Craft expo returns
More than 270 crafters from throughout the nation will descend on the Woodstock Square Sunday, May 20, to take part in the annual Fair Diddley Craft Show.
The event has been hosted by the Mental Health Resource League for McHenry County since 1969.
The MHRL was founded in 1967 as an auxiliary to the McHenry Mental Health Center. MHRL broadened its scope in 1967 to give financial aid to mental health-related agencies in McHenry County. The all-volunteer league has a membership of more than 100 men and women who raise funds to help McHenry County mental health agencies supply the services needed in areas such as crisis hotlines, youth programs, abuse, addictions and developmental disabilities.
During its January 2012 annual meeting, MHRL awarded more $207,000 from the 2011 Fair and Fall Diddley fundraisers. Twenty McHenry County agencies were awarded grants during the meeting. Since its founding in 1967, MHRL has awarded more than $4.7 million to various McHenry County agencies.
Kristy Isonhart has served as chairwoman of Fair Diddley for the past four years and is doing so again this year.
“My mom has been a board member for as long as I can remember,” she said, noting that she has been helping out with Fair Diddley since she was 10 years old.
As the chair, Isonhart oversees a 22-member board, with each member designated to complete different tasks. Duties include being in charge of the plant sale, bake sales, volunteers, shuttle bus transportation, signage or other tasks associated with the craft show.
“It’s a lot of planning, but it’s so much fun,” Isonhart said.
This year, 340 total craft spaces are available, though some crafters reserve two or three of the spaces. Isonhart estimated that about 275 different crafters would be on hand during this year’s event.
“We have a lot of new crafters this year,” she said. Because the craft show is juried, not all crafters make the cut. Isonhart said the committee had to reject about 100 applications, even though many sold quality products that would fit with the craft show’s offerings. Some are added to a waiting list in case of cancellations. This year crafters from North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana will take part in Fair Diddley.
“From what I hear [from the crafters], we are one of the best, most organized and well-run shows,” Isonhart said. Despite rainy and windy weather last year, the crafters who decided to brave the elements said the sales were higher than they expected. “This year we’re praying for sunshine,” said Isonhart.
In addition to the crafters, Fair Diddley will have a small number of food vendors taking part in the event as well.
Because Fair Diddley does not require tickets and is free to the public, Isonhart said crowd estimates can be difficult. Roughest estimates, she said, put the number of attendees at about 10,000 per year. Due to the increase in people on the Square, MHRL supplies shuttle busses to take people from the McHenry County Government Center to the Square throughout the event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“The Woodstock Square is very accommodating because of the park itself,” Isonhardt said. “It works great for our crafters, and the city of Woodstock is very [helpful in determining layout].”