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Holiday shoppers, to your marks!

POULSBO — Proving shoppers needn’t wait for the weekend after Thanksgiving to get a jump on holiday gift buys, the North Kitsap Holiday Fest is once again opening its doors, offering one of the most anticipated to juried arts and crafts shows in the area.

Taking place Nov. 3 and 4 at North Kitsap High School in Poulsbo, the event is carting in the best of the best items from around the region to raise money for student activities and new additions to the school.

Coordinator Leah Titze said nearly 100 vendors will be at the sale this year, each offering unique, quality products. Funds raised from the event go straight back into the student population in a variety of ways.

“The money really goes to the students,” she said, adding this is the only fundraiser done for the Associated Student Body, and allows them to attend summer leadership camp, purchase amenities for the school and give student breakfasts and grants to other student clubs. “It’s all going to the student body.”

Titze said the handmade, high-end items sold at the event represent areas from all over the Northwest. She said she tries to invite both crafters and artisans from other areas of the state, as well as Idaho. Items for grabs this year will include jewelry, pottery, woodworkings, baskets, kitchen items, hats and vintage purses.

“We try to cater to all different ages and desires,” she said. “It’s just great, you know, some people are just so crafty. They enjoy what they’re doing and are proud of what they’re doing.”

Titze added for the high school, it’s nothing short of a good time.

“It’s a big celebration for North Kitsap High School,” she said. “Everybody’s hustling and bustling... This is the beginning of the holiday season. Everybody knows about Holiday Fest.”

Titze said food booths will also be available to attendees, and they, too, will benefit school groups, including Students Against Drunk Driving and the wrestling and baseball teams.

“It’s a small show, but it’s always lots of fun,” said artist and former Port Orchard resident Leah Wong, who creates a jewelry line from her home in Liberty Lake. “There are great vendors there. I’m treated very well by the organizers of the show and it’s just fun to be home.”

Wong creates necklaces, bracelets and earrings perfect for buying or giving as gifts from high quality stones, glass and metals, including Austrian Swarovski crystals, fresh water pearls and sterling silver. Using her unique talent, she works to combine color, texture and shapes into pieces that make their wearers feel special.

“I spend a lot of time hunting for different stones, different findings, different silver pieces,” she said. “I’m just constantly looking for something different, fun and original.”

Wong travels to various shows throughout the Northwest each year, and said her time spent living in Amsterdam, as well as her years growing up in Western Washington, have helped shape her eye for beauty.

“I think being exposed to a lot of different kinds of art on all levels... being exposed to lots of different ways of viewing the world, has inspired me and allowed me to think outside the box with my jewelry,” she said.

Port Orchard artist Tristan Benz, who produces both high quality handbags and non-slip hair clips, said Holiday Fest was her first craft show, and is one she enjoys revisiting as a vendor each year.

“It’s a lovely show,” she said. “I think it’s super-well attended. It’s for a great cause... It’s a mix of everything from grandma’s chocolate to really incredible artisans. You get all kinds of people.”

Benz’s hair clips are designed to stay put even the slimmest strands of hair, and promote her cause of healthy youth marketing.

“They’re all handmade by moms and others here in American who want to be at home with their children,” she said. “I’m not producing products for products’ sake. I really want to change how marketers go after our children.”

Benz will also be selling her handbag line, for which she never replicates a design more than 99 times. She works with leather, mixed textiles and semi-precious stones to create individual pieces that she hopes will be a perfect fit for shoppers.

“My handbag line is my personal, artistic thing,” she said. “I’d rather you feel, like, ‘Wow, this is a symbol of me.’ I’ve had women walk up to my product and go, ‘That’s my bag!’ It makes a statement about them.”

For more information on Benz’s bags, hair clips and design to change unhealthy marketing schemes, visit www.maidenus.com. For more information on Wong’s jewelry line, visit www.byleahwong.com.

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