A steady stream of people strolling through the convention hall at Black Bear Casino was a welcome sight for the more than 100 vendors at the Cloquet Chamber of Commerce’s Craft, Art and Vendor Fair from 29-30 October.

Attendees could purchase anything from Christmas decorations and baked goods to handmade crafts and beyond.

With classic hits playing over the speaker system and a buzz of people buying, Carolyn Gilbertson said she felt like things were getting back to normal. Gilbertson, along with her husband Rich, run Gilby’s Acre where they sell homemade fudge, baked goods and also rugs.

“I’m so happy to be back,” she said. “I’ve noticed this has been one of my busiest years, people are dying to go out, shop and chat.”

Gilbertson runs the fudge and food side of the business while her husband makes the mats. Her husband got into rug making because she had a loom in their basement and after putting it together they realized he was good at it.

Rugs created by Rich Gilbertson of Cloquet are displayed on a table during the Cloquet Area Chamber of Commerce’s Craft, Art and Vendor Fair on Friday, October 29, 2021, at the Events Center Otter Creek from the Black Bear Casino Resort in Carlton. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

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“I like to tease him, I say, ‘he stirs my pots of fudge and I tie his carpet knots,'” she said.

Gilbertson said a new thing she needs to watch out for this year is determining the supply of certain items. For her jams, she had difficulty obtaining jar lids compared to previous years.

“You couldn’t find a jar lid to save your life,” she said. “I got these lids from the mom of a friend of mine who lives in southern Wisconsin near a hardware store that sells lids.”

Cloquet Chamber of Commerce office manager Alyson Leno said there had been a steady number of people at the fair all morning.

“We’ve seen a lot of bags come out, so people are making a lot of great purchases,” she said.

Leno said the fair attracts local vendors, but also vendors from across the state and some from as far away as North and South Dakota. The chamber of commerce tries to ensure that there are no sellers selling the same items, and if they are similar, each seller has their unique touch.

With the wide variety of products and the chamber advertising the fair as an opportunity to purchase Christmas gifts, attendees took the opportunity to purchase gifts ahead of this year.

“It’s nice that it’s in one space and they have a lot of different options to choose from,” Leno said. “Some Christmas (fairs) later in the fall have already been canceled, so I think people were really pleased that we were still holding it.”

Participants were happy and surprised by the quantity and variety of vendors. Barb Larsen and her friend, Carol Misiak, normally visit Black Bear Casino but decided to go to the vendor lounge.

“We know (the fair) is really nice, and it’s twice as big as I thought it would be,” Larsen said. “I was overwhelmed when I walked through the door.”

Larsen and Misiak weren’t looking for anything in particular, but Misiak was hoping to do some early Christmas shopping.

Nancy and Scott Peterson run Galvanized Guy, where they sell shovels, cans, and other plasma-cut metal items, as well as blankets, dishes, and other decorative items.

“It’s always a very busy show, and today the traffic was very nice,” said Nancy Peterson.

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Craft shovels created by Scott Peterson of Duluth on display at the Cloquet Area Chamber of Commerce’s Craft, Art and Vendor Fair on Friday, October 29, 2021, at the Otter Creek Event Center in the Black Bear Casino Resort in Carlton. Peterson creates the designs with a plasma cutter and is known as Galvanized Guy. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

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The Petersons are another married couple who work at different ends of their business. Nancy focuses on covers and interior decor, while Scott works on metal parts. Everything at Galvanized Guy is handmade, as opposed to using a machine program to cut the metal artwork.

They also produce bespoke work, and the couple are even looking to buy old metal items to use for themselves.

Galvanized Guy has been with the fair for four years and gets the same booth for each event.

“We have regular customers who seek us out, even to just say hello and see if there’s anything new they have to have,” said Nancy Peterson. “It’s a community – the locals there… are still there.”