Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 25, 2018
Midwest Old Threshers Reunion

Crafts in the Park bustling despite Tuesdays storm

Vendors band together, offering assistance to each other
Aug 31, 2018
Photo by: Grace King Melanie Yaley has had a tent at Crafts in the Park for 30 years, first with her grandmother, mother and aunt and now with over a dozen of her closest friends. After storms damaged many vendors’ tents and crafts Tuesday evening, Yaley offered them room, also.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Walking through Central Park, no one would know a storm had ransacked booths and destroyed tents just days earlier.

Despite a few empty spots where vendors decided to pack up and go home, Central Park was bustling Thursday, Aug. 30, launching a weekend full of craft shopping, swapping and food. Crafts in the Park will run throughout Midwest Old Threshers from Thursday to Monday, Sept. 3.

The 80-some vendors selling their craft goods throughout the week are resilient, displaying what merchandise they were able to salvage and thankful for everyone who pitched in to clean up the park Wednesday morning.

Margaret Huff, of Keosauqua, was positive and chatty with customers even though her tent had been destroyed in the rain. Huff sat underneath a smaller tent, her items displayed on a table with a sign reading “storm sale.”

Across the sidewalk under Melanie Yaley’s tent was where the majority of Huff’s pottery sat.

“There’s just so much loss,” Yaley said. “I made space for her to bring her beautiful pots to display.”

Yaley, previously from Mt. Pleasant but now residing in Texas, isn’t new to taking in strays selling items at her booth. Her family has rented space at Crafts in the Park for 30 years. What started as a tradition with her grandmother, mother and aunt has grown into something much bigger over the years.

Yaley comes from a family of seamstresses. While her mother and grandmother would crochet, Yaley focused on sewing aprons.

First, Yaley’s mother died in 2001, leaving a big hole in her heart and her tent, but she still had her grandmother and aunt to sell items with. When they died, it was just Yaley for a few years until she invited some friends to come along, sell their crafts and help her out at the tent.

“I like the direction we grew, and I know my mom and grandma would like it too,” Yaley said joyfully. Now, over a dozen vendors sell with Yaley at her tent, each taking shifts throughout the long weekend and keeping an account of what has sold. The tent is aptly named M.Y. Designs and Friends Mini-Market, A creative collaboration of local artisans.

Yaley is keeping up the family tradition as well, with her daughter and daughter-in-law joining her this year, and her granddaughter, Brynleigh Ross, 7, contributing “kindness rocks,” which are selling for $2 apiece.

The rocks are hand painted with sayings such as “be kind,” “life is tough but so are you,” “share the love,” and “the best is yet to come.”

When it comes to the storm that blew through Mt. Pleasant Tuesday evening, Yaley is lucky. Some of her aprons were found on the other side of the square, but a quick wash and dry was all it took to get them looking fresh again.

Wayne and Bertha Elliott are also lucky. The wooden-toy makers had eight totes fill with water but were able to dry out the toys and don’t consider themselves to be at a loss.

The couple has been making toys together or 35 years and have been selling at Crafts in the Park for a decade after moving from Oregon to Danville. It’s the sense of accomplishment that keep Wayne and Bertha crafting. One of the Elliotts’ biggest delights is gifting the wooden toys to their seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

“I always tell the kids I get to play with every toy,” Wayne said with a smile.

Bertha, who turned 81 years old Friday, Aug. 31, was especially excited for Crafts in the Park because she gets to pick out her birthday gift this year. “There’s a lot to choose from,” she said.

Sheri Dill-Billings, of New London, too finds pride in her work. Billings is a returner to Crafts in the Park. While the artist, who likes to paint on metal objects, recalled selling her items here in the ‘90s, this is her comeback year.

As a child, Billings colored on walls and “always had a thing about white spaces,” which was why her mother always made sure to keep plenty of art supplies on hand.

That’s why Billings’ canvases are now sawblades, axes and any other type of metal she can get her hands on. She particularly enjoys painting trucks — one of her best-selling items.

While the storm destroyed Billings’ tent Tuesday night, she waited to bring her paintings out until Wednesday, and they were safe and dry. Billings’ foresight was from experience. In July, she was a part of a painting competition of a barn north of Keosauqua, after which it was flattened by a tornado.

Billings gave her painting of the barn on its last day standing to the owner.

As Crafts in the Park continues throughout the weekend, vendors just pray for the perfect weather seen on Thursday to continue.

“No more rain,” Wayne said.

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