Laurie Kennedy was always impressed by the talents of local artisans, so much so that she started a craft fair in her hometown of Aumsville last year.
“I remember many hours being dragged from one shop to the next … trips to the coast were especially lonely, as she would literally spend hours drifting in and out of shops,” said husband Darren. “She had seen what the local artisans could do and felt that there should be some way to showcase the incredible talents these people had. She felt it was important to bring these things of beauty to light, aside from the seasonal Christmas bazaars.”
Laurie ran her ideas passed Aumsville officials and was given a thumbs up. She purchased signs and banners with her own money to start the fair, charged vendors $10 a space to recoup costs, and, thanks to the generosity of businessman Rex Lucas, booths sprang up on a paved vacant lot in town.
Last year’s fair ended up being a legacy that Laurie Kennedy left to her beloved neighbors. She was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer while making her dream a reality and passed away before seeing it become a yearly event.
Laurie was the fifth of seven children raised on a 120-acre farm 7 miles northeast of Silverton and was raising a son of her own before meeting Darren in 1992. She worked as a registered nurse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
“She loved taking care of older people, and always took pride in being a ‘hands-on’ nurse,” Darren said. “She was always one to take care of others before herself, and even had dreams of starting an animal rescue facility. If she hadn’t become a people nurse, her second choice would have been veterinary medicine.”
During the holidays, Laurie always went “all out,” Darren said.
“She decorated our home like a Christmas wonderland, and set up her mega Christmas village on our dining room table,” he said. “One thing she enjoyed at that time of year was attending the myriad bazaars around the area, and one of her favorite things to do was having family and friends around, especially the grandkids.”
Laurie enjoyed camping, sitting around the campfire and playing board games late into the night. She never met a cat she didn’t like, said her hubby, who teased her about becoming “a crazy cat lady” when she grew older.
“She truly had a heart of gold, and if you were lucky enough to let her into your heart, she would become your staunchest ally,” Darren said. “She was fiercely independent, and championed causes that maintained basic human rights.”
The art fair was just another extension of doing for others, he said.
“She typically ended up giving her crafts away at the fair,” Darren said. “She would see a small child admiring one of her items, and she’d just give them away to the children. I suppose she felt that if it made a child’s day to get a pretty bauble, that’s all that really mattered. She gave away far more than she ever sold.”
A people person, Laurie loved adorning the birdhouses, crosses and other items she painted with family photos.
“They were kind of like ‘theme’ birdhouses,” Darren said. “She was crazy excited about last year’s event. She had never done anything like that before, and she ran it like a well-seasoned drill sergeant – but in a nice way. I really think that she wanted to do something that she might be remembered in some small way before she died. I think she knew there wouldn’t be a next year for her, and even though she was very sick and very weak from the chemotherapy treatments, she would be so proud when I would get home from work and announce that she had received three more applications to the fair.”
Darren said although he is not usually given to tears, he cried when he heard the city was going to carry on what his wife started.
“Laurie was always such a huge supporter of local businesses, and I think she would approve,” he said.
If the fair runs a third year, Darren said he may try his hand at showing some of his photography, a hobby he enjoys.
“With Laurie’s passing and all, this last year has been busy trying to put life back together,” he said. “But I’m so very happy to see the folks of the city of Aumsville carry on Laurie’s dream. I look forward to seeing what the vendors have to offer, and will remember with fondness those days last year when, even sick with cancer, Laurie pushed on to see it through. She would be so proud!”
Colleen Rogers, speaking for the city, said, “The Aumsville Park and Recreation Commission is honored to carry on Laurie’s vision to bring a Saturday Market type of event to Aumsville. With help from her husband, the first year of the Aumsville Craft Fair was a success. We are sad that Laurie lost her battle with cancer before she could see the second year come to fruition.”
This year’s fair will be at Tower Park, under the water tower, with vendors selling crafts and all types of food items, such as jams, candy and local produce.