LITTLE FALLS — The weekend after Labor Day, an expected 100,000 people will descend on the small town of Little Falls for
The town of less than 10,000 people will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its incredibly successful event on
People come to see about 600 craft vendors from about 17 different states, including Florida, Washington, Oregon, Mississippi and Massachusetts, said Purva Watten, president and CEO of the Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.
The fair started in 1972, sponsored and organized by local shop Graf’s Hobby Shop, with 79 vendors.
The show has been named the
by Sunshine Artist Magazine. That number is based on artists’ reported sales in 2022, for the classic and contemporary craft category.
Watten said there are more than 100 new craft vendors this year who have never been in the Little Falls show and 50 food vendors. Various volunteers help coordinate, answering vendor questions, directing them and checking they’re in line with fair policy. But that’s a lot of booths to visit.
“I don’t think we are ever gonna be able to go to every single booth, but we try,” Watten said. “A lot of them have over two booth spaces … which means that it’s actually a very successful fair if they’re bringing in more product.”
And visitors come back, year after year. They come from across Minnesota, and also North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
“They know who they want to visit. They know what they want to get,” Watten said.
For weeks before and after the show, the Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce will get calls from fairgoers, inquiring about their favorite vendor.
“We get inundated with calls,” Watten said. “It’s just been constant phone ringing and they’re like, ‘Hey, there was this vendor across from this building. Do you know who that is? Can we get the contact info?’”
who have been part of the fair for 50 years:
- Special Touch by Judy Swanson of Little Falls, with Christmas and seasonal crafts, home decor and decorative woodwork.
- Lakes Area Pottery of Baxter, by Lance Hanfler Pottery.
Watten is a fair enthusiast, too.
“The arts and crafts fair is something that I attend every year diligently, up to a point where my husband’s like, ‘You only get to have so much money. Don’t spend it all,’” Watten said. “I do my Christmas shopping.”
Her friends come and so do her host moms. Watten, originally from India, was a Rotary exchange student in Duluth and later attended North Dakota State University for hospitality and tourism. She eventually attended an event in Little Falls.
“I basically fell in love,” Watten said. She and her husband found a house and moved to town.
What Watten loves most about Little Falls is the community. That’s exemplified by the community’s participation in the craft fair.
“This wouldn’t be possible without the help of the community,” Watten said. “It’s like the whole community comes together.”
For instance, the girls’ tennis team is out there in parking lots, directing people where to park, Watten said.
“They just love to do that. We get them year over year,” Watten said. “Those high school kids you see at night, they make sure they stay up all night. They’ll do rounds and they make sure no merchandise is stolen.”
Local nonprofits will do fundraisers around the event. The local campground and surrounding hotels are full — even some in the St. Cloud area.
“The whole county benefits because of this,” Watten said.
There will be a few things this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary.
“We do have a flash mob this year to just truly make it into like a celebration,” Watten said. They’ll also have an Instagram contest, where people can take pictures of themselves at the fair and be entered to win prizes.
It is a celebration, especially after the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic. The fair was canceled or much smaller than in past years. The vendors who make their living traveling to art fairs across the country struggled to support themselves.
“The fairs are a livelihood for a lot of these folks that come through because they don’t just come to our fair. They will go to any arts and crafts fair,” Watten said.
so to see hundreds attend the Little Falls fair is a sign of resiliency.
“This is the year after COVID that people are like starting to go back to normalcy,” Wattner said.
A brief history of the fair
1972: The first fair had 79 vendors on downtown sidewalks.
1972-1974: The fair was sponsored and organized by the local Graf’s Hobby Shop.
1975: The Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce began sponsorship of the fair with 90 vendors.
1986: The fair had 556 vendors, the first year to have more than 500 vendors.
1996: Food courts were added.
1997: For the 25th Anniversary of the fair, more than 1,000 vendors were present.
1/6: People visit the Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair in September 1989. The Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023.
2/6: People visit the Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair in September 1989. The Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023.
3/6: People eat at the Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair in September 1989. The Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023.
4/6: People visit the Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair in September 1989. The Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023.
5/6: People visit the Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair in September 1989. The Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023.
6/6: People board a shuttle bus at the Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair in September 1989. The Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023.
Little Falls Arts and Crafts
WHEN: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9; 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 10.
WHERE: Throughout downtown Little Falls.
DETAILS: Event is rain or shine and admission is free. Parking is available at the Morrison County Fairgrounds at 15575 Hawthorn Road in Little Falls, Minnesota, with shuttle buses to take you to the fair.