New arts and crafts show venue is a hit

With a new venue in place, the 37th annual GFWC Lutz Arts & Crafts Show promised to be “bigger and better than ever.”

It delivered.

Cindy Bishop, of Tampa, browses one of the many vendor booths at the 37th annual Lutz Arts & Crafts Show, as decorative, hand-painted gourd birdhouses loom above. The festival was held at a new location, Keystone Prep High School in Odessa. (Fred Bellet/Photos)

Cindy Bishop, of Tampa, browses one of the many vendor booths at the 37th annual Lutz Arts & Crafts Show, as decorative, hand-painted gourd birdhouses loom above. The festival was held at a new location, Keystone Prep High School in Odessa.
(Fred Bellet/Photos)

The show — held for the first time at Keystone Preparatory High School in Odessa — drew rave reviews from attendees and vendors alike.

On Dec. 3 and Dec. 4, thousands of visitors swung by the 60-acre site, at 18105 Gunn Highway.

Once there, show-goers talked up the new venue’s amenities, including its additional space, U-shaped food booth layout and ample parking.

The comfortable weekend weather didn’t hurt, either.

The show, one of the largest annual events in Hillsborough County, typically draws 30,000 to 40,000 people.

It featured more than 350 vendors, about 50 more than two years ago.

“It’s huge,” said Cindy Bishop, of Tampa. “It’s much larger, I think, than it was up there (at Lake Park).”

Zoe Deimling, 4, of Odessa, just can't stop looking at the art on her face after having it painted at the Lutz Arts & Crafts Show. Deimling was along with her grandmother, Denise Alliston of Odessa, and her great-grandmother, Susan Corcoran of Lutz.

Zoe Deimling, 4, of Odessa, just can’t stop looking at the art on her face after having it painted at the Lutz Arts & Crafts Show. Deimling was along with her grandmother, Denise Alliston of Odessa, and her great-grandmother, Susan Corcoran of Lutz.

Last year’s arts and crafts show was cancelled due to a sinkhole at Lake Park in Lutz, forcing the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club to find a permanent location.

The club, in turn, signed a five-year contract with Keystone Prep to have the festival on the school’s property.

Denise Alliston, an Odessa resident and first-time attendee, was delighted to discover the event relocated to Keystone Prep long-term.

“I love it,” Alliston said. “I’m glad that they put it out here; there’s a lot of room.”

Some longtime arts and crafts show attendees — like Zephyrhills resident Doreen Coursey — were just ecstatic to finally see the arts and crafts festival return after its absence in 2015.

“We missed it last year — it was a bummer,” Coursey said.

The festival’s revamped digs, though, quickly put a smile on her face.

“It’s very nice,” she said.

Victor Brown, of Valrico, navigates his way through the woodworking and hand-painted lawn art ornaments, crafted by his father, Vick Brown. Brown's work was among the many colorful displays along the festival route of booths and tents.

Victor Brown, of Valrico, navigates his way through the woodworking and hand-painted lawn art ornaments, crafted by his father, Vick Brown. Brown’s work was among the many colorful displays along the festival route of booths and tents.

One man, Lutz native Tom Benson, admittedly didn’t want to see the popular arts show leave the place he was born and raised.

“I’m homegrown…so I have a little bit of a favor to the park,” said Benson. “It’s sad that sinkhole erupted.”

Compared to Lake Park, Benson said the Odessa venue has less shade, but acknowledged “there’s a lot more parking.”

For most, the two-day arts and crafts show provides a boost for holiday shoppers looking for gifts.

There’s a lot to choose from, with vendors typically offering such items as paintings, photography, jewelry, woodcarving, ceramics, pottery, stained glass, quilts and more.

Tampa resident Glenda Melching took advantage of that opportunity by purchasing Christmas ornaments for each of her 11 grandkids.

“We always buy (ornaments) for presents,” Melching said. “We get them every year.”

As if she did not have enough to carry, Mita Garga (right), of Lutz, holds her daughter Nena's lemonade as the two get ready to snack on a funnel cake while at the Lutz Arts & Crafts Show.

As if she did not have enough to carry, Mita Garga (right), of Lutz, holds her daughter Nena’s lemonade as the two get ready to snack on a funnel cake while at the Lutz Arts & Crafts Show.

Besides arts and crafts booths, the U-shaped food court, too, was an instant hit.

Situated at the festival’s entrance were a vast array of grub offerings — Italian fare, BBQ, comprehensive breakfasts and homemade treats.

“This is nicer that you have a little more,” said Suzanne Hatfield, an Orlando resident and regular attendee. “Last time, it was just one (food) line.”

She noted, however, the food court “could use more tables” in the future.

Vendors, meanwhile, were delighted by the constant foot traffic over the course of the two-day occasion.

“Look at all the people here — it’s a good show,” said Bob Platt, who was promoting a line of Orlando-based Honey Bee Skin Healing Cream.

Vick Brown, a first-year vendor who creates and sells wooden yard designs, likewise was amazed by the festival’s magnitude.

“It’s great,” said Brown, 45, of Valrico. “A lot of people are out, and everybody’s friendly.”

He added: “It’s a little different from the other crafts shows we’ve been attending —we didn’t have this traffic flow.”

The show even drew out-of-state vendors, like Tony Kassebaum, a Nevada-based goldsmith who produces and sells exotic handmade jewelry.

For Kassebaum, the festival is an annual stop on his cross-country art show circuit that leads him throughout Florida and Michigan.

“I’ve always enjoyed the show,” Kassebaum said. “Many of my customers are repeats. People have seen my stuff at the (Bay Area) Renaissance Fairs or at other shows.”

The arts and crafts show is the largest yearly fundraiser for the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club, which gives provides college scholarships and donations to local charities. Figures are not yet readily available.

Published December 7, 2016

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