Holiday bazaar at Washougal church known for ‘Sandy’s Santas’

Kelly Moyer/Post-Record Sandy Havrelly, of Washougal, shows the sunny space in her kitchen where she crafts her Santa figurines. Dressed in fabric that often includes Pendleton wool and fur (pictured) with realistic, hand-sculpted faces, "Sandy's Santas" are a big hit at the annual Washougal United Methodist Church Holiday Bazaar. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

Kelly Moyer/Post-Record Sandy Havrelly, a retired Hathaway Elementary School teacher, has been crafting these beloved "Sandy's Santas" to sell at the Washougal United Methodist Church Holiday Bazaar, a fundraiser for the church and local families in need, for at least 20 years. Each Santa is unique and has his own personality and accessories, like this garland-carrying Santa dressed in red Pendleton wool and fur. (Contributed photo courtesy of Sandy Havrelly)

Sandy Havrelly, of Washougal, shows the sunny space in her kitchen where she crafts her Santa figurines. Dressed in fabric that often includes Pendleton wool and fur (pictured) with realistic, hand-sculpted faces, "Sandy's Santas" are a big hit at the annual Washougal United Methodist Church Holiday Bazaar. The Santas, priced between $100 and $150, typically sell out on the first night of the two-day bazaar, set for this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8-9. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

Each of the "Sandy's Santas" made by Washougal resident Sandy Havrelly are unique and have different personalities. Here, a fisherman Santa relaxes in his Pendleton wool jacket and fur hat while reeling in the catch of the day from his fishing boat. (Contributed photo courtesy of Sandy Havrelly)

A group of "naked Santas" stands ready for crafter Sandy Havrelly to put their beards, hair and clothing on their cotton-batting-filled bodies.

One of "Sandy's Santas" tries on his clothing during creator Sandy Havrelly's crafting process. The Washougal resident, a retired Hathaway Elementary teacher, donates about 15 of the Santa figurines to the Washougal United Methodist Church Holiday Bazaar.

Homemade quilts for sale at the Washougal United Methodist Church's 2018 Holiday Bazaar. This year's bazaar is set for this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8-9.

The name “Sandy’s Santas” might ring a bell with frequent visitors to the Washougal United Methodist Church’s annual Holiday Bazaar.

Or, rather, to visitors who happen to make it to the bazaar’s Friday night preview event.

That’s because Sandy’s Santas — detailed Santa figurines with lifelike, sculpted faces and wardrobes made from Pendleton wool, furs and other sumptuous fabrics — tend to sell out before the main bazaar on Saturday.

“They’re usually gone on Friday,” says Sandy Havrelly, of Washougal, the “Sandy” behind Sandy’s Santas. “Some people buy one every year.”

Havrelly, a retired Hathaway Elementary School teacher (and mother of Post-Record sports reporter Wayne Havrelly), made her first Santa more than 25 years ago and says she’s been crafting the unique holiday figurines for her church bazaar — an event run by her sister, Cleta Gilman — for at least the past 20 years.

“I just love the community feel of it,” Havrelly says of the annual holiday bazaar. “People come back every year. Some stay and eat. There are homemade meals and pies you can eat there or take out. It’s just a nice community (event).”

Havrelly’s Santas are always a big hit, but bazaar regulars also love the homemade meals, including hamburger soup and sandwiches as well as fresh-baked pies. And then there are the unique offering of gifts from local and regional vendors. Items sold at the bazaar include the Santas, tole paintings, pillows crafted from Pendleton wool, table runners, table toppers, unique gift items, hand-lathed pens and pencils and doll clothing. The bazaar also features a quilt drawing, lighted Christmas trees and a “New to You” section with quality vintage and used glassware, linens and other items.

This year’s Washougal United Methodist Holiday Bazaar will run from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8 and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at the church, 4020 “M” St., Washougal, at the corner of 39th and “M” streets, across from Washougal High School.

Proceeds benefit local and international missions and ministries, with 10 percent of profits going straight to the Inter-faith Treasure House food bank. Canned goods for the food bank will also be accepted at the bazaar, and hand-knit stocking caps will be sold for $5, to take home or to donate to the clothing closet at Hathaway Elementary School for Washougal students in need of winter clothing.

Havrelly’s Santas retail for $100 to $150, and the retired educator donates her profits to the church bazaar.

“I really just make them for fun, for the bazaar now,” Havrelly says of her Santas, which she used to sell in gift shops in the early 2000s.

“Then, I was making 45 to 70 a year, but I didn’t like making them (commercially). I wanted to make them for fun,” Havrelly says. “So now I do about 15 for the bazaar.”

She may have reduced the number of Santas she crafts each year, but that doesn’t mean the figurines don’t take a good chunk of Havrelly’s time. She begins the Santa-making process in the summer and usually doesn’t finish until about a week before the bazaar.

The first part of her process — making the Santas’ faces — is the first step toward giving the Santas’ their unique personalities. Havrelly sculpts each face out of a modelling clay and then starts to work on the Santas’ bodies. Filling the Santas’ bodies with a cotton batting and a wire means Havrelly’s customers will be able to pose their Santa however they’d like once they bring them home.

Once she’s attached the clay faces to the chubby, batting-stuffed bodies, Havrelly takes a careful look at each Santa to find their true identity. Some Santas are more refined, like this year’s all-white, fur-wrapped Santa. Others, dressed in their Pendleton wools, give off a Pacific Northwest vibe. And some might be playful or have a theme — like this year’s fisherman Santa with his green Pendleton wool coat and white fishing boat and “fresh catch” on the line.

Each of the standing Santas are affixed to a wooden base and come with “accessories” that speak to their true natures — birds, reindeer, a fishing pole and stars all play into this year’s Santa personalities — Havrelly, who worked as a Hathaway teacher for 33 years, admits she sometimes has a “favorite Santa,” but says her days of keeping Santas for herself are over.

“I don’t have the room for them,” she says, laughing.

This year, it wasn’t necessarily a favorite Santa that appealed to Havrelly, but a piece of Santa clothing — specifically, a Pendleton wool-wearing Santa’s hat.

“I just really like how it turned out,” Havrelly says of the jaunty, nontraditional Santa hat. “I guess that’s my favorite.”

To see Sandy’s Santas — and possibly be one of the 15 buyers who will take a Santa home this year — head to the United Methodist Church Holiday Bazaar’s preview event from 5 to 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8.

More Camas-Washougal holiday bazaars happening this year are listed above.

To see a more extensive list of regional holiday bazaars, visit page B4 in today’s Post-Record.