Sharon Klein, Donna Tuch, Jeanne Peterson

Many things have changed in its 35 years, but three local women have remained constant at Neligh’s annual Rafts of Crafts.

Sharon Klein, Donna Tuch and Jeanne Peterson, all of Neligh, were vendors at the first craft show dating back to Dec. 7, 1985. On Saturday, the familiar faces continued to be vendors for this year’s show in the Neligh-Oakdale gym.

Klein said her sister, Kathy Fullerton, was one of the original founders of the Rafts of Crafts when it was started by the Neligh Civic and Fine Arts Women’s Club. The civic and fine arts club continued to run the event for nearly 30 years. In 2015, the Neligh-Oakdale TeamMates Mentoring Program took over the reins and currently sponsors the event.

“When we first started, it was mostly sewing,” Klein said. “Then we just evolved into wood, painting and stuff like that. We found we had a niche to do that.”

Four generations of Klein’s family have been a part of the craft show. Her mother, June Braband; herself; her daughter, Barb Foland; and now granddaughter Britt, have all had a hand in crafting their yard art and home decor. 

She and her husband, Harold, are now retired and spend much of their time creating wooden and metal crafts.

“We do enjoy it,” Klein said. “Our daughter and son-in-law have joined us now and my sister Kathy still sends a few things. It’s been a family affair.”

Tuch said her business, “This n That,” began by selling Barbie clothes, Christmas ornaments, crocheted afghans and fleece blankets. Over time, her products have changed. As a retirement gift to herself, she purchased an embroidery machine and uses it to stitch dish towels.

“Right now, I mostly sell fabric items,” she said. “Potholders are my most popular item. I’ve been doing those for 35 years.”

The camaraderie at Rafts of Crafts is one of the things that keeps Tuch coming back year after year.

“It’s a chance to see people I haven’t seen in awhile,” she said. “I just enjoy it. It’s fun.”

Like the others, Peterson said she started with sewing crafts. She started as a sewing vendor with Evelyn Arehart, who worked at Farbers. Peterson continues to do some sewing, but has added decorative gifts over the years.