KITTERY POINT, Maine — It’s not every church Christmas fair that merits its own police detail.
That’s what 102 years of consecutive fairs will get you, just ask the First Congregational Church of Kittery Point. Each year, it sees an anticipatory line form nearly an hour prior to the event, and more traffic on Pepperrell Road than a Saturday afternoon in the summertime. On Friday, it was no different.
The tradition-laden event is a labor of love for the church’s Women’s Fellowship, many of whom said they’d begin planning next year’s fair the following day. It's a pillar of the community, with proceeds going to local, regional and national charities, including Fair Tide Housing, End 68 Hours of Hunger, Fuel and More, Footprints Food Pantry, Table of Plenty, York Hospice and the Seafarer’s Society.
“This is Christmas,” said Donna Stobbs, who serves on the fair’s steering committee, as she looked around Friday. “It has become a tradition for so many people.”
There were handmade gifts, baked goods, cheese, pickled vegetables and jams, antiques, jewelry, arrangements, greens and candy. Upstairs, there was a “hostess heaven” with housewares, and a kids’ “shop and wrap” room that was specifically posted as “no adults allowed.”
Shoppers selected creamsicle and maple walnut fudge, gingerbread men, Penuche, and chocolate covered cherries and apricots. Warm aromas exuded from the kitchen, as volunteers served chowder, chili, egg salad and tuna sandwiches. On the dessert side, pies of all kinds, including banana creme, lemon meringue and apple cranberry.
Steering committee member Mary Carter said everything sold at the fair is made or donated by their members or people from the community at large. Stobbs said they are lucky to have some “really talented artists” who contribute every year.
There were homemade wreaths for sale decorated with mussels, starfish and snail shells, as well as mirrors made from local driftwood.
“When I was a kid, I belonged here,” said Carter, who estimated she’s been organizing the fair for 30 years. “And it would be so exciting to go to the Christmas Fair.”
Stobbs said many parents take their kids out of school early to make it for the fair’s start time. Her 34-year-old son, she said, went into work early Friday so he’d be able to leave early.
“Our kids value it,” Stobbs said. “It’s a family thing, the whole ball of wax.”
As the masses flooded the Parish House, Carter shouted, “I need my Anadama bread!” She explained that each year, an older parishioner makes her famous bread and walks it up to the fair. The bread is a staple of the event, and one of the favorites.
Stobbs said it’s not their practice to release profit numbers, but she called the figures each year “obscene.”
“These are wonderful customers who keep coming back year after year,” Carter said. In her pep talk to the Women’s Fellowship volunteers, she snickered, “Particularly we want to thank our husbands.”
Pastor Brian Gruhn found a brief moment to admire the holiday chaos while sitting in a stairwell off to the side. “Personally what I look forward to is the year round preparation,” he said. “Everyone in the community comes out for this in one way or another.”
Gruhn called the fair “a living legacy.”
“This is one of those things we do that so clearly has a positive effect on our whole neighborhood,” he said.
Later in the evening, the community was invited into the church sanctuary, the oldest church building of continuous use in Maine, for Christmas caroling.