Cranford holds Holiday Shop and Soup Fest

Photo by Jennifer Rubino
Local residents shop for gifts from various vendors and eat soup at the event.

CRANFORD, NJ — Cranford United Methodist Church hosted its annual Holiday Shop and Soup Festival on Saturday, Dec. 10, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The annual event is a fundraiser for the church and an opportunity for residents to complete their holiday shopping.

“This is the sixth year we’ve had this community fundraiser,” event organizer Laurie Chichester of Scotch Plains told LocalSource. “It brings people together and is a festive way to get people in the holiday spirit.”
The event became known for its soup after they decided to serve lunch and added a soup one year, which sold well, and so it was changed to the Holiday Shop and Soup Festival.

“People come just for the soup,” said Chichester. “We serve Italian Wedding, chili, potato cheddar, turkey vegetable, split pea, tomato basil and cheeesburger. We had corn chowder, but it sold out this morning. Everyone returns for their favorites. We also sell soup to go in pints, quarts and gallons.”

There were a total of 45 vendors at the event, all of which were New Jersey companies and artists. Items for sale included homemade woodwork, jewelry, accessories and home decor.

“We have some brand-name vendors,” Chichester told LocalSource. “We had a good turnout this year. There was a steady flow of customers. The Cranford choir, the Madrigals, performed. Local author Laura Sassi of Cranford is doing book signings and readings along with a puppet show. All proceeds are going toward church operations. This church does a lot of mission projects such as Sandy Saturdays, when we help rebuild homes destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. We also help with Cranford Family Care and Bridges, which is an organization that helps the homeless. We’re very mission-oriented.”

The church was very appreciative of the fundraising event, and they also agreed it’s been a great way to engage the public in the holiday festivities.

“This is a great way to engage the community and bring people together around Christmas to spread grace and good will toward one another,” Pastor Cameron Overbey of Cranford told LocalSource.

Local author Sassi’s book, ‘Goodnight Ark,’ is about bedtime on Noah’s Ark. A storm hits and scares the animals so they have trouble falling asleep.

“I got the idea from my kids and our dog getting into bed with me and my husband during a storm,” Sassi told LocalSource. “The book also rhymes because I have a passion for it and it can be used to help the kids guess what animal will be next in the book. ‘Goodnight Manger’ is a similar story, but it’s the Christmas version. I got the idea for it when my daughter was playing with the baby Jesus from our nativity and she was rocking him to sleep.”

Residents enjoyed shopping and eating soup at the event. They were also happy to support a good cause.
“I had Italian Wedding soup,” Mel Freda of Cranford told LocalSource. “I used to be the organist at this church. I’ve been here many times. I’m still a church member. I bought fingerless gloves. This was the only place I could find them. I enjoy coming for the camaraderie and variety of vendors.”

Other residents agreed that the event helps put them in the holiday spirit.
“I had the turkey vegetable soup,” Helen Readie of Cranford told LocalSource. “I’ve been coming to this event for a number of years. It really helps to set the holiday tone.”