Murray UU Church
Holiday Fair

505 North Main St, Attleboro, MA 02703
 Phone: 508-222-0505
Email:   map/directions 




Bargains and Much More

ATTLEBORO - Throughout the years, the annual fair at Murray Unitarian Universalist Church has morphed from one geared around crafts to one that can fill your gullet with delicious homemade treats and your nose with the wafting smell of cookies.

The two day fair takes place on the Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11-12. On Friday, the fair runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. at the church, 505 North Main St. in Attleboro.

The fair includes a bake shop, handmade gifts, jewelry, accessories, crafts, books, "almost antiques," grandma's attic, raffles, gourmet lunch and dinner entrees and much more.

The church fair is important to Murray; it's the largest fundraiser for the year. But as longtime volunteer Irene Yutkins points out, church fairs are important for the area as a whole.

"It's a way to see what the community is doing. I think it would be a loss if we didn't have them, because it's a throwback to a different time," Yutkins said. "Each fair has a different flavor. (People) go to look for a bargain and find something unique for a gift."

 Beverly Hall, who has been involved in the church since the late 1950s, would agree. "It's a help to have other fairs. It brings more people out. It's definitely not a competition."

Some volunteers at Murray have been donating their time for decades. Their duties have changed with the times, but their passion for the cause hasn't.  Here are some of their stories:

Beverly Hall

A congregant of Murray since 1957 (the first year the cornerstone was laid in its new location away from downtown), Attleboro resident Beverly Hall, has been everything from fair chairwoman to a crafter to a recruiter (her current position).

"Back in the early 1960s I was very active in the church. My girls were young and I took them around in my car," Hall said. "At that time, I was mostly attending craft workshops. I was making Whinnie the Pooh stuffed animals and felt Advent calender trees."  A lot has changed since then.

 "I can remember in the '60s and into the '70s we had a man who had a woodworking shop in his basement. He got a group together. They did beautiful work," Hall said. They would donate their artwork to the church to sell. "We used to have just a church supper on Friday. Now there's a buffet from the morning to when it closes."

A room dedicated to knitting and sewing has become a general craft room, and the plant room that used to exist is no longer. "It changed according to the people involved. (Change) will always happen in this type of endeavor."

Hall took a hiatus from volunteering about 1980 after her husband fell ill. She got back into volunteering about six years ago, when she started to teach Sunday school. She says the children "keep me young." That was also when she became a recruiter for the fair.

Irene and Len Yutkins

Attleboro residents Irene Yutkins, and her husband Len, have been volunteering at Murray's fair since they were in their 30s, around 1980.

Both are retired (Len taught at Foxboro High School for 31 years), and they have taken over the book room at the fair for the past six years. All the books are donated. Irene said the church starts to prepare for the fair the Sunday before it takes place, right after morning service. Volunteers put everything away, and between Sunday and Thursday, people are working 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. preparing the church.

Yutkins says she can recall a time when the church was focused more on crafts than on other items. At least 10 to 20 of us would make 30 to 40 ornaments a month," she said, adding that the effort was discontinued because the ornaments couldn't fetch a price worth the time put into making them. Yutkins said there are more women in the workforce now, meaning there are fewer available to volunteer their craft-making skills. As a result, the fair has moved from craft goods to baked goods.

"Our bake shop has gone from a little stand to a big thing. Our main thing is our cookies," Yutkins said.

Another change for the church and the Yutkinses is security. Yutkins can recall when her husband used to sleep overnight at the church to guard the antiques against potential vandals.

"Now we have alarms and people stay late and come early," she said.

Frank Blackbird

Frank Blackbird has been involved with the Murray fair for 20 years. For the past 10 years, however, his role has been the same: cook and an organizer of the gourmet buffet. The former North Attleboro resident now resides in Seekonk, but he is strongly dedicated to his church in Attleboro. "I like to cook, create a little bit. I'm not a chef by any means, but my wife likes my cooking," Blackbird said with a slight laugh. Blackbird said he has been working with the same group of men for most of the 10 years he has cooked for the fair. That not only helps to create a fun atmosphere, but an efficient one, too.

"When we are done prepping Thursday, Friday night we crack open some wine and beers. We work our tails off but we have fun doing it," Blackbird said. "Because we have been doing it for so long, we know what everyone is going to do."

In the past, Blackbird used an old church recipe for white chowder. Last year he switched to a red chowder, and he it almost sold out of it in one day. The sales from the gourmet food have been decent; Blackbird said in the past five years it has grossed between $1,500 to $3,000.

This article originally appeared in the Attleboro Sun Chronicle on October 7nd, 2011.

 Click here to view another nice article about our fair!