As you walk down the stairs of Buntrock Commons, you notice a small, Christmas themed gnome staring at you with its kind eyes. You just can’t resist the adorable gnome wearing a long, red hat. After your purchase you intend to head back to your dorm, but when you turn the corner, there are a variety of stands selling jewelry, honey, wooden bowls, and home decor. Then you find yourself trying on handmade mittens, hats, and scarfs crafted by local artists. You are extremely overwhelmed by the array of goods and immediately tear through your checking account.
On Nov. 18, Buntrock Commons hosted the Ole Artisan Bazaar from 9:00-4:00 p.m., where several local artists, students, and staff closely connected to St. Olaf sell their crafted items and food. This event has been organized by Tracy O’Neill for the last five years along with help from Barbara Schmidt, a past coordinator involved with the event.
The Bazaar was originally funded by the Finstead Grant, a grant given to students developing business plans. Legend has it that the Ole Artisan Bazaar was inspired by a couple of students in an entrepreneurial class back in 1998. Initially, it was a simple class into something much bigger than the grant. According to Tracy, the “Bazaar is a St. Olaf tradition, occurring annually for over 20 years. It almost always occurs on the Friday before Thanksgiving.”
During 2020, the Bazaar was canceled due to Covid. Last year the event was able to be held again and the number of people attending was larger than expected. Tracy emphasized that “all of the vendors were amazed at last year’s and this year’s turnout of customers.” There were many vendors at the Bazaar that have been featured for years, but there were also new artists that joined the event this year including Emily Barta, a staff member at St. Olaf. She started a business, “Throes of Passion”, back in 2018 that allows her to combine her interests for graphic design, pop culture, and art history. Emily emphasized: “This was the first time selling my own goods at this type of venue… It was really special to see people from the St. Olaf community gets excited about my designs and illustrations and recognizes that we have the same niche interests.”
Many of the vendors, as well as Tracy, hope that the Ole Artisan Bazaar will continue to be an annual tradition. Several students and staff members enjoy walking around Buntrock Crossroads shopping for their loved ones. The Bazaar brings communities together at St. Olaf to celebrate the joys of the Holidays.