WASHINGTON — Unique seasonal crafts and items called Washington’s 30th annual Craft Fair home on Saturday, Sept. 7, as vendors from all over Iowa and the Midwest came to showcase their handiwork for locals.
For 60-year-old twin sisters Nancy and Susan Mitchell, their carved craft pumpkins are more than just a business, it’s a symptom of a long-held family love for all things Halloween. Together the sisters run Spooktacular Pumpkins.
Their infatuation with the holiday began in childhood with their parents.
“Our mother really loved it, she’d get us very excited … each year our dad would hand make our costumes,” Susan explained.
From there, it grew into annual Halloween parties that included pumpkin carvings. The Mitchell sisters started simple with traditional Halloween symbols like jack-o’-lanterns and cats, before moving onto more intricate designs like Spider-Man and other cartoon characters. The Halloween that kicked off their business nine years ago included 35 handcrafted real pumpkins. This year, the sisters plan to display 140 in their yard.
“The best part is seeing people’s reactions,” Nancy said. “The kids always get so excited.”
“We had this one little girl … we made a personalized pumpkin for her with her name and Tinkerbell and she just started crying and she asked her mom ‘Who loves me enough to make this for me?’” Susan added.
The Mitchells specialize in handcrafted plastic pumpkins.
“We started out with real pumpkins but we moved to plastic ones because they last longer,” Nancy explained.
The sisters usually create their pumpkins with heated exacto knives and stencils and often find themselves making carvings of sports teams or business logos for fellow Halloween enthusiasts.
“We really only do it two to three months a year,” Nancy explained. “The Craft Fair works out really well for us because most events happen after Thanksgiving for Christmas and by then, Halloween has already passed,” she added.
The Mitchells have participated in the fair for three years and often see repeat customers looking for fun, new pumpkins. Each year, the sisters travel from Cedar Rapids, where they both work at Mercy Medical Center, for the fair. The fair is one of six that they attend each year.
“We’ve sent pumpkins all over the place including Hawaii and Germany,” Susan said.
“We make a little money from doing this but it’s really just fun … I like Halloween because it’s different from all the other holidays. It’s happy and scary,” Nancy concluded.
Lucas Remley’s love for art kick-started his career as a pencil artist, but he later found his passion in ornamental design when a family member brought home a yard accessory and Remley realized he could make his own.
Remley’s life is now entrenched in making hand-cut steel yard ornaments. The artist travels to 20 shows a year to sell his designs. Remley’s business is based in Memphis, Missouri, where he has a display shop for his work.
Because Remley personally does each one, no design is exactly the same.
“Just last week, I added 101 designs. At this point, I’ve probably created thousands of designs,” Remley said. “We’ve been coming out since about 2000 and there’s a great crowd each year.”
Remley’s displays include holiday-themed designs as well as intricate flowers, which catch the attention of most people.
“I just got started and never really stopped,” Remley said, explaining how his hobby blossomed into a thriving business.