It's the most wonderful time of the year. The annual cycle of Christmas craft sales is kicking into gear. In addition to artwork and jewellery and lotions and clothing, these festivals offer great items for foodies to gift (themselves or those near and dear to them). As regular readers know, shopping and eating are basically tied for my favourite activity, so here's my short list of must-hits, complete with vendor suggestions and handy shopping tips:
November 11 - 13: Millarville Christmas Market
Just south of town this indoor-outdoor festival features the typical range of decor, clothes and accessories, and consumable items. The unique factor here is the vendors, as you won't see many of them in the other festivals held within the city limits. Vendors in previous years have included the Route 40 Soup Company out of Turner Valley, and the Chinook Honey Company, that also offers mead and wine. This is a great festival for those of you with wee ones, as Santa will have a workshop set up, and hayrides are scheduled each afternoon. Just be sure to consider the weather, as many of the vendors are set up outdoors (so dress warmly if it's cold) and the market is held at the Millarville Race Track (so expect mud if the snow is melting). Admission: $5/person or $10/vehicle, whichever is less.
November 17 - 20: Art Market
Held at the Telus Convention Centre, this show, and the next one listed, are the two grande dames of the Calgary Christmas craft circuit. There are more non-local vendors, and since it's all held indoors, weather is not a factor. I always leave poorer due to the cranberry pudding from the Cranberry Creek Baking Co. - it's sauced with butter, sugar, whipping cream, and vanilla, which some of us consider four major food groups. They always have samples, so try one - and then see how many puddings you leave with. Sweet Tooth Candy is another one that always thins my wallet (but has the opposite effect on my waistline) in spite of my not even being a big dessert person. Admission: $9/adult, $6/student or senior. If you attend the Art Market one day, you can get a pass to return for free any of the remaining days, and there's a coupon for $2 off admission on the website.
December 1 - 4: Festival of Crafts
The second of the big fairs is also held entirely indoors at the BMO (formerly Roundup) Centre at the Stampede grounds, and also draws a large contigent of non-local vendors. Notables at this show include Zinter Brown - every year Mom and I both buy multiples of their Mediterrano Gourmet Salt & Pepper; and the Calgary Fudge Factory, which has every flavour you've ever imagined (and probably quite a few you haven't). Admission: $7/adult, $5 senior or youth aged 13 - 17. No coupon for this show, but like the Art Market, unlimited readmission is available.
So, happy Christmas shopping and eating, foodies.