Annual holiday shopping event indulges our common desire for something different
Holiday shopping can be stressful or it can be fun. A lot of it is a matter of attitude. When it comes to finding something for that eccentric friend or the artsy one in the family — or maybe that’s you — shopping’s a blast at the Atomic Holiday Bazaar.
The annual bazaar, specializing in “indie craft for the world’s delightful irregulars,” will take place Saturday and Sunday at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium.
“It’s the perfect place for you to come and find affordable, unusual, handmade arts and crafts,” perusing the vendors wares in an atmosphere that celebrates all that is clever and proudly far from ordinary, says Adrien Lucas, who started Atomic Holiday Bazaar in 2006, along with her friend Cemantha Crain. Since then, it has evolved from a holiday shopping novelty act into a seasonal tradition for many, as Lucas and the bazaar have grown up together.
“When the show first began, I had been here six years,” Lucas says. She’d moved from Los Angeles, where her resumé included designing costumes for rock bands. “So I was kind of an edgy rock ’n' roll girl.”
There were already plenty of art and craft shows in town, she says, but they mostly leaned toward high-end, fine-artwork — expensive stuff.
“Really, there was a void for younger people as far as what we wanted to buy or what we were interested in looking at,” Lucas says. When she started Atomic, “it was with the intent of having an affordable holiday craft show for the cool kids.”
“My first goal was to have it edgy, have it affordable, and make it inviting for people of all ages.”
After 14 years, Lucas has personally experienced a wider range of “all ages,” and it’s broadened her perspective when she considers what the cool kids might like.
Her criteria for vendors are simple, if subjective. “I generally like things that are either nature-friendly or very witty,” she says. And bonus points if the art is on the edgy side. Most important, it has to be cool — admittedly an I-know-it-when-I-see-it quality.
A lot of Sarasotans seem to see cool the same way. The first Atomic Holiday Bazaar was a one-day event that drew 500 people. It now spans two days, with about 4,000 visitors.
Apparently, Lucas tapped into a vast, underserved eccentric streak among local gentry; there’s a market for imagination in this town Atomic Holiday Bazaar benefits these days from having been around enough that people know what to expect from it, and they look forward to it.
Proof of that is the long lines that form outside the auditorium at the start of each day to snag a swag bag. Only the first 100 “adultish humans,” as the publicity handouts put it, who come through the entrance get one. Word has gotten out: these swag bags are worth coming early for.
“My vendors are so generous with what they give to put into those bags,” Lucas says. There are laser-cut brooches by Carey Borden, as well as other jewelry, coupons and more.
Return guests know that when they enter the auditorium, they’ll be greeted by Lucas’ “Welcome Wagon gals” — the Bradentucky Bombers roller derby team, who’ve been a part of the bazaar from the beginning. They know DJ Buckroe Skillz will be playing tunes, helping create an atmosphere that is what Lucas describes as being like a ’90s dance party, family edition.
Lucas is mindful to keep the bazaar at a “PG-Plus” rating, art included, lest parents be concerned.
What Lucas finds most gratifying is that past attendees come back dressed for the party in their most creatively distinctive ensembles.
With 225 vendors, the bazaar extends outside the auditorium onto Plaza De Santo Domingo for a street fair portion, on into the Bay Front Room, then segues over to Art Center Sarasota, which in recent years has joined the party by holding its Art in the Garden craft show, featuring another 60 local artists and craftspeople, concurrently with the bazaar.
That event takes place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, with Sunday as a rain date.
Having the two events running tandem has been mutually beneficial, Lucas says. They draw similar crowds that tend to “cross-pollenate.”
Between the vendors and the music and the people dressed up, the whole scene can create sensory overload, Lucas says, but in a good way. Like the art itself, the bazaar isn’t perfect but it’s made with love, and you don’t see that every day.