In our own Backyard

Story last updated at 1:28 PM on Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nutcracker faire: a holiday tradition



Photo by Michael Armstrong

Scott Miller greets customers to his booth at the Nutcracker Faire. Miller makes inlaid wooden pendants and small plaques.

What's best about the Nutcracker Faire?

Is it the 100 craft, art, food and nonprofit booths that provide locally made gifts people will be overjoyed to receive?

Is it the chance to cruise one big mega First Friday, with an artist's reception at every booth and meet the creators who made everything from jewelry to pottery?

Is it like the Farmers' Market, a place to browse crafts, buy good food and other sustainably made products, and listen to some awesome music?

Is it bumping into old friends, discreetly hiding gifts you might have bought them and catching up?

Is it a mid-day lunch break as you shop elsewhere in town or catch a bite before afternoon and evening performances of the Nutcracker Ballet?

Is it the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit, spreading Christmas cheer?

Nope, there's no wrong answer, and if you picked "all of the above," you're probably already a Nutcracker Faire fan. Run by the Homer Council on the Arts, the fair only accepts artisans and crafters who make products from mostly local products. Its goal is "to provide a sustainable venue for original art so artists can live and work in Homer and the surrounding areas, and for the whole community to enjoy the creative festivity," as HCOA describes it. HCOA raises a little above its expenses, said HCOA executive director Gail Edgerly.

"The point of it is really for the artists and the community," she said.

Homer potter and ceramic artist Paul Dungan is one of those artists. Now a bit gray and balding, Dungan said he's been doing this "since I had dark hair and a ponytail," since the early 1990s. He's been at it long enough to see is sons Ren, 14, and Elan, 11, help out. Like many local artists who sell their work themselves and not wholesale, Dungan hits a lot of arts and craft shows. His big venue is the Alaska State Fair.

Like fishermen, craftspeople have their own season. Work through the summer creating, sell at Farmers' Markets and other craft fairs through the fall, and wind up with the busy Christmas season. Though other fairs might be bigger, Dungan said he likes the small town intimacy of the Nutcracker Faire — and that it's in his town. It draws a lot of out-of-town visitors, though.

"People come from Soldotna, from Seward and sometimes Anchorage," Dungan said. "I'm surprised at how many out-of-towners are down at this show."

Keeping with HCOA's philosophy, Dungan said the Nutcracker Faire shows the value of handmade goods.

"The real value is you've met the guy or his children," he said.

People can learn about the importance of local arts and crafts too, Dungan said.

"For a lot of our craftspeople, it's important for them (customers) to know what we do."

So browse the fair, chat up an artist, visit with friends, grab a snack, listen to music and enjoy the festivity of Homer's winter market — the Nutcracker Faire.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at