November 4, 2010

Close to Home: Crafters get comfy at inn's long-running fair

By DON PERKINS

If you've ever wanted to take a peek at the rooms at the Inn at Long Lake in Naples, you'll have your chance this weekend. Saturday and Sunday mark the 20th year for the Holiday Craft Fair and Open House at the Inn.

Lorna Tipton says, "It's like going to Grandma's at Christmastime. It's a cozy inn; we each have our own room."

Tipton isn't referring to being a guest at the inn. She's a crafter, a fiber artist, and one of about 20 local artisans who will display their wares for early Christmas shoppers.

Everything from woodworking, jewelry and facial products to handbags and photography will be on display.

Keith A. Neubert has operated the inn for the past two years and has been working at the inn longer, acting as head chef for the past seven years.

"Every innkeeper has agreed to support the local artisans by opening the inn," Neubert said. "There aren't a lot of things that go on for 20 years. It's a very different environment for people to spend a couple of hours shopping. It's not Walmart. You get to meet the product maker one-on-one."

On Lake House Road just off the Naples causeway, the four-story, circa 1906 Victorian inn is one of the largest in western Maine. It has 15 suites and a large great room on the first floor with a stone fireplace. Each of the inn's rooms is reserved for a particular crafter, and cookies and hot mulled cider will be served by the fire in the great room.

Though the inn dates from the Victorian era, it has a different theme today. All rooms are named for famous actors and jazz musicians. Cole Porter and Duke Ellington are on the top floor, for example, while Mae West and Greta Garbo suites are on the second floor.

Elaine O'Donnell, a crafter from Gorham, has attended the fair for the past five years. She makes tatted lace and likes offering her wares in a dedicated room complete with furnishings.

"Many shows I attend can be a little confining," she said. "You're in a 10-by-10 space. But at the inn, I can put out my tablecloths and doilies. Customers can get a better idea of what a piece really looks like."

Gail Leahy, a Naples crafter selling her sculptures and quilts, helps to organize the craft fair and has been coming as a vendor for 14 years. She'll be set up with a few others in the great room. "We seem to fill up the inn every year," she said.

This year is the second year photographer Mimi O'Neill will participate. A retired surgical nurse, the Naples resident said she's probably the most excited of anyone involved. "I don't know how they found me, but they did," she said. "I was very lucky." O'Neill said the organizers liked her work and picked her because they knew she was passionate about her craft.

The credit for getting the show started goes to Betsy Golon, owner of Common Folk Farm in Naples. Twenty years ago, some of her friends bought and restored the inn, but found that filling it with customers was challenging. They asked Golon to organize a Christmas craft fair as a way to introduce folks to the building.

"One of the couples who came to the Christmas show ended up buying the inn," Golon said.

The new owners loved the craft fair and wanted to continue it every year, but with the goal of filling each room with a local artist.

"It's really become an event," Golon said.

The fair will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Admission is free. For more information, contact the inn at 693-6226.

 

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