Oreo cookie crafts, good; slow crowds, not so good, at Arts in the Park.

Arts and crafts were the star of the Arts in the Park show at Lake Eva Park in downtown Haines City. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

HAINES CITY – Jennifer Camp developed a love for knitting and crocheting when she was just a child.
“I’ve been crocheting since I was a second grader,” she said. “My elementary school teacher crocheted as well as my aunts, so I’ve just kept up the tradition.”
It’s a tradition, she added, that’s helped her as adult, because it’s something she turns to whenever she needs a little peace and quiet, and to bring some serenity into her life.
“It’s very relaxing,” she said.
In addition to being therapeutic, knitting and crocheting can potentially be profitable if the work is good enough to sell to the public, which is what Camp wanted to find out on Saturday when she attended Arts in the Park, an event held at Lake Eva Park in downtown Haines City to bring together arts and crafts dealers, as well as musicians, food vendors and other entertainers who converged on the park on a mild spring day.
Camp drove up from her home in Fort Meade to take part in this event.
“I actually hand crochet jewelry,” she said. “I don’t use patterns.”
Demonstrating a collection of grey hand bags that she made and brought to the craft show, Camp added, “These bags I created overnight with a granny square. It’s whatever I imagine.”
Camp doesn’t do this professionally – “I call this pretty much my relaxation time, and it depends on how much yarn I have,” she said – but decided to bring her work to an audience in Haines City and see what happens.
“It’s been fantastic,” she said. “This is my first time here. I didn’t know what to expect, but the vendors have been so friendly, and I love the gratification I get in others who come by to ‘ew’ and ‘awe’ at my work.”
Beverly Marrall of Winter Haven and Brittanie Ramsey of Lakeland don’t sell crafts for a living, either.
“We’re both teachers,” Ramsey said. But on the other hand, they love to make craft items – in Ramsey’s case, hats or crocheted oreo cookies, and for Marrall, necklaces made of decorated bottle caps.
“This is our hobby,” Ramsey said, as they shared a booth together.
They also decided to let a large audience see their work, and find out if they could pick up some sales during this event.
Marrall said she collects bottle camps, then prints images taken from the Internet onto them, so each one is unique.
“My daughter brings images on the computer and downloads them, and we put them on the bottle caps,” Marrall said. “It’s a little bit of everything.”
But she added that more customers seemed to have their eyes on those fluffy knitted oreos.
“The oreo cookies have been a big hit today,” Marrall said, while Ramsey added, “They say, ‘Those are the kinds of oreo cookies I need – no calories!’ My mom used to make them, and I grew up doing them as a little girl.“
While the event attracted a lot of vendors, what many of them were hoping for was a larger turnout from the public. By early afternoon on Saturday, crowds were still sparse, although Marrall said it had been even more quiet in the morning, when lingering clouds and strong winds from a thunderstorm that brushed through Central Florida on Friday night seemed to scare away folks.
“I think it was a little slow because of the weather this morning,” Marrall said.
Vanna Lawitzke is the owner of VL Fashion and Jewelry – not her own work, as it turns out, but crafts by others that she loves and decided to sell.
“I’m a full-time accountant but I love fashion jewelry,” Lawitzke said. “I buy them and I sell them. I want it to be full time.”
But business at Arts in the Park, she said, had been slow all day, and she thinks the city could have done a better job of advertising the event in advance.
“We don’t see any advertising outside,” she said. “I’ve never been to a fair as slow as this. I think advertising is important. They need to market it to keep the event going all day. I’ve been in the fair in Kissimmee last November, and it was awesome. They had crowds all day.”

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