First Baptist Church in Lenoir City hosted the seventh annual Women’s Expo and Craft Fair on Saturday with coronavirus precautions in place.
From 10 a.m.-2 p.m., primarily women walked through a maze of vendors selling a variety of items.
The expo began when the women’s ministry team wanted a platform to showcase local vendors while engaging the community, Sabrina Stamper, event organizer, said.
“We have women’s interest speakers or ministry partner speakers,” Stamper said. “They’re here talking about their ministry during the expo. We break it down, stop everything at noon and do a 15-minute devotion because that’s what we’re here for is good news. We do that and just fellowship … and get cranking back up again. We’ve got door prizes. We’re just trying to draw people in that might not come to the church otherwise, but they might for this.”
The expo typically boasts 52-54 vendors, Stamper said. The number was scaled back this year to 48 vendors. Fewer vendors meant Stamper and her crew could set the gym to allow for distancing.
“We’re doing temperature checks at the door. Everyone has to wear a mask,” she said. “We’re going to be watching crowds. We have the stage in the center, so we’ll be able to watch crowds. If we see it’s a problem, we’re going to back it off, and so many in, so many out kind of thing.”
With COVID-19 concerns, there were “definitely” talks about canceling this year.
“We were still talking about it (Thursday). We were still talking about it (Friday),” Stamper said. “But we also feel ... that there’s a liability, yes, for us, but it’s also up to the person to choose what’s best for them. We hope common sense reigns. If you don’t feel good, don’t come out. But at the same time, if you don’t feel good, don’t go to Walmart either.”
Stamper said vendors were part of the discussion.
“We also have vendors who have spent a lot of money, talent and time to create and bless our community with these things,” she said. “We didn’t want to do that to them either. That’s kind of where we just settled, and we were like, ‘OK, we’re gonna go ahead and do this and hope people will use common sense.’ We will put as much in practice as we lawfully can because we can’t mandate masks, but stores are, so I think we should, too. But I can’t make someone do that.”
Angela Dyhr had handmade jewelry for sale. She started her company, Ajoli, as a side job and attends similar expos and markets to expand her reach.
“It really gets us out in the community locally, so people can see the crafts that we do, and, I don’t know, networking and things like that also,” she said.
Ansleigh Bright started The Brighter Design Co., in August when COVID-19 quarantine boredom got the best of her. A full-time student, she sells polymer clay jewelry.
“I’ve only done one other market before, but I gained a lot of followers on social media from that and was able to have some sales and invest back into my company and also pay myself a little bit. It’s been awesome,” she said.
Dyhr was glad the expo occurred with safety precautions.
“It’s nice to see everyone out,” she said. “I think we have needed this. I’m glad that they have guidelines in place to keep everyone safe and things like that.”