The Shakers were known for their well-crafted, handmade items, selling their creations to the outside world to help sustain their livelihood. Hundreds of years later, the Shaker Heritage Society of Albany is sticking to that very same philosophy by holding a Shaker Craft Fair on the first full weekend of September to support local artisans and help maintain their own Shaker site.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, on Saturday, Sept. 7, and Sunday, Sept. 8, nearly 100 regional craftsmen will bring their goods to the Shaker Historic Site at 25 Meeting House Road in Colonie. The wide variety of products include jewelry, pottery, hand blown glass, canned vegetables, jams and plants.
The fall craft fair is one of three fairs the society puts on each year, including one earlier in the summer and another during Christmastime. Each draws in more than 2,000 people over the weekend.
Executive Director of the Shaker Heritage Society Starlyn D’Angelo said the craft fair weekends began more than 25 years ago as a way to generate revenue for the museum. The 27-acre plot acts as an educational and historic preservation site for walking tours, events and programs. The $4 admission to the craft fair helps fund the society’s educational programs, including classes geared toward senior citizens, an outreach program with fourth graders and onsite programs for all ages. The society also offers lectures on specific topics, including African American Shakers and growing up in the Shaker community.
In the past, the summer and fall weekend events have raised nearly $10,000 each, while the Christmas fair usually brings in closer to $20,000, D’Angelo said.
The fairs also focus on providing an outlet for locally and regionally based crafters to sell their items to the public. After applying to sell at the event, each vendor is hand selected to meet the Shaker standards, including making sure products are high quality and useful, D’Angelo said.
“When people come and shop at the craft fair they are buying a unique, handmade item. They’re supporting a local business and they’re supporting educational programs that the society present,” D’Angelo said. “You get a lot of bang for your buck, in terms of how your dollars support the community.”
The fair will take place on the entire Church Family property, which includes the barn, the grounds and the Meeting House. The event will be held rain or shine and there will be free parking.
While not buying items, visitors can also take guided tours of the site at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. There will also be some local members of the Abenaki tribe demonstrating Native American crafts.
“The Shakers learned basket making and how to use herbs from local tribes … there was always a strong connection between Shakers and Native Americans,” D’Angelo said.
While there are a few new vendors, D’Angelo said the society usually sticks to the same routine due to the successes in the past.
“The show is popular and people like it the way it is set up. We haven’t messed with the formula too much,” D’Angelo said. “It’s a great place to get together and enjoy each other’s company. I really think it’s a community-building event.”