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Ellen Oaks Craft Show celebrates 43rd year

GENOA – As the Ellen Oaks Christmas Craft Show opens its doors Wednesday, two crafters who sold their work in the first show, in 1969, will once again sell their creations.

“Forty-three years ago, a craft show was unheard of,” said Marilyn Greenawalt. “The reception from the public was amazing, because it was a new thing.”

The craft show was initially open only to crafters in the Ellen Oaks subdivision in Genoa, Greenawalt said, and was held in members’ homes, including hers for eight years. Eventually, the show became so big it moved to the Masonic Temple in Genoa, where it continues today.

This year’s show will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday; and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Marge Yurs, who now lives in Sycamore, was another of the original crafters.

“When the show first started, you were assigned a number,” said Annie Berg, one of the crafters in this year’s show. “Marge was No. 2 and Marilyn was No. 1, and they’re both still going.”

Yurs was a 4-H leader for many years and taught crafts to the children in that program, she said. After she retired in the 1960s, she began making more crafts herself.

“Once a crafter, always a crafter,” she said, laughing.

In addition to getting bigger, Greenawalt and Yurs said the kinds of crafts people sell has changed over the years. Yurs said the focus has shifted from mostly needlework to woodwork, though the crocheted items she makes continue to sell. Greenawalt has gone from painting on fabric to painting on slabs of wood.

“(Greenawalt) used to do thousands of sweatshirts a year. I swear, it was amazing how many sweatshirts she could turn out,” Berg said. “Sweatshirts aren’t in right now, so she has switched to these slabs of wood with the bark still on them, but it’s her same painting style.”

At 94, Yurs is the oldest crafter in the show, Greenawalt said. Yurs said creating items for the show is good for her because it keeps her active.

“I have a little bit of arthritis in my hands, and what I have to do is keep my hands busy or they stiffen up,” she said. “I enjoy it, and it keeps my hands busy.”

After the first several years, Greenawalt said the Ellen Oaks crafters decided to share a portion of the sale’s proceeds with a nonprofit. The first charity chosen was Safe Passage.

“The idea was, we would choose a new charity each year, but we never did,” she said. “We decided Safe Passage is our charity.”

Despite the effort that goes into the annual show – each of the 17 to 20 crafters is asked to work eight hours and furnish six dozen homemade cookies – Greenawalt said she keeps doing it because it’s so much fun.

“People know when it’s going to be, and they love it,” she said. “It’s a community good time.”

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