MOORE ON ART : Marilyn Culak

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The art offered at Oma’s is one of a kind and no two are exactly alike. The magic of Oma’s is of course the artisans and their crafts/art to choose from for gifts or just for fun.

Art-is defined as the expression of application of human creative skill and imagination!!! Skills come in all forms and Marilyn Culak exemplifies art in each form!! Marilyn is an organizer which adds to her artistic abilities with passion. She is the “face” behind the largest craft show in one location in Kendall County, Texas. Not only is she the organizer but she is also an artist herself. Marilyn creates beautiful centerpieces and shares them unselfishly with her family and friends. But I digress…this article features an arts and crafts show like no other!!! Oma’s Christmas Fair and its artist leader Marilyn Culak!

     First some facts about Oma’s and its creation. Originally created as a fundraiser in 1983 for the Women’s Auxiliary of the Kendall County Fair Association for the purpose of assisting with monies for improvements at the Fairgrounds. Specifically, the buildings and the beautification of “Herff Park.” The name Oma’s Christmas Fair was assigned in honor of an active auxiliary member Theresa Sultenfuss who along with her director husband, Alvin, were avid members of the Fair Association. This couple were affectionately referred to as “Oma and Opa” by all who knew them and it seemed appropriate to name the event Oma’s! Clara Marquardt was another “Oma” in the organization and another active avid member so it was natural to retain the name Oma’s in honor of these fine ladies!!! Clara wore a bonnet whenever she was seen working around the fairgrounds so it naturally was the obvious choice for the logo!!! Clara’s signature bonnet is on display at the Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall in the Auxiliary history cabinet and is viewed by many who visit!!!!

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     The first Oma’s Christmas Fair was held to coincide with the “December Hill Country Shopping Days” held in December 1984. That first year, 38 years ago shoppers enjoyed 35 craftsman artists in one hall over 2 days of shopping to now well over 130 vendors in 3 halls for 2 days of shopping. The pandemic affected 2020 recently so we will have to wait til next year to celebrate 39!

     Through the years many artists within the Auxiliary chaired the event and a few years saw co-chairs. Marilyn is quick to share the spotlight with the history of chairs all of whom were wonderful representatives of maintaining the integrity of the handmade and handcrafted items offered for purchase each year. Each of the past chairs are talented artists like Marilyn but put their talents aside to provide a well mastered show each year. 

     During the Oma’s Fair in 2011, the auxiliary announced that the Women’s Auxiliary was being dissolved and Oma’s may be in jeopardy. Marilyn presented to the Fair Association Board of Directors that Oma’s could be successfully retained as a fundraiser and that she would volunteer to continue as chairman for a year but she does such a great job that she is the obvious choice for it. The event would be sponsored by the Kendall County Fair Association and the funds directed to needs they saw fit. The directors voted to accept the responsibility and allow the tradition to continue with Marilyn as the chair. Prior to it becoming under the Association’s letterhead, many times it was co chaired by more than one auxiliary member to bring the event responsibilities equally shared several times. But since 2012 Marilyn has brought a successful and enjoyable shopping event as the solo chair.  As Marilyn states “…it takes a village to put this on and we have so many directors and volunteers who devote their time to ensure it goes smoothly.” The enormous job of chairing this expansive event does not start on set up day…it starts the year before when Marilyn has the contracts available for the vendors who want to insure their spot in next year’s Oma’s Fair. Next, Marilyn opens the event to other vendors waiting for their chance to be a part of this magical event. Marilyn explains that she has a waiting list most years so one must contact her early to be considered. In early years, a jury decided if the vendor fit the criteria of homemade or handmade but the need for a jury dissolved years ago when it was obvious that the show was handmade or homemade only. Marilyn creates the advertising and employs the paper, facebook, print and some television to get the word out, but word of mouth and its sparkling reputation are the best advertising!

