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Despite Aiken’s Makin’ cancellation, vendors hope to provide for patrons

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 5:44 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - With this year’s Aiken’s Makin’ festival canceled, many vendors are left devastated by the loss of sales, and the city is facing a loss of revenue from over 30,000 visitors.

“They shop at Aiken’s Makin', but they also shop at our other shops in town, and they eat at restaurants,” said David Jameson, President of the Aiken Chamber of Commerce.

Jameson says the decision to cancel ultimately came down to safety.

“We want to make sure what we did was safe for Aiken, safe for the crafters, safe for the shoppers, and safe for the volunteers,” he said.

But the cancellation doesn’t come without massive losses to some of the 200 crafters from all over the southeast, like Steve and Celia Mathews who own Ginny’s Fudge and Nuts, a three-generation business out of Cleveland, Ga.

“We do 33 to 35 events in a calendar year. Aiken is a top 5 event for us. That’s major,” the owners said.

Celia Mathews says the cancellation is more than disappointing, it’s devastating for her family and other crafters. She hasn’t been able to attend a festival or event since March.

“The frustration level is great amongst not only us, but our crafter community. Now, being mindful, we have been doing events since 1994. We have a large umbrella of friends and connections in the community. Everyone is devastated,” she said.

She says she wishes the Aiken Chamber of Commerce pursued other routes besides a cancellation.

“We were going to wear face masks, and we were going to ask our attendee’s to wear face masks too,” she said, “So, at this point, people were going to gather in a safe environment, for a limited amount of time. They were going to come out, if they wanted to come out. If they didn’t want to come out, they could be welcome to stay home.”

And another crafter, Jim Kelley, who helps volunteer for the Formula for Life mission project. They sell necklaces to benefit women with HIV in Zambia who can’t breastfeed their HIV-negative children. The Aiken’s Makin’ event usually brings in $2,000 dollars for them.

“We normally 40 to 60 babies at a time, that $2,000 would feed those 40 babies for 10 weeks,” Kelley explained.

The Formula for Life project began 11 years ago by Catherine Vandegrift with the First Presbyterian Church of Aiken. Though the church does not have an exact number of babies they’ve saved with their efforts, they think it might be over 500.

Kelley says one of the biggest components of helping the mothers and children overseas through jewelry sales is being able to tell the story of Vandegrift’s mission.

When we asked him what he’d miss this year about the event, he said, “The interaction. The people -- it’s always very heartwarming.”

All in all, the Chamber of Commerce says there is a light at the end of the tunnel in hopes of holding the event next year.

“We’ll be able to invite more crafters. We’ll be able to grow the show, and take it to the next level, which we never dreamed would be possible,” Jameson said.

If you’re interested in supporting some of the 200 crafters who were set to be at the Aiken’s Makin festival, the Aiken Chamber of Commerce has provided their information below.

COVID unraveled Aiken's Makin' this year, but don't despair you can still shop and find great gifts and treasures from...

Posted by Aiken's Makin' on Thursday, July 30, 2020

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