Fall in many parishes is a time for festivities. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Christmas bazaars. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, however, the logistics of hosting one of these beloved community events present some great difficulties.

Many parishes have decided the hurdles are too great. Bazaars have been canceled in Banks, Cottage Grove and Portland, just to name a few.

“We were really hoping,” said Karen Blodgett, parish coordinator at St. Agatha in Southeast Portland. “We held out until the last minute, but there was just no way logistically to make it work.”

For the parishes that host bazaars, the absence will leave a hole not just in the community but in the parish coffers.

St. Francis in Banks is losing revenue from postponing the holiday bazaar that takes place there every November. But at word that the event would be postponed, parishioners like Marian Vandomelen stepped up to offset the revenue hit. Vandomelen, a local artist who creates pieces such as Santas made from driftwood collected off the Oregon coast, was one of the vendors who decided to donate 10% of her private sales to the parish and school.

“We are very fortunate to have such dedicated vendors who step up to support the parish and school during these difficult times,” said Father Michael Vuky, pastor of St. Francis.

Not all parishes have shied away from hosting the events.

Diane Salvitelli has been organizing the Christmas bazaar at Our Lady of Sorrows with her daughter Christina Salvitelli-Simmons for about seven years. They are planning to hold the fundraiser at the Southeast Portland parish Oct. 17 – 18.

“We were on the fence for a while,” said Salvitelli. After talking with the parish council and pastor, they decided to keep the event on the books.

“We can’t quit living,” she said. “We have to move on.”

The event will, however, be significantly smaller this year. Instead of 30 vendor tables, there will be 15. Tables will be spaced far apart, and there will be sanitizing stations. Gone will be tables of abundant baked goods for sale. Any food sold at the bazaar will be prepackaged or made professionally. And everyone will be asked to wear a mask.

“We’ll just be as careful as possible,” said Salvitelli.

Some vendors have agreed to go to the bazaar already, while others are declining because of health fears. Booths manned previously by older volunteers will now need to be manned by younger volunteers.

Despite the difficulties, Salvitelli said she is excited about the event.

The bazaar “is a tradition in our community,” she said. “And we don’t want to let those go away. We’ve lost too many already.”

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org