     Marilyn credits the directors and her devoted volunteers who help with the set up, decorating, preparing foods for kitchen(yes a lot of potatoes are peeled), cooking, running, cleaning, trash detail, manning entry admission, parking(when needed), assisting the elderly, fixing, monitoring vendor needs, and the many other projects that seem to pop up during the shows. She gives lots of credit to fellow director who is her husband, Kirby, who is her go to in many bumps that arise. “Kirby is my right hand man! He knows how to fix almost everything and he does at a second’s notice.” Kirby even finds time to offer his own artwork as a vendor!! Look for the “star” of the show selling his handmade stars!

     Marilyn is quick to point out that her whole family are all artists but location and timing does not allow them to participate as vendors.

     The traditional foods served at the concession stand is remarkable and delicious!! The menu is always designed to satisfy all from the youngest to the oldest but the most requested item is the potato soup. Oma Adela Frantzen brought her secret recipe to the kitchen and never allowed it to be broadcast. She would not even share it with the ladies in the kitchen. One had to work with her to learn the recipe. Marilyn has always been a vibrant asset to the kitchen and a reliable assistant. When she began working on food preparation she assisted Oma Frantzen with the potato soup. When Marilyn commented to Oma that the soup needed some thickening and should they add a thickener like flour or corn starch…Oma quickly assured her that none of that is in there or ever should be…she had a secret ingredient and promptly sent Opa Frantzen to the truck for her secret ingredient…Opa came back in with the secret ingredient. Oma never shared her secret but Marilyn is going to share it as it is a great addition and seems to make the soup!!!  A box of instant mashed potatoes adds the right consistency to make the soup fabulous!!! Oma would be happy to know her secret recipe is now recorded in history for all to enjoy! Since the weather is now potato soup weather Marilyn included the recipe for all to enjoy at home!!! White russet potatoes. Must be peeled with a small paring knife according to Oma. She never used a potato peeler. Peel so that only the peeling was removed and no potato wasted. Then slice potatoes. Season with salt, pepper, instant chicken bouillon powder (Knorr Caldo Sabar de Pollo) butter not margarine. Liquid Chicken Stock, chopped diced celery and include the leaves. Two stalks per roaster.”Yes we make a lot!!!” Milk but Oma’s does not use milk due to milk allergies of some customers. Instant potato for thickening only. Extra chicken stock but only for flavoring if soup gets too thick. And the most important ingredient according to Oma is LOTS OF LOVE!!!!! Cooking: cook the potatoes in the broth with the butter and the celery only. Do not add the seasonings yet. After the potatoes and celery are cooked then take a hand mixer or potato masher and mash up the larger pieces of potato. Do not over mash as it will be mushy. Consistency of larger potato pieces is a must for sure. Then season with the pepper, salt and some bouillon powder. Use low sodium broth to limit salt. Use the instant potatoes to thicken as needed. But use sparingly as it is not necessary to make mashed potatoes but a soup consistency. The Oma’s Christmas Fair uses 150 pounds of potatoes to prepare their yummy soup and it is made fresh daily. Probably because there are no leftovers…hahaha!!! Get yours early because it does sell out and once it is gone each day…it is gone til the next day and then retired til next year!

     The food offerings vary and all follow health guidelines assigned by health department. Baked goods must be prepared on site with ingredients listed or purchased from a health permitted kitchen commercially and resold. All health department guidelines are followed precisely. Returning this year is the traditional free cup of Apple Cider upon request of the shoppers. The coffee pot stays full and it and the hot chocolate stay hot and ready for the shoppers all weekend!!

     Santa is still taking time to visit Oma’s for pictures and a visit with the children…ok occasionally one finds an adult whispering a secret wish in his ear!!!! In 2017 Santa added a story time with the children but his schedule has recently been adjusted and he no longer has the time for a story. He does continue his lunch with Santa for the children. It is only on Saturday and the parents must schedule it ahead of time please. Pictures and visits with Santa are scheduled times on Saturday and Sunday!

