By Casey Stepaniuk
If you’re looking for a fun time in a wonderful atmosphere and a great place to find unique, hand-crafted holiday gifts, Vancouver’s Women’s Winter Faire is definitely where you should find yourself the weekend before Christmas next month. But Fairegoers might not realize they’re also participating in a longstanding tradition of feminist and LGBTQ+ organizing and activism in Vancouver. I got the scoop on this tradition from Pat Hogan, organizer of the Women’s Winter Faire and co-founder of Sounds and Furies, the production company that oversees the Faire and many other rad events.
Pat told me that Sounds and Furies came about in the age of the 1990 Vancouver Gay Games and the golden era of women’s music festivals. She co-founded the company with the simple yet profound motivation to represent women’s voices. Today, Sounds and Furies organizes concerts, workshops, retreats, and all kinds of events in Vancouver year-round, nurturing a community for women, LGBTQ+ folks, and those interested in arts, Wicca, the environment, folk music, and healing.
One of these special events is the Women’s Winter Faire, a market of all women vendors from around BC selling unique, eco-friendly gifts from clothing to jewellery to gourmet foods. 23 years ago, the Women’s Winter Faire began “with a hope and prayer,” after Pat was inspired by similar fairs in San Francisco. She already had connections with local women artisans who were selling their work at Pat’s East Van dyke coffeeshop/hangout, Josephine’s.
Every year, the beautiful Heritage Hall on Main Street undergoes a transformation from the chaos of craftswomen setting up to a magical atmosphere full of beautiful arts and crafts, delicious food, lovely music, and twinkling lights. Over the years, it has become a place for many women to reunite with old friends, while still being an event full of surprises and new vendors each year. Some now-adults and teens have grown up with the Faire, having attended as little ones with their vendor moms.
What should you expect if you’re a first-time Fairegoer? Well, there’s the busy, bustling atmosphere of any holiday fair. You should also know that the Faire is more than a great place to do holiday shopping—although it’s that too, of course. There’s music and a café with coffee, tea, and snacks so it’s really the kind of place where you could spend all day eating, shopping, and catching up with friends and family.
Every year the Women’s Winter Faire collects door donations of $3-5 with partial proceeds going to support local non-profit organizations with similar values. This year, they are helping to support the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.
If you’re planning to attend the Faire, make sure you check out the online list of vendors and what they sell, posted closer to the event date. Some vendors are only there one of the two days, so you can plan your trip to make sure you get to buy from the vendors you’re excited about. For more information and a list of vendors, have a look at the Women’s Winter Faire website. See you there!
When: December 17th and 18th, 11am – 5pm both days
Where: Heritage Hall (3102 Main Street at the corner of 15th Avenue)
Tickets: Suggested $3-5 donations at the door, all funds going to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival
Casey Stepaniuk is a writer and librarian-in-training who runs the website Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, where you can find LGBTQ+ Canadian book reviews and a queer book advice column. She also writes for Book Riot. Find her on Twitter: @canlesbrarian
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