Juneau residents got to take in some different flavors in their holiday shopping at the 28th annual Alaska Juneau Public Market, and they certainly took advantage of the opportunity. Centennial Hall and the Juneau Arts & Culture Center were packed with hundreds of shoppers plus vendors from across the state and beyond.
Peter Metcalfe, who owns the Public Market with his wife, Sandy, said there were about 175 vendors total, so many that some had to share booths.
The crowds had their choice of any number of gifts, toys, crafts, clothes and food, with diversity afoot in the attractions. Visitors could observe a woodworker from Houston, Alaska, collect art from the Raven's Eye from Haines, take in the goods from Eagle River Knives or grab a bite from local gourmets or barbeques.
Not all of the booths were selling merchandise. Representatives of the Juneau Raptor Center were there with live birds to offer some ornithological information. Local author Patricia Turner Custard was signing her children's books.
New this year, calendars featuring local breast cancer survivors were on sale to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
While many vendors were local, Metcalfe said around half were from out of town, and this was the first market for about a quarter of the vendors.
"We've sold out all our space," he said. "I'm always able to fill those spaces."
He said about a quarter of the total vendors were from Southeast, with several from Haines, Ketchikan, Sitka and Petersburg. Others traveled here from the interior, Washington, Oregon and elsewhere.
"Another quarter's from the rest of Alaska and Pacific northwest," he said.
The influx of customers was just as heavy as the vendors. Metcalfe said this year's turnout felt like more people than the market's ever had, and they appear to be spending more money than ever before. He said there were lines formed outside Centennial Hall when the doors opened Friday.
An employee, Warren Eckland, said he sold tickets for three hours straight with no downtime in sales, and there seemed to be more people inside this year.
Metcalfe said this turnout is a good sign for the economy.
Visitors were glad about the local showcase. One was Siara Kelly, who said the products this year seem a lot better than past years, such as glassware that she said she hadn't seen at the market in the past.
"My favorite thing is how a lot is handmade Alaskan," she said.
Metcalfe takes care of both the customers and vendors at the event, even having staff make rounds to bring them coffee.
"It's a small thing but doesn't happen elsewhere," he said.
"The impression I get is they get scolded a lot at other events. Here, if they have a problem, we solve it quickly," he said.
Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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