented decades earlier by Honeywell for the airline industry – was grinning ear-to-ear as the opening day of the fair came to a close.

“This is my fourth year doing the Lions Club show,” said Waldheim. “Sales have been very good. This event is so well organized and everybody teats me so well. It’s one of Sanibel’s best events.”

Fair-goers hailing from near and far heralded the variety of wares available for purchase, from barbecue sauces and salad dressings, dollhouses and birdhouses to home-made children’s books and hand-stitched quilts.

“You can find almost anything here,” said Trent Bowers, on vacation from Massachusetts. “They’ve got giant oil paintings and poster-sized photographs over here and barbecue sauces and shell crafters over there. If you say that you can’t find something you like, you’re crazy.”

Bob Kern, a member of the San-Cap Lions Club, said on Tuesday that he heard very positive reports from vendors who attended the fair.

“The exhibitors told me that they thought it was good,” said Kern, who estimated that this year’s gathering equalled the total of the previous year, approximately $30,000. “I think the fact that for the first time we had musicians playing in the morning and afternoon, and they strolled around the fair, people really appreciated that.”

Richard Julao of Learn-N-Play, a California-based manufacturer of soft, hand-made children’s books and colorful quilts, reported that business was quite good on Friday morning.

“We had a lot of traffic come through here,” said Julao, who had been a vendor at the Lions Club Arts & Crafts Fair during the previous three years. “The atmosphere is great, the weather is perfect and we’re selling a lot of stuff. A lot of our customers are grandparents, Sanibel snowbirds and people on vacation.”

Another exhibitor, Dianna Dinka, frequents several art shows on the islands throughout the year.

“I do this one and the Rotary one in February, so I’ve got a little bit of a following,” said Dinka, displaying her hand-crafted jewelry items. “People have been stopping by and they know me, so they buy from me again, which is very nice. This is a great show.”

Over at the Lions Club’s raffle ticket sales booth, volunteer George Podlin said that sales had been steady all day. Among the more than 100 items offered during the two-day raffle was a Marya Dabrowski necklace valued at $1,295, donated by Lily & Co., gift certificates to several local businesses, paintings, sculptures, dolls, gift baskets and other goods provided by the vendors at the event.

“We’ve been busy, busy, busy!” said Podlin, a part-time Sanibel resident. “People have been coming by all day and they all look pretty happy. When you get to spend the day here, everyone’s a winner.”

The San-Cap Lions Club shares its proceeds with local charities such as

Friends in Service Here (FISH), Friends Who Care, Inc. as well as a variety of domestic and international organizations.

An island mainstay for more than 40 years, the San-Cap Lion’s Club chapter’s primary charitable focus is blindness. The organization sponsors and conducts eye screenings across the islands. They also collect unwanted eyeglasses to be refurbished and sent to charities. The San-Cap Lion’s Club is working to start diabetes screenings as well.

To learn more about the San-Cap Lions Club, visit their Web site at www.sanibelcaptivalions.org.