When the Elk Pride Craft Bazaar opens at 9 a.m. on Saturday, November 6 at Elk River High School, more than 165 vendors will be there with their wares. Here is a look at three of them.
Dayton man makes birch snowmen, spruce pots
In a garage on a quiet Dayton street, Dan Vitez is busy creating hundreds of birch snowmen.
There are foot-tall snowmen with scarves around their necks, snowman heads with a pipe to hold a tea light, little snowmen on a stick and snowmen 3 foot tall holding signs with messages like “Skol” or “Let It Snow”.
Vitez will have their selection of snowmen for sale at the Elk Pride Craft Bazaar. He will also sell decorative spruce tips – accented with a snowman on a stick – and birch reindeer jars.
He has been making snowmen and other creations for several years under a company he named Dan’s Woodworx. It works well with her regular job in the landscaping sales, where the work starts to slow down just as the fall craft show season shifts into high gear.
He makes his snowmen with birch wood that he collects from tree cutters and forestry sites. He said lumberjacks cut 8-foot-4-inch-long birch trees to fit a truck, and the remaining pieces worked well for his snowman projects.
He also gets creative in sourcing wood for the panels his snowmen hold, making them from the wood of the pallets.
“I try to be resourceful,” he says.
He typically sells his products at about six shows a year, including the one in Elk River.
“Every show is a little different and you change it every time,” he said.
For example, he found that adding a scarf to one of his snowman designs doubled sales.
He does most of the work in his garage, where the shelves hold birch trees sorted by size and pots of snowman black eyes. Finished snowmen also fill the space.
“It’s not bad to go out and see the smiles every day,” he said of the snowmen.
He also makes a variety of other things that he sells at places such as a wine show in Minneapolis. They include cutting boards, deli boards, coasters, cribbage boards, clocks, and Susans sloths, many of which have epoxy detailing.
But for the Elk Pride show, it mostly focuses on Christmas items. Its snowmen, reindeer and spruce-tip pots will be in the spotlight.
Birdhouses feature natural elements like twigs and bark
One of the returning vendors this year is Ron Pavek of Woods by Ron in Andover. He makes natural and rustic birdhouses.
Each nest box has a perch made from a twig and a wooden roof with bark on it. The hole in the house is accented by a slice of a small log with a round hole drilled into it.
The houses are lightly painted using a special technique and sealed with a weatherproof finish.
“The birds actually use them,” Pavek said. “They’re made for little birds – tits, nuthatches, wren, things like that.”
He wears a variety of styles, many with themes from professional sports teams like the Vikings, Twins, Wilds, Wolves and, yes, even Packers. He said his Packer birdhouses are actually his second seller.
He produces both individual birdhouses as well as a larger style that he calls a hotel.
Pavek has been making birdhouses for years and he loves the process.
“It’s my hobby. I’m going to go into the garage, light my country western CDs and work on my birdhouses. It’s very relaxing for me, ”he said.
He has over 300 birdhouses and 35 hotels ready for sale in Elk River and other shows he plans to attend.
Retired from a career in restaurant management, Pavek said he and his wife are human people and appreciate people who attend shows.
His daughter, who lives in Big Lake Township, told him about the Elk Pride Craft Bazaar and he started selling his nesting boxes there several years ago. He was also at Elk RiverFest which was held in July and said both events worked well for him.
“Elk River has been really good to me,” he said.
Cottage Grove family make lighted snowmen from glass blocks
A new supplier this year is CC Lee Creations of Cottage Grove.
Cory Rubald said they made lighted glass block snowmen. Their size ranges from 8 inches to 26 inches in height and are lit by battery operated lights on a timer. Snowmen are made from industrial glass blocks and can be used indoors or outdoors.
Rubald said the business got started when his daughter saw blocks of glass stacked in their garage and thought they looked like snowmen.
“It sparked an idea,” Rubald said.
They were looking to raise money for her daughter’s group trip, so they turned some of the blocks into snowmen, which turned out to be popular.
“After that I got more orders than we could handle,” said Rubald.
They named the company CC Lee Creations in honor of Rubald and her husband, Curt. They both have the same middle name – Lee. Their five children also help.
What: Elk Pride Craft Bazaar
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, November 6
Where: Elk River High School, 900 School Street, Elk River
Other: All proceeds from the event are donated to scholarships for graduates.