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400 MERCHANTS, 55,000 VISITORS EXPECTED AT CHRISTMAS IN THE COUNTRY

Christmas in the Country, the second largest event at the Erie County Fairgrounds, is expecting 55,000 people to buy crafts Thursday through Sunday.

Last year, visitors to the four-day show spent $3.75 million on crafts and handmade merchandise alone, according to vendors' total sales.

"More than half stays in Western New York because at least half our vendors are in Western New York," said Sally Kaczynski, CEO of Premier Promotions in Wilmington, N.C., which organizes this event and others in New York and North Carolina.

Only the Erie County Fair with 880,000 visitors tops Christmas in the Country among events at the fairgrounds.

Putting on the show requires the help of about 100 people from the Hamburg Presbyterian Church. Their wages go to their church.

Christmas in the Country got its start in 1984 when four women from the Town of Hamburg organized the first show with 35 merchants. As the show celebrates its 20th anniversary, there will be 400 merchants from 26 states, Canada and Germany.

Kaczynski is the only original founder still involved with the show. Helping Kaczynski are her husband, Edward, and Peggy DeTombe. Both are partners in Premier Promotions.

This is the only craft show that Sunshine Artist magazine has ranked in the top five shows every year since 1998.

Local artists at the show will include watercolorist Thelma Winter of Eden, folk artist Dorothy Huttenlocker of Eden, woodworker Jack Prible of the Town of Orchard Park and folk artist Lynda Draudt of the Town of Hamburg.

Admission is $7. For more information, call 648-9733.

e-mail: lhaarlander@buffnews.com

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