By Kyle LoJacono
Lutz Arts and Crafts Festival organizers are hoping for nicer weather and a larger turnout after a 2009 event where attendance was less than half its normal total.
An estimated 35,000 to 40,000 people attend the two-day event each year, making it the largest Hillsborough County art fair after the Gasparilla Art Festival.
However, last year a combination of bad weather on the first day and a new $2 fee per vehicle to enter the park imposed by the Hillsborough Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department brought that number to about 15,000. Edwina Kraemer, president of the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Women’s Club, thinks the number will rebound for its 50th rendition.
“It’s a fabulous festival with a family-friendly atmosphere,” said Kraemer. “It’s a great place to do your Christmas or holiday shopping for everyone on your list. There are people who sell toys and clothes for babies, people who sell local artwork, jewelry and other arts and crafts things. If you need something for someone you’ll likely find it there and the great thing is the artists there are the people who made it. They don’t buy things and resell them.”
The event, which is organized by the women’s club, is always the first weekend in December, which is Dec. 4-5 this year. Admission is free for the festival itself after the $2 to park. That money does not go to anyone involved with the event.
The club was not in charge of the event back at the beginning, but has been its organizer for the 31st time this year.
“The festival started at the Old Lutz School on (US) 41 and later moved to the train depot across the street,” said Lutz resident Shirley Simmons, co-chairwoman for the event. “It moved to Lake Park about 10 years ago. We’ll have 260 vendors and several spots we give 20 to local groups for free. We’re all full for vendors and even have a waiting list in case people drop out.”
The Lutz Patriots, Relay For Life and the Boy Scouts are some of those who get free spots.
Kraemer, who was the Lutz Guv’na in 2006, first learned of the event before becoming a club member.
“Friends told me about it,” Kraemer said. “We went and had a great time. It’s kind of hard to live in the area and have not heard about it because of how big it has gotten. It’s fast becoming one of the largest in central Florida.”
Kraemer moved to Lutz from Carrollwood six years ago. She is a retired science teacher who taught at Gaither High during its first year in 1984.
Simmons said there will be vendors from Lutz, Land O’ Lakes, Odessa, Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills, Dade City and New Tampa at the event.
Land O’ Lakes resident April Demulia has gone to the craft show for the last few years and loves everything about it.
“I’ve lived in Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania and this is the only place I’ve seen a craft show as awesome as this one,” Demulia said. “It has anything you can think of and prices are good for anyone. You’ve got little crafts you can buy for a few cents to expensive pieces of jewelry and artwork. It has something for everyone, including great food.”
Vendors will be selling traditional and not so traditional festival foods, such as barbecue, kettle corn, funnel cakes, sandwiches, hot dogs, breakfast breads, ice cream, and homemade baked goods.
Kraemer explained the Lutz festival has three goals: to give the community a fun local event, to give artists a place to display and sell their products and for the club to raise money to give back into the community.
“Everything we collect from booth sales will go to great groups in the community,” said Kraemer. “We give money to Boy and Girl Scout troops, the Civil Air Patrol, to youth scholarships, to the Lutz volunteer fire department, to the Lutz (Branch) Library and others.”
Lutz Arts and Crafts Festival
Where: Lake Park
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 5