     While Oma’s is traditionally an artist and craftsman show, it is also chock full of artistic activities for young and old alike!!! The Annual Oma’s Coloring Contest is open to all children ages 4 thru 12. Again this year is the 9th Annual $1,000.00 Visa Gift Card Raffle held to raise funds for the Homestead Heritage Exhibit Hall  Scholarship fund. There is also an added raffle for a handmade quilt donated by one of the vendors benefitting the Fair Association projects. There is so much to see and do for everyone at Oma’s. One of the opportunities to keep your donations local is to bring 2 canned goods or 1 unwrapped toy to get a max one dollar discount off of admission. The canned goods and toy donations will benefit the local Hill Country Family Services so please be generous. An additional contest this year is the inclusion of an Oma’s Christmas Jam contest!! Open to the(non commercial) public, the new contest will showcase the skills of jam making!!! The contest will be judged by a panel of Official Judges as well as a People’s Choice award. Check the website for the information needed to participate in the Jam contest by entering or judging!

     Oma’s offers the finest craftsmen/artists from around the state. One can find gifts for the home, clothing, art for the walls, candles, hangings, arrangements, toys, jewelry, pottery, holiday decorations, wood crafts, embellished items , sewing, embroidery,  crochet, quilts, well most anything one could imagine. And it is all handcrafted and homemade by top artists in their field. And yes, they all hear…”I could make that…” but the real answer to that comment is “but would you?” It takes time, investment, practice and knowledge that most of us just do not have to provide. It is so much smarter to go to Oma’s Christmas Fair and take advantage of the beautiful artists who gather under one, well, three roofs to purchase a beautiful gift or enhancement to one’s home. Be the envy of everyone when your gift is opened and they all ooh and aah at your find!

     The art offered at Oma’s is one of a kind and no two are exactly alike. The magic of Oma’s is of course the artisans and their crafts/art to choose from for gifts or just for fun. But along with the traditional art comes the delicious traditional foods that Oma’s offers its shoppers and vendors all weekend. Days are December 3rd and 4th. Times are 9-5 Saturday and 9-4 Sunday. Parking is always free!!! Admission of $5.00 per person for both days…but remember that donation for a $1.00 off admission!

     It takes an artist to craft the Oma’s fair. Marilyn is that artist. Her devotion to her craft of organizing, managing and providing a handcrafted/homemade show for all to enjoy is immediately obvious when one enters any of the beautifully decorated halls that showcase over 135 artists in their own talent. If one misses this show do not be disappointed as there is a Spring Fling arts and crafts show April 22 and 23 of 2023. Marilyn is an artist of many talents. She organizes the Exhibition Hall that showcases the talents of the many Kendall County Artists of every art and craft during the Kendall County Fair. She is the artist for the annual catalog having won many awards including the Ray Commack Marketing and Communication Award of Excellence in 2007. 2014, 2017 and 2019. Marilyn accepted these awards during the annual Convention…and how she has time, this author does not know!!!! Marilyn is always seeking workshops and continuing education on how to make her craft/art better and more improved! Marilyn strives to make each day a “Fair” day but in my humble opinion Marilyn makes each day the best day and we all get to enjoy her fruits!!! Marilyn is the master of her art and the gift of her art is sharing with all of us!!! Her hard work and long hours result in all of us getting to enjoy it all in one place!!! To contact Marilyn about being an artist vendor/craftsman or attendee or even a volunteer at any of the mentioned shows please call her at 830-537-4096(recommended) or the fairgrounds 830-249-2839(not manned) Sometimes she can be reached at 210-488-6877. You may also email her at kmculak@gvtc.com or visit www.KCFA.org for all information. One may also contact Marilyn by mail at 143 Pfeiffer road Boerne, Tx 78006 or PO Box 954 Boerne Tx 78006. 

   Marilyn feels blessed to be a part of such an art and gives it her all! But this author thinks we are blessed to have such an artist bring us beautiful art to see, have and own!!! Art is always magic and this time the magician is Marilyn Culak!!! Mark your calendars for Oma’s and the Spring Fling….Santa is Watching and he is making a list!!! I bet Marilyn’s is the first name on it! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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