For nearly a decade, the Fair Trade of Hudson Valley has hosted the annual Fair Trade Bazaar which has turned into an anticipated tradition within the Poughkeepsie community. The fair, which is sponsored by the Dutchess County Interfaith Council and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Poughkeepsie, focuses on interconnecting the people of Poughkeepsie with local non-profits, craftspeople and vendors. This year, the Fair Trade of Hudson Valley initiated its busiest and best season here at Vassar College as over 300 people made their way through the Aula last Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 15 and 16.
Pat Lamanna, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Poughkeepsie which is an affiliate of the DCIC, is the head of the committee that heads the Bazaar. She feels that the Bazaar is a great way to disseminate knowledge about fair trade in the community, and to increase involvement between members of the community.
“This was at least the Bazaar’s fifth year at Vassar, and before that it was at another location,” said Lamanna. “Through the Bazaar, we hope to raise the community’s consciousness of what fair trade is and general consciousness of what it means when they buy something. We want them to be aware of where their goods come from. If they’re buying a big boxed door, what that means about the goods and how the workers were treated.”
Over the weekend, the Aula transformed itself from a standard venue within Ely Hall into an authentic fair trade bazaar. For most of the day on Saturday and Sunday, the Aula was filled with Vassar students and Poughkeepsie locals browsing the various stands. The event did a great job of kick starting the upcoming holiday season for shoppers with the help of local food and live music from local bands Lost in the Woods and The Roundabout Ramblers. The inviting atmosphere made for a shopping setting that simultaneously benefited many local vendors and businesses who consider the fair to be ideal advertising for their array of products. The event also helps to integrate Vassar and the Poughkeepsie community by connecting people on campus and residents of Poughkeepsie itself.
The annual event is made up of several different booths which come together to sell and promote a collection of unique gifts—some of which are international merchandise that is purchased and sold by co-operatives who publicize the value of hand-crafted work. This year’s most popular imported product went to the Mayan inspired backpacks and accessories from the international business Mayan Hands.
“We want to support artists in other countries and we invite local vendors because we want to support local vendors who make high-quality and durable goods,” said Lamanna of the Bazaar’s focus on including items from such a wide variety of vendors.
Many of the imported products came from poor nations where certain groups have gone to buy the goods of vendors from the countries to help them stay afloat and practice their craft.
“As a group, we buy goods from a group called SERRV who goes to various third-world countries and buys goods from vendors there. We had three tables of SERRV goods,” said Lamanna about the initiative.
Many times the vendors end up collaborating with one another by selling complementary products. For instance, one might find themselves purchasing jewelry at one stand and later purchasing a decorative jewelry box/holder from another or possibly buying organic coffee from one vendor and a customized mug from a separate vendor.
While most of these small businesses sell their products all throughout the year, the Fair Trade of Hudson Valley is held specifically during the holiday season. These local treasures help to portray the complexity within Poughkeepsie’s business market, featuring a collection of ethnic backgrounds that help to shape Poughkeepsie’s diverse culture. Additionally, the Fair Trade of Hudson Valley aims to educate its clientele about the growing social and economic world circulating within Poughkeepsie and to be more conscience of the origin of purchased goods.
The handcrafted products sold at the Bazaar ranged from art to clothing, jewelry, organic food, skin care and bath products, house warming gifts and so forth. Some of this year’s best sellers included organic coffee, carved wooden bowls, woven baskets, pottery and dolls. Many of the crafters themselves attended the event to personally converse with clients and promote their products, including photographer Tom Hackett and jewelry maker Lorelei Pollack. The vast collection of available products makes the fair trade bazaar an appealing attraction for people of all ages and interests. Beatrice Land ’18 went to the fair to browse the goods and buy some gifts for her family.
“It was an exciting opportunity to engage with the Poughkeepsie community that I’ve yet been able to get to know,” said Land. “Meeting the various vendors and artisans gave me a new impression of Vassar’s neighboring area. I also got a chance to purchase way better seasonal gifts for my family than what I’d be able to find at the Galleria.”
What makes the fair a success each year is its unique selection of merchandise which is marked down to considerably reasonable prices. Additionally, many shoppers also find great satisfaction in not only scoping out creative and thoughtful holiday treats, but also supporting their community and local business’s at the same time. Sarah Mincer ’15 was another student who stopped by the Bazaar to take a look at the wares.
“I enjoy going to flea markets and like looking at and buying handicrafts and natural products,” said Mincer, who was accompanied by her boyfriend. The two shared a bar of Fairtrade dark chocolate, which was reportedly very good.
“It was a little crowded,” Mincer continued. “I wish it was a bigger space. But overall everybody was friendly and passionate about what they were selling.”
All in all, Lamanna reports, the great turn-out and huge variety of goods sold at the Bazaar made the event, in her book at least, a successful event.
“I think the consensus is that it was one of the most successful, if not the most successful [bazaars] we’ve ever held. We’re always happy to have Vassar organizations join us,” said Lamanna. “There was a great atmosphere with the artists, the vendors and the attendees.”