A 'joyful day' at Molly Stark School

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BENNINGTON — Holiday cheer decked the halls of Molly Stark Elementary School throughout Saturday at the school's first annual Holiday Bazaar.

Over 43 vendors from the area participated in the bazaar, offering a variety of products. Shoppers could choose among small handmade ornaments, decorations, furniture, and much more.

Ten fifth-graders had come up with a novel offering — they students made colorful slime and named each of their creations. One of the event's coordinators and the school librarian, Allyson Hoffman, helped the students make the slime.

Besides Hoffman, the Holiday Bazaar's organizers included Sharon Mears, Darlene Stratton, Judy Thompson, and Melissa Willard, as well as the Molly Stark Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

A gift-wrapping table was available for those who were holiday gift shopping and even a cake walk game. Face painting was available along with cookie decorating and a visit from Santa Claus. The cookie decorating was one of the more popular events according to the bazaar's coordinators. Next year, they hope to have more cookies for decorating.

Raffle tickets and silent auctions were available for people to enter in with winners being announced every 30 minutes. Those who entered had a chance to win gift certificates from local businesses.

Hoffman said that everyone was in good spirits throughout the bazaar, with many showing holiday cheer. Some of those who helped put on the event with dressed from head to toe in red and green.

"It was worth every second of it," Hoffman. "All of the hard work paid off. It was also nice to see students from other school's visit, and come together with us. It was a joyful day."

Over 400 people were estimated to have shown up for the bazaar.

Proceeds from the Holiday Bazaar went directly back into the school to help benefit the students. Hoffman said that a portion of the money would go to help fund future field trips. Roughly $2,100 was raised in total from the event.

Following Saturday's event, an envelope containing only checks from the vendors for registration was discovered to have gone missing. The checks totaled $60, according to Hoffman. The checks were stored in a place that was thought to have been secure.

However, since the checks were made out to Molly Stark Elementary School, they cannot be cashed. The stolen checks have been reported to the Bennington Police Department, which is investigating.

Despite the incident, Hoffman said that the school still has plans to put on the event for next year, and that the vendors are all still interested in returning.

Molly Stark special education teacher Kristen Strouse and her husband, Nick, were among the vendors who were stationed with products for sale. The Strouses sold paintings and recycled bottle art at their table.

Kristen Strouse said she saw a number of her students and their families throughout the day, and even had some buy some of her artwork. She also remarked that she was excited to introduce her husband to her students because of how much she mentions him in class.

She has been a painter for a little over two years, her painting began after she did a few Sip and Paint events, after finding an enjoyment in doing it and a talent for it. Kristen Strouse said that this has been her most successful event as a vendor.

"I thought the bazaar had a really big turnout for its first year," she said. "With seeing a lot of our students, it really shows the impact we have on the kids."

Tara Burdge sold some of her handmade creations at the Holiday Bazaar. Her brother joined her at the event and gave her a hand with unloading and packing up. Her table was stocked with gloves, scarves, and other small handmade decorations.

She said that wreath pins made up a majority of her sales on Saturday, and that she plans on listing any unsold items on local Facebook selling groups.

Tara Burdge dressed up as a reindeer for the day, something that she said she hadn't done since before her grandmother passed away. She said that she had done it every year for her grandmother.

"It was great fun," she said. "It's been refreshing, you don't see much holiday spirit nowadays. The holiday season really needs a bit of a boost."

Jenna Caslin, of Now and Wren Crafts, had wooden pieces up for sale at her table. Her father, Art Prentis, helps her cut wood for her crafts and helps repurpose pallets, too. Besides wooden products, Caslin also sold headbands and other small felted crafts. She reported having a steady stream of visitors throughout the day.

"It's been fantastic," Caslin said. "They used to do this every year, when I was a student here; it's been nice to have people from the community come into the school and to help support it."

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