A 30-Year Affair
It’s an annual rite of passage for crafters, shoppers and antique lovers. On a special weekend in October and again in February, you can walk into any building at State Fair Park and be greeted with the smell of cinnamon nuts, the sound of cheerful chatter and the sight of thousands of people shopping for unique and creative items. It’s An Affair of the Heart and it is an Oklahoma institution.
Founded 30 years ago, the semi-annual craft show boasts items that people can’t find at the average big box store. Beyond the amazing shopping opportunity, the event serves as a foundation for fellowship. It’s common to see gaggles of women, ranging in age from three to 90, all shopping, visiting and laughing together. Couples gather to witness the demonstrations of gadgets for the garage or kitchen. Families find common ground picking out a painted planter for the garden or watching a youngster find their favorite toy.
At the Oklahoma City event you’ll see groups of people dressed in matching outfits and accessories, some of the apparel handmade—and always eye-catching. “People will have matching sweatshirts or funny hair barrettes—you can see them bouncing as they walk down the aisle,” said Stephen Harris, An Affair of the Heart’s sales manager. “It’s kind of how they keep track of each other at the show. It’s something we never even suggested people do, but it’s kind of become a thing.”
Eight Women, One Mission
An Affair of the Heart has come a long way in its 30 years. It took root in Oklahoma in 1985 when eight like-minded women with ties to three different craft shops pooled $800 to start the show. Those founders are Lois Rogers, Eleanor Blakeman, the late Gayle Dyer, Anita Hinkle, Susie Crews, Connie Harris (Stephen Harris’ mother), the late Bessie Mae Smalley and Linda Jeary.
The women started the show simply because they loved crafting and wanted to share their passion. Throughout its entire history, the show has followed the founders’ mission, the Bible verse Proverbs 3:5, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart.’
That passion and joy of crafting has certainly spread about the Oklahoma City event. In fact, the show was named the 15th best craft show (out of 200) in Sunshine Artist Magazine. The show quickly expanded beyond Oklahoma City and An Affair of the Heart sprouted in Tulsa in 1995 and just this year, Conway, Arkansas held its first event. This year, the fall event will be taking place the second to last weekend in October, the 23rd through 25th.
From hand-painted signs to antique furniture, vendors from Oklahoma and surrounding states gather to greet the thousands of people waiting to shop at An Affair of the Heart. The variety and novelty of the items vendors bring keep shoppers coming back for more, eager to discover the next creative trend.
Harris said it’s not only the shoppers who return year after year, but the vendors seem to be just as loyal. The show has seen some vendors every year since the very beginning. Lana and Curtis Dougherty of CR T-shirts are a couple of those longtime vendors who never miss a show. They’ve been a part of An Affair of the Heart for 20 years mainly selling apparel representing the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the state of Oklahoma.
“It brings the crowd,” Lana Dougherty said about why she stays involved after all these years. “That’s what makes it such an overwhelmingly nice show. And if you want to come back it’s because they advertise it so well. They bring the people in so you have the capability to sell.”
Dougherty means it when she boasts of the number of shoppers. About 70,000 people show up each year to the October event to find food and crafts, often checking off several gifts from their holiday shopping lists.
In addition to college apparel, you’ll find antiques, jewelry, pottery, collectibles, gourmet food and accessories at the show. No one knows better than office manager Shirley Ling about the variety of vendors at the event. It’s her job to manage the nearly 1,000 vendors each year.
Being so close to the action, she is able to see the trends change with each passing season. According to Ling, popular and unique items the past few years have been decorated lazy susans, interesting ceiling tiles and artistic letters that spell out a family name. She’s always on the lookout for what’s new and interesting to bring into the event. “When I see someone with unique stuff, I get them in the show!” Ling said.
Ling has also had the pleasure of working with the founders of An Affair of the Heart for the past 19 years. Their faith and strength is what makes her most proud to be involved with An Affair of the Heart.
“They always say the show was inspired by God and their faith has kept it going,” Harris said. “Our tagline that we put on everything is ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart,’ Proverbs 3:5. That’s the basis of the show. They trusted in the Lord with all their hearts to make it work, and it did.”
Learn more about An Affair of the Heart at anaffairoftheheart.com.