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Mt. Pleasant Chamber and vendors look for way forward after show canceled

The annual Crafts in the Park show, which runs the same weekend as the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, is canceled. The show is the biggest fundraiser for the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance and is often one of the biggest events for local vendors. (Union file photo)
The annual Crafts in the Park show, which runs the same weekend as the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, is canceled. The show is the biggest fundraiser for the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance and is often one of the biggest events for local vendors. (Union file photo)

MT. PLEASANT — Along with the cancellation of the 2020 Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, the annual Crafts in the Park show, Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance’s largest annual fundraiser, will not be moving forward.

Each year, about 99 vendors from across southeast Iowa travel to Mt. Pleasant for the craft fair, a major economic driver for both the Chamber and local vendors.

With the loss of the show, the Chamber, which brings in about $20,000 from the craft show alone, will see a financial loss. But even with the cancellation, Kristi Ray, the nonprofit’s executive vice president, is not overly concerned or worried. She said the Chamber is “on good financial footing” and is confident it will be “able to make up” the loss.

“It’s still the right thing to do. The event is in support of Old Threshers, so it only makes sense [to cancel],” Ray said. Currently the Chamber is looking into hosting new and different fundraisers in place of the craft show.

The cancellation of the show will be a hit for local vendors. Julie Schroer’s dog treat business, Breezy Biscuits and Barks Dog Treats, sees its biggest weekend with the craft fair.

“We sell over 6,000 treats at that event alone, so the economic impact of it is going to be big,” Schroer said.

The 2020 Reunion would have been Schroer’s third as a vendor. Each year since she began participating, her sales have grown.

“Last year, we sold record-breaking numbers. We were anticipating another big event,” she said.

While her dog treat business is not her family’s main source of income, Shroer said profits help pay for her children’s extracurricular activities and contribute to college funds.

“We are feeling the effects of all the cancellations this year … we’re just getting event after event canceled,” she added.

Like the Chamber, Schroer is looking at new methods to get her products to customers. This year has prompted the dog treat business owner to launch a website.

“We’ve had to get this new way of thinking due to all of the event losses we’ve had,” Schroer said.

Cheryl Payne, owner of Elsie’s Kitchen, a dry food mix vendor, has seen many shows canceled. Payne said she hasn’t participated in one since February. For the business owner, this will be the first time since 1995 that she will not be participating in the craft show in Mt. Pleasant.

“It’s a disappointment and not just in terms of income,” Payne said. “It’s a social thing. It’s being outside and seeing everybody.”

Although the 2020 show is canceled, the Chamber and vendors are trying to remain positive and focus efforts on the following year.

“What made me happiest is what I let all the vendors know, a majority just asked for their deposit to be carried until the next year,” Ray said.

While plans are not yet set in stone, Ray said the Chamber is continuing to look at new fundraising ideas to make up what would have been made during the show. Additionally, the nonprofit is organizing a group under the auspices of Henry County Tourism to plan some sort of celebration the week Old Threshers would have been held. Community members can continue to look forward to some sort of event in late August.

“Even knowing we have to live under these parameters, for the morale of the community, we have to do something that week,” Ray said.