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The Other Black Friday
by Garrett Valenzuela
Nov 23, 2012 | 4606 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Crafts for Christmas attendees enjoy a free performance Friday from Dance City, a Sparks-based dance studio, at John Ascuaga's Nugget. The performance was one of several put on by the group.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Crafts for Christmas attendees enjoy a free performance Friday from Dance City, a Sparks-based dance studio, at John Ascuaga's Nugget. The performance was one of several put on by the group.
Picture the stereotypical Black Friday door-busting scenario ... thousands of people trampling one another just to get to that one must-have item, which they will wait ‘forever’ in line to get.

Now, picture the Rose Ballroom of John Ascuaga’s Nugget filled with vibrant sounds of Christmas carols, children anxiously waiting in line to meet Santa Claus and hundreds of gift ideas for the family coming from local vendors.

The difference, aside from the hoards of people initially shoving through a single door, is the environment.

The third annual Crafts for Christmas fair saw hundreds of people at its Friday opening to kick off the holiday shopping weekend with a dose of Christmas cheer. Event organizer Jason Williams, of Williams Ltd., said event vendors were a mix of local and Bay Area businesses, offering holiday gifts.

“Thanksgiving is obviously the biggest shopping week of the year. Everyone has got to spend time at the mall at some point, but once you get done spending time standing in line at the mall, you can ring in the holiday season and you won’t have to feel the crush and the manic of the holiday,” Williams said of the craft event. “There are booths of every kind from jewelry to home decor to clothing. Some of my favorites are the specialty foods like honey, barbeque seasonings and hot sauces that make great gifts as well.”

Williams said the free event was geared toward adults and children alike, and offered a children’s workshop station, the chance to sit on Santa’s lap and a special reading of The Polar Express by John Ascuaga himself. Williams said holding the event at The Nugget only helped cater to the family atmosphere.

“We really want to do something for the whole family,” he said. “The Nugget is like that as well, being such a family-oriented business, and they are all about giving back to the community. An event like this gives the whole family something to do.”

This is not the first event Williams has teamed up with The Nugget, having brought in numerous vendors for The Nugget Rib Cook-Off, Hot August Nights and Street Vibrations. He said he has been working for several months with Nugget organizers to bring Crafts for Christmas to life.

“The Nugget has been really great to us by supplying the entertainment that appears and having Santa here for the kids. They really roll out the red carpet for us,” he said.

On Monday, Public Relations Manager at The Nugget Lauren Garber said the event saw unprecedented success and attractions throughout the weekend. She also said the hotel location aided in bringing in crowds of people.

“Attendance was way up from last year, and we’re excited to see it grow each year. We added a lot of new things this year, including local school performances, kids’ activities, extended visiting hours with Santa, and a special reading of The Polar Express by John Ascuaga, all of which we think contributed to the large turnout,” Garber said. “One of the best things about Crafts for Christmas is that the majority of the crafters and vendors are local and people can enjoy free parking and admission. It’s an event unlike any other, and we feel lucky to have it right here in Sparks.”

Garber said many of the vendors have already expressed interest in returning to the event next year and The Nugget will be ooking to not only improve the event, but grow its size in the future.

Lisa Jansen, special events manager for The Nugget, said managing the event’s setup was no easy task for Nugget employees, who began clearing the Rose Ballroom at midnight Friday after the Thanksgiving Buffet.

“I keep telling people (the Nugget staff) are like Santa’s Elves because they ‘Christmas-fy’ the ballroom overnight and then the vendors come in around two in the morning and they have until noon to set up,” Jansen said. “It is like this magical thing that happens. It was Thanksgiving and now it is Christmas.”

Jansen said Christmas for Crafts began in an attempt to bring Williams’ craft fair, originally held at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, to Sparks to jump start the holiday weekend. Williams said moving to Sparks really “made sense” for the craft fair.

“It is free to the public, free to park, it seemed like a good fit and this a beautiful venue. Most shows around town you are paying a few bucks to park then again to get in, so it was a really great fit for us,” Williams said. “Sparks has really grown into an amazing special-event community. Even the way they have designed Victorian Square it is almost as if they designed it around things like the rib cook-off or around the special events that happen here. And everyone comes out when we have events in the summertime and it’s a great thing to do.”

Performances were given every 10 minutes for an hour by Dance City on Friday and a variety of performances were held throughout the weekend, including the Spanish Springs High School band and Sparks Florist.

Jansen said Christmas for Crafts offered a chance for the entire family to enjoy themselves without the pressure of Black Friday.

“This is much more family friendly and much more of a slow-paced Christmas feel. It is not a mad dash or a rush. We are not going to run out of anything and we have something for everybody,” she said. “Everything is much more festival-like and it is much more free. Every year it gets bigger and better and every year we have more displays and more Christmas decorations.”

Jansen said the event has yet to reach its full potential and that The Nugget and Williams Ltd. will be strengthening the event each year. She said the idea of the event being the go-to shopping spot for families would accomplish the Crafts for Christmas goal.

“Our ultimate goal is we would love to see this become the family kickoff to the Christmas holiday season,” she said. “We would love this to be the place that you go the day after Thanksgiving with all of your family and when everyone is in town, they come here to kick off the Christmas season.”
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