ALBANY — The weather cooperated Saturday for the annual Albany Community Fall Arts and Crafts Festival.
Area residents who enjoy seeking out unique, handcrafted items, specialty products, and locally grown, prepared and preserved foods shopped at more than 120 booths.
Booths featured a wide variety of products, including decorative creations, apparel, jewelry and jars of preserves at the event sponsored by the Albany Community Church on Gill Road just off U.S. 190.
Brother Ben Stratton, pastor of the nondenominational church, said his congregation hosted the festival for the fourth time this year.
“It’s something special for our church members, and we work hard to make sure that the festival is bigger and better each year,” Stratton said.
He said that at the church’s first arts and crafts festival, 60 vendors pitched their tents. This year, he added, about 120 vendors were on hand.
“We have vendors coming from throughout Louisiana and even some from Mississippi. We welcome them all, and they seem to enjoy being part of our festival,” he said.
In addition to the booths, festival planners added more attractions this year, especially for the children. Five large bounce houses were available in the play area. Horseback rides also were available. The Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Albany Fire Department had vehicles on hand for visitors to examine. A popular attraction for children was a string of miniature cars pulled by a tractor.
Stratton said the festival is more than a fundraiser for the church. “This is not something we do just to raise money. Yes, we do earn funds that are used by the church in our ministry, but we wanted to provide a family-oriented day that brings the community together. We want the people to come out, have fun, enjoy some good food and just be together in fun and fellowship. I think we have succeeded because our festival has been such a success.”
The pastor said the entire congregation gets involved in planning for the event. He paid special tribute to Lurlene Stratton, his wife, and Mary Monteleone, who have co-chaired the event since its inception.
“I always give a big hallelujah to these two ladies and all the others who pitch in to do all the things that it takes to make the festival a success. Some of the members of the church have been working on this for two or three months,” he said.
The Albany Community Church, now 7 years old, has occupied its grounds on Gill Road for the past four years. Stratton, who has been a pastor for 21 years, said the church grounds formerly housed the Berean Children’s Home, a shelter for homeless children that has since relocated. The expansive grounds afford the church ample space for the festival, which, according to Stratton, draws more than 1,000 visitors each year.
Among the visitors greeting potential customers early in the morning was Christy Dufrene, of Loranger, who was selling Gold Canyon Candles. She said she has participated in the festival in previous years and that “business has been good.”
Rose Marie Mellenbruch and Dottie Newsome, of Greensburg, manned a booth featuring handmade jewelry and knitted items, including one-of-a-kind hats. Newsome said she enjoys crocheting for a hobby and sells her creations at various fairs and festivals and at the Greensburg Farmers Market. This was her first year at the Albany Community Fall Arts and Crafts Festival, and she said she was expecting to “do a good bit of business.”
Darren Stogner’s booth had a colorful array of fruits and vegetables artfully gracing his sales tables. It was his first trip to the festival, and he said he was anticipating having a busy day.
Rebecca Carr, of Watson, returned to the fair for a second year to sell her Empower Cosmetics Minerals. She said business was good at the fair last year and she welcomed the beautiful weather Saturday.
The Albany Community Church’s Legacy Youth Group sold nachos, Frito pies, pastries, soft drinks, water and candy.
Youth Minister Brandon Kelley said the funds raised by the group are used for the young people’s church-related projects conducted throughout the year.
Taking a cue from their close church affiliation, one of the teens shouted out to a would-be customer, “Buy our stuff, and we will pray for you!”
Members of the Legacy Youth Group hold regular Bible study sessions, enjoy a Christmas party each year, participate in community activities and hold a special weekend youth retreat, which will be held this year Dec. 4-6.
Kelley said the group was doing its part to make the arts and crafts festival a success while enjoying the fellowship at the same time.
“We’re enjoying this day and the chance to meet with all the great people who come here to enjoy what has become a special day in the Albany community,” Kelley said.