Twenty-seven years ago, the Eastlake PTSA began hosting a fundraising holiday bazaar, unusual among other craft shows in the area. Only vendors making handmade goods were allowed to sell. Starting out much smaller, the Eastlake Holiday Bazaar grew throughout the years to about 150 vendors and over 2,000 customers last year.
But when COVID-19 shut the state down in March, the Eastlake PTSA was faced with the very likely possibility of having to cancel the iconic event for 2020. After all, with schools closed and large gatherings both prohibited and inadvisable, it would be practically impossible to hold the bazaar in-person.
“We decided that we wanted to potentially do an online bazaar,” Kimberly Bansal, the PTSA Committee Chair for the Holiday Bazaar, said. “So, I sent out a survey, maybe in August, asking vendors if they would be interested in participating in an online bazaar.”
Ultimately, the PTSA decided to host a virtual event, because it desired to create some sense of normalcy for the community.
“It was… how do we keep people shopping local. How do we keep people happy and joyful about buying things from artisans. [How do we] make sure that the vendors were supported. And we also just didn’t want our community to go without a bazaar this year,” said Bansal.
This year’s bazaar will be on a website with photos of products and links to each vendors’ own virtual store. Rather than the usual one-day event, the bazaar webpage will be open over the course of a week, from Nov. 7 to 13. The PTSA was concerned that the website might crash if the 2,000 customers who normally attend the event tried to access on the same day, and wanted to give customers the chance to browse or revisit, since they would not be able to touch or try the products.
Purchases will most likely be delivered through an exchange event at the Regeneration Church, right by Eastlake, on November 14 from 10 a.m. to 3p.m. They can also be shipped to customers. If the COVID-19 situation prohibits such an exchange event, other options include vendors hand-delivering or coordinating separate meeting locations.
“It’s definitely a very different experience,” Keren Pruitt, a perennial jewelry vendor at the bazaar, said. “Because I’ve never had to take pictures of all of my items before. It’s been a lot of preparation where it usually isn’t, so it’s been a little challenging, especially because I’m not very good at starting websites or stuff with a computer.”
Depending on how well the online event goes, the PTSA may be considering a permanent online event in future years. Bansal said they had always thought about holding a second event in April, and the format will depend heavily on the pandemic situation then.
“We might want to have an online bazaar and an in-person bazaar,” said Bansal, “If we’re back to full capacity, I even think that having that online option is great for some of the people who might not be able to make it.”
You can check out the Eastlake Holiday Bazaar from November 7 to 13.