SLAYTON — It’s hard to top the enthusiasm and energy of the team responsible for coordinating the annual Autumn Boutique at the Murray County Fairgrounds.
“It’s pretty crazy the month before, but we give back so much to the community with the money we raise that I’m very glad to be a part of helping promote Slayton in this way,” said Kathy Schreiber, co-chair of the Autumn Boutique’s vendor committee and a member of the event-sponsoring group, the Slayton Women of Today.
Added food stand committee representative Lisa Graphenteen, “The Autumn Boutique brings a few thousand people to town, and other businesses here say it’s the best weekend of the year for them.
“The economic impact of that on our community is really important.”
More than 90 regional vendors, exhibiting one-of-a-kind wares, are expected to fill the fairgrounds in Slayton from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7.
“At least 75% of each vendor’s booth space has to be devoted to handcrafted items,” said Schreiber, noting the Autumn Boutique is a juried market without direct-sale vendors.
“This is a great place to find unique gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, Christmas and more.”
Wood décor, jewelry, clothing, quilts, rugs, repurposed furniture, clay ornaments, kids’ play tents, wooden toys and lots of “baby stuff”—think blankets, bibs and car seat covers—are among the myriad items Schreiber mentions that will be for sale next weekend.
“Probably 90% of our vendors are returnees because they, like the customers, have such a good experience here,” said Schreiber.
That experience extends to food choices, which run the gamut from homemade caramel and frosted cinnamon rolls each morning to a lunch menu including a tasty array of entrees like chicken salad croissant and pulled-pork sandwiches, taco salads and soups.
Oh, and do not forget dessert.
“Some people come to our food stand just for the carrot cake,” laughed Graphenteen, who partners with area restaurants — The Left Bank Café, the Plaid Moose, the Slayton Bakery, Van Bully’s and Trail’s Edge Cafe, among others — to provide the Autumn Boutique’s highly praised edibles.
“We also have bars, some new cakes, and four varieties of cream pies — banana cream, coconut cream, cookies and cream and chocolate cream,” Graphenteen listed tantalizingly.
And all those tasty treats are served in a food stand bedecked with a 2019-specific theme.
“This year we’re going with ‘Boutique Nice,’ a spinoff of the ‘Minnesota Nice’ idea,” said Amy Woldt, an interior design committee co-chair along with Dawn Groves.
“We’re decorating with a Minnesota Northwoods cabin feel, using buffalo plaid, bears and moose, that kind of thing,” she explained.
“Our goal is always to offer something unique for both attendees and vendors, and patrons say they look forward to seeing what the food stand will look like so we change it up each year.”
Outdoors, the fairgrounds will display regional fall favorites like hay bales, cornstalks and pumpkins.
“One of the Murray County Central boys’ sports teams always helps us with the decorating set-up and take-down,” said Kate Harmsen, the 2019 Autumn Boutique chair.
“We do an incredible amount of decorating, so it takes a real community effort. In all, we have 75 volunteers helping us out with Autumn Boutique this year.”
While the service-minded Slayton Women of Today and other Autumn Boutique volunteers spend much of the two-day festival scurrying about giving vendors food and restroom breaks, regularly emptying garbage receptacles and guaranteeing all other systems are “go,” they’re never too busy to grab a quick bit of nourishment at the well-stocked food stand.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on the quality of food we offer, and that we’re not just a ‘hot dog and barbecue’ event,” said Harmsen.
“Ensuring the food is special makes this a time for women to get out and shop, eat and have a really cool time with friends.”
Harmsen, Graphenteen and Woldt favor the chicken salad croissants; Harmsen recommends adding a cup of chicken wild rice soup as the perfect side.
Schreiber, meanwhile, prefers the pulled pork sandwich, and advertising chair Jodi Christensen says the fresh kettle corn is her go-to snack.
“For me, the community impact we have in being able to support local organizations with the proceeds from Autumn Boutique makes our efforts rewarding,” said Graphenteen, who mentioned the local schools, after-prom activities and sports booster club as being among the beneficiaries of Autumn Boutique funds.
Woldt, who recently saw the last of her five children off to college, had this to say: “A lot of the funds we donate go to youth organizations in the Slayton area, and in raising five kids here, we really benefited from that.
“Autumn Boutique is a big job, but it’s so worth it.”
The 2019 Autumn Boutique takes place Friday, Sept. 6, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 7, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Murray County Fairgrounds in Slayton. Admission and parking are free. Boutique Bucks will be drawn hourly. For more information, visit the Autumn Boutique page on Facebook.