For Art’s Sake: Spend a Day at the Occoquan Arts and Crafts Show

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By Jennifer Lazzo | Photos by Kathy Strauss

Occoquan will be filled with vendors, shoppers and entertainers taking part in the fall Occoquan Arts and
Crafts show on Sept. 29 and 30. For 49 years, booths displaying handmade items, artwork and home decor have lined the historic town’s normally quiet streets, enticing visitors young and old alike.

“While the size of the show has gotten larger over the years, our adherence to excellence has remained the same,” said Julie Little, the events and community development director for the Town of Occoquan.

She noted that about 250 vendors will be there from states such as Minnesota, New York and Florida with about 10,000 visitors coming to the show during the two-day event. “People come from all over the region to attend, and vendors come from all over the country,” Little said. “If you can think it, we probably have [at least]one vendor selling it!”

Teresa Woodson, a Montclair mother of two who looks forward to the show each September, searches for certain vendors because she shops for a lot of gifts. “There is a ceramics artist who sells ‘mommy vases,’ and I like to keep those in stock for moms-to-be. I also like looking for unique and creative gifts for family and friends that you can’t find anywhere else,” she said.

“We make a day of it,” Woodson continued. “We always ride the shuttle, get a bag of fresh kettle corn, [get]face painting for the boys, look at all the neat vendors and eat some good food. My favorite are the crab cakes!”

destinations sept 2018

You Gotta Eat
Perennial food booths, such as Sherri’s Crab Cakes, Kara’s Grill, Southern Style Tea and Wild Bill’s Soda, are joined by local food trucks to provide a variety of fare.

ZuZu Cuisine, new to the scene, offered Mediterranean food, such as chicken shawarma, beef gyros, falafel, fries and gourmet Middle Eastern pastries at the spring show in June. The Dale City food truck is owned and operated by chef Hawla Donley, who explained, “Our goal is to create a farm-to-table experience that will combine the freshest ingredients with authentic family recipes passed down from generation to generation.”

A torrential rainstorm blew in on the first afternoon of the spring show, preventing her—and most everyone else—from being able to fully enjoy the festivities; the rain continued throughout the next day. “I enjoyed the event. I wanted to see more of it, explore it more since vendors came from all over the country,” Donley said. “The half day that we were open, I could see that people were having an absolute blast browsing, shopping and enjoying the wide variety of food available. A person can easily spend most
of the day just going through the booths provided.”

While the show is held rain or shine, it had to close early both days in June for safety reasons due to the flash flooding, an occurrence that Little cannot remember ever happening in recent memory.

The rainy weather did not dampen the spirits of John Klapperich, owner of Sweet Sophia and The Bee Store in the nearby Tackett’s Mill shopping center. “When the storm came, we had a couple of folks take shelter in our tent, so we made a couple new friends,” he said. “It was memorable indeed! We had
fun despite the weather.”

destinations sept 2018

For the past five arts and crafts shows, the Sweet Sophia booth has displayed honey and other products, such as soaps, candles, skincare products and jams, all handmade with beeswax, honey or both. “Attending the show and buying from vendors supports everything we stand for in America,” Klapperich said. “The vendors and the small shops in Occoquan are all ‘little guys’ with big visions to break out on their own. Yes, [large retail stores] are certainly cheaper, but when you buy from a crafter, you are
meeting the person who put the time and effort to make the product. How awesome is that?”

Explore Occoquan, Too
Awesome indeed. The Occoquan Arts and Crafts Show has earned the Best Community Event award from Inside NoVa’s “Best of Prince William” for two years running (2016 and 2017).

As Klapperich points out, “Occoquan is just a cool little village. Closing the town and lining the streets with crafters and vendors from all over the region is just an amazing thing. It’s certainly family friendly and a great place to pick up some very unique gifts. There is plenty to eat and drink, and entertainment is free!”

The show will be open 10:00 a. m. to 6:00 p. m. on Saturday and 10:00 a. m. to 5:00 p. m. on Sunday. Admission is free. While the streets in Occoquan are closed to traffic and parking is limited to handicapped spaces, there are four area parking lots with frequent shuttles to drop-off and pick-up locations. The yellow lot, formerly at Vulcan Materials, is now at the Workhouse Arts Center. The cost is $5 per person roundtrip; children 12 and under are free.

“The Town staff, businesses, residents and volunteers really team together to create a successful show each season,” said Little. “The show brings people [to town]who have never been here before. It’s a wonderful place to relax, shop and visit.” For more information, visit occoquanva.gov/arts-and-crafts-show.html or facebook.com/OccoquanCraftShow.

Jennifer Lazzo (jlazzo@princewilliamliving.com) is a freelance writer and editor who earned a B.A. in technical journalism and political science from Colorado State University. She lives with her husband and twin girls in Montclair.

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