Local holiday shopping brings community together

The holiday shopping season is upon us, starting in one of the most community minded ways.

The first holiday bazaars of the year were held last Saturday, November 12, with both the Trenary Lions Club and the Munising United Methodist Church hosting independent events on opposite sides of the county.

“Most people came here to buy things for Christmas,” Toni Denman said of the Methodist bazaar. “Even with things like baked goods, they’re bringing them home and giving them as gifts for people that they’ll see earlier in the season.”

Alger County doesn’t have a lot of chain stores. Most stores are independently owned or a lesser known chain like Family Dollar or RadioShack, which changes the Black Friday approach to holiday shopping. Some locals will make the trip to Marquette, Escanaba or even Green Bay for shopping. For those who want to buy local, they often go to these classic versions of a pop-up business that feature neighbors showcasing their skills as artisans, bakers and crafters.

“I think it went well. Definitely not as full as what it was the last time, but a nice crowd enjoying themselves and the community,”Trenary Lions Club President Sara Salo. “We have a lot of crafters in the area, so this is a chance to celebrate their work while also getting everybody together.”

Roughly 20 vendors were at the Trenary Community Center with more expected to be at theTrenary Methodist event this Saturday and the Chatham Christmas Parade Bazaar the first weekend of December. Vendors from Alger County will also go to other places like Newberry, Grand Marais, Skandia and Rapid River, providing over 25 opportunities for community-driven sales.

Different bazaars will have cake walks and cookie decoration stations that will entertain as well as entice people to stay and spend more money locally. Food sales went well for both Munising and Trenary last Saturday with pasty sales being popular in the south and soup and chili selling out in town.

But for the organizers, there are other benefits than just providing space for a pop-up business. It can showcase their organization or congregation to the public and show that they are in Alger County for the long haul.

“We feel like it’s very important to show that we are being active in the community,” Salo said. “It took a lot to make it through COVID so it’s important to let people know that we’re still here.”

For the religious groups putting together bazaars, there are even more wrinkles with an aging and declining population cutting into the numbers of womens groups able to put on such an event. That said, Denman is still optimistic that different generations of faith-minded women can grow the event.

“We hope to expand and get more things involved to draw in younger crowds. Sometimes keeping up with the times can rub generations the wrong way, but it’s important to keep the congregation and community coming together,” she said.