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Craft, Food and Wine Show returns to Cheel Arena

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POTSDAM — The Craft, Food and Wine Show returns to Clarkson University’s Cheel Arena today, with 125 vendors hoping this year’s show will be bigger than ever.

About 5,000 people attended last year’s show. The event has been growing steadily for the past few years, and may see an additional 1,000 visitors this weekend, according to Jo Ann Roberts, the events and promotions manager for the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.

“It has consistently grown. Everywhere I go this is the show people wait for,” she said.

The arena was bustling Thursday with vendors setting up their wares for the days to come.

The show has grown every year since the Chamber of Commerce took over in 2009. The fair used to be run by Clarkson University, and the new arrangement has worked out well, according to Scott E. Smalling, director of the Cheel Center.

“It’s been great for the community. It’s a great event. A lot of people come,” he said.

The chamber rents the arena from Clarkson and pays students to help with setup and tear down, as well as security guards to protect the merchandise overnight. The remainder of the proceeds go to the chamber, which charges vendors $80 per booth and visitors a $2 entry fee, up from $1 in recent years.

The show originally featured 100 vendors, but as it grew new booths were set up in the arena lobby and upper walkways. It reached full capacity last year, with 125 vendors, Ms. Roberts said. An equal number will be presenting this weekend, with a mix of new and old vendors.

Ms. Roberts said the show’s success can be chalked up to tradition, size, variety and quality.

“There’s no garage-sale type people here,” she said. “It’s not a flea market.”

Despite the success of the show, some vendors are worried. A struggling economy and a declining interest in craft shows have made life difficult.

“The craft show business is going to hell in a handbasket,” Gregory P. Henderson said.

Mr. Henderson and Linda Shinaman Handville of Alfred sell homemade hot fudge sauce, jam and mustard at shows throughout the Northeast. They make their living at craft fairs and festivals, but they have seen interest and profits decline in recent years.

The show at Clarkson proved profitable last year, and the two are hoping for a repeat performance.

“It was quite good last year; that’s why we came back,” Ms. Handville said.

Six wineries will be offering tastings at the show. The addition of wine in 2009 provided a huge boost to the fair, James C. Desclos said.

“It’s a great show. It’s all high-quality stuff here. Sales are phenomenal,” he said.

Mr. Desclos and Lori B. Murray of Norfolk run Uncle Jim’s Backwoods Goods, which sells seasonings, meat rubs, beef jerky and other food products. No matter what the economy is doing, food products will always sell, especially at a show with a focus on food and wine, according to Mr. Desclos.

“It’s the show for us,” he said. “We’ll never miss this show.”

The show runs from noon to 8 p.m. today and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

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