By Heather WilburnNovember 12, 2008
A line of shoppers formed at the doors of Stout Physical Fitness Center Saturday morning, waiting for the start of the Fort Bliss Noncommissioned Officers Wives' Club Holiday Bazaar.
At promptly 9 a.m., the first customers made their way past booth after booth of handmade crafts, baked goods and more, marking the bazaar's 21st year of holiday spirit. Organizers estimated the event, which housed more than 130 vendors, would draw a crowd of 3,000 to 3,500 over its two-day span.
While the bazaar is a hit with local shoppers, it serves a higher purpose, said Sue Gonzales, bazaar chairperson.
"We hold the bazaar to raise money for the NCO Wives' Club's welfare projects," she said. "We give the monies we earn from booth rentals and admission fees to both El Paso and Fort Bliss organizations."
This year, the club found an additional cause to support: Fort Bliss' Soldier and Family Assistance Center.
"We had a table out front to take up donations for our wounded warriors," Gonzales said. "And we partnered with them to let participants of the Wounded Warrior Walk [held immediately preceding the bazaar at Stout track Saturday] in free."
Stacy Massey and her family were a few of the Wounded Warrior Walk participants who made the short trek from the track to the gym.
"We were out at the Wounded Warrior Walk, so we came over here just to check it out, really," she said, noting that she hadn't been to one of the club's bazaars before. "It's pretty neat. They've got it set up really well, and there's lots of stuff, a lot more than I thought there would be."
In contrast, Barbara Cole has been a longtime supporter of the bazaar.
"I've been before, many times over the years, even when they had it at a hangar out on Biggs [Army Airfield]," she said. "I always enjoy it."
The best part of the bazaar, Cole said, is "seeing what wonderful things are created by some very wonderful people."
"I also like what the money goes for, toward the charities," she added.
The community appreciates the event, Gonzales said, and the feeling is mutual.
"We appreciate all the people who come," she said.