From Fairs to Workshops 2


Think old-fashioned county fair. You know, the wholesome, old-fashioned events featuring booths laden with homemade jams and jellies, handmade Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, and hand-crafted rocking chairs. The type of fair, often held in a large barn or open pasture, where the entertainment was simple but fun, and included entertainment ranging from petting zoos and beanbag tosses to quilting demonstrations and cow-milking contests.

OK, now ramp up that vision. Add a more contemporary vibe, and a little vintage for spice. Now, you’re getting closer to the vision three Norman women shared upon starting the Farm Girl Fair in 2015.

Longtime friends Carol Bauman, Kim Frakes and Lindsi Niebur drew their inspiration for the Farm Girl Fair from Instagram, where they learned about “The Little Craft Show” in northwest Arkansas. After a series of meetings, during which they brainstormed ideas, sketched out logo ideas and honed their vision of what they wanted their fair to be like (each recording their thoughts on matching notepads and pens), they set to work seeking out possible vendors and establishing a presence on social media, and began work in earnest on their first event–much to the surprise of Frakes’s husband, Scott.

“I don’t think he really believed we would actually carry through with our dream,” Frakes said, laughing.

Their overall vision for the fair was one that would be “kind of like the usual county fair, but without the doilies,” Niebur quipped, saying they also had in mind an atmosphere like that depicted in the beloved children’s book, “Charlotte’s Web,” about a pig that’s befriended by a spider and other barnyard animals.

In selecting vendors, they look for crafters and artists who produce unique and fun products, avoiding mass-produced or overtly commercial goods, as well as items that fit into the fair’s wholesome, Christian theme.

The women divvyed up their responsibilities to suit their personalities. Niebur, who describes herself as the “one who keeps it all in perspective,” became the vendor relations gal. Frakes, “the spreadsheet gal and technical guru,” is in charge of operations. And Bauman, whom Frakes and Niebur describe as “the creative genius” and main ideation person, serves as fair coordinator.

There was no debate in determining where to hold the fair. Sandy River Ranch, home of Carol and Scott Bauman, was the ideal setting for this event. In addition to an available pasture, the setting along the Canadian River is idyllic, with white sand and incredible sunsets.

As the day of the inaugural Farm Girl Fair neared in September 2015, the women placed fliers around local businesses, promoted the event on social media, and sent special invitations to all their friends. They lined up arts, crafts and vintage vendors; food vendors; a variety of entertainment, including live music by the Dennis Brothers, Cutter Elliott and Tindergrass; a children’s craft tent; and an old fashioned pie-tasting contest. They expected a modest turnout of maybe 200 or 300. About 2,000 showed up.

Though there were some glitches the first go-round–for example, insufficient parking, forcing some attendees to have to park a mile away–all three women agreed that the fair was a tremendous success. Making money wasn’t–still isn’t–their main motivation. In fact, they donate the admission fees to the Norman nonprofit Center for Children and Families. They enjoy the camaraderie not only the three share, but also that they share with the vendors and guests. The fair offers them an outlet for their creativity. And they find satisfaction in providing a unique, family-oriented event for the community in which they grew up.

In looking toward their third and future fairs, Neibur said their mission remains the same: to offer to the community a wholesome, family-oriented event, and to their vendors (the creatives and sellers of vintage wares), a venue in which to showcase and sell their wares. There are no plans to enlarge the fair or to commercialize it. They depend largely on volunteers to make it run, and that also will remain the same.

Although the three women are busy raising families–additionally, Frakes is a part-time teacher and blogger, Niebur an artist–they have had so much fun putting on the fairs that they have launched additional events at the ranch throughout the year.

In November, they host a “Holidays on the Farm” event, which is similar to the Farm Girl Fair but on a smaller scale and with a holiday theme.

The women also host “Gatherings” once or twice a month at the ranch’s guest house. These workshops, mostly attended by women, are taught by Farm Girl Fair artists and crafters or by themselves, and have covered such topics as painting, calligraphy, chalkboard art, vintage snow globe crafting, and whiskey tasting. Recently, they hosted two successful Bible-journaling classes. Cost varies according to the activity, but range from $40 to about $85.