A new generation of Women’s Club members at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Glenview is breathing fresh life into a decades-old fundraising event.
The OPLH Holly Fair will take place October 19 & 20 in the church’s “Playdium” gym space. The 2-day shopping event draws a crowd of nearly 2,000 and raises an estimated $65,000 to support the OLPH parish.
Although the Holly Fair was founded 36 years ago as a small, pre-Christmas shopping event, the fair’s offerings have expanded and diversified since then. This year, setting a new fair record, a total of 50 vendors will be selling everything from trendy women’s accessories to luxury children’s clothing and artisanal products for the home. Over time, organizers have steadily decreased the number of vendors who exclusively sell Christmas items.
“Even though the event is called the ‘Holly Fair,’ it’s about so much more than just holiday-themed products,” said volunteer vendor co-chair, Meghan Johnson, whose two children, aged 7 and 5, attend OLPH School.
In addition to bringing back many of the tried and true vendors from years past, Johnson, along with fellow vendor co-chair Lisa Salemi, have secured 16 new merchants for this year’s Holly Fair, including Chicago-based, Seesaw Society children’s clothing retailer, Cape Couture, and Country Classics, a Glenview business selling women’s and children’s clothing as well as a range of personalized gifts.
“We’re hanging on to many of the Holly Fair’s special traditions, but we’re also doing some new things to perk it up,” said Salemi.
Johnson and Salemi estimate that 400-450 of those who attend the Holly Fair will buy tickets to “Sip and Shop,” a special preview event held the evening of October 19 from 6-9:30pm. In addition to getting early access to one-of-a-kind merchandise, “Sip and Shop” attendees will have access to raffle drawings that feature a donated product from every vendor, including an $800 necklace from Raphael Jewelers in Glenview.
North Shore newcomer Jar Bar, which opened 4 months ago in downtown Northbrook, is supplying food at cost for the Holly Fair’s Candy Cane Cafe lunch spot, where attendees can sample the restaurant’s signature salads and Overnight Oats.
The majority of Holly Fair’s numerous repeat vendors are local merchants and small entrepreneurs. Back by popular demand this year are April’s Linens, Whitehead Studios, and Because I Like it.
By pooling admission and raffle ticket revenue, booth rental fees, and a percentage of vendor sales, the Holly fair raises money to support the ongoing work of the parish, including religious education, a music program and the church’s Youth Ministry.
Both Johnson and Salemi join 900 other women to form 36 working guilds within the OLPH’s Women’s Club, founded in 1939. Club members Kathy Bredemann and Julie Grayhack serve as 2017 Holly Fair co-chairs.
The guild system breaks the large club into small communities, providing a vital support network for many families moving to Glenview with young children.
“When we moved here 5 years ago from the city, I had no family in the area,” said Johnson. “I joined the OLPH Woman’s Club right off the bat. The parish and school felt like home.”
Each guild, comprised of 30 women typically grouped by the age, has a leader and a unique function.
“Guilds comprised of mothers who are home with young children tend to be assigned volunteer jobs with more flexible hours,” said Salemi. “The slightly older guilds will pick up many of the more time consuming responsibilities, like securing event sponsorships.”
The club supports the OPLH parish as well as the wider community with its fall school supply, canned food and diaper drives.
It takes nearly 250 Women’s Club volunteers to pull off the annual Holly Fair. From helping vendors set up, to running the onsite café, to working the admission table, it’s a group effort from start to finish.
After months of planning and hammering out details, both Johnson and Salemi say they’re looking forward to watching the event come together on October 19.
“I can’t wait to hear all the buzz about all the new vendors we have this year,” said Johnson.
“Yes,” said Salemi. “And I want to see people walking around with arms full of bags.”
OLPH Holly Fair takes place October 19 from 1 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and October 20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, 1775 Grove Street, Glenview. General Admission: $5 adults, students free. Sip and Shop Admission: $10 prepay, $15 at the door, $5 seniors and students.