'Born into it': The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar returns for a 47th holiday season
“I was pretty much born into it,” says Anne Johnson, the producer and general manager of the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. “My dad was the – is still the – night manager of the show. He was best friends with the executive producer Bruce Willenzik in the seventies, in the Armadillo World Headquarters Days. And I guess my first memory of working for the show was delivering flyers with my mom to local businesses in a… red Radio Flyer wagon.”
It took a few decades for Johnson to move from pulling that red wagon to running the show, and in that time she’s spent every holiday season at the Bazaar. “Yes,” she says, “except for the pandemic, every single Christmas Eve of my life I’ve spent at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar.”
This year, the long-running art and music show only runs through December 23 (not all the way to Christmas Eve), but aside from that it’s much the same as it’s always been. As in years past, it’ll feature dozens of musicians playing live and also dozens of fine artists and craftspeople selling their wares.
Sculptor Rita Ross hasn’t been a part of the Bazaar for as long as Johnson – she’s only been participating for the past quarter-century or so. “I don't know, maybe 25 years,” she says. “Yeah, I'm a veteran at this point in time. I started out doing… a very small guest artist with jewelry in it, and Bruce and Annie [Harding, another longtime Armadillo producer] let me show and then over the years I've just kept expanding and now I'm doing Argentium silver jewelry and pretty large scale copper sculptures. And I love the Armadillo.”
Painter Rachel Dory is a much newer addition to the Bazaar. “Last year was my first year and it was an amazing experience,” she says. “It's such a great opportunity to talk to everybody who comes out, get out of the studio as a lonely artist and [be] surrounded by Christmas shoppers and fine art enthusiasts.”
Dory says the Bazaar gives her a chance to connect with patrons in a way she doesn’t always get to. “My paintings are of roadside America, and a lot of it is in Texas,” she says. “Everywhere I go I take photographs and then I work in my studio to produce paintings and the idea is that is that there are windows to memories for people. It's all familiar places that people share. So it's a lot of fun and very exciting for me to produce my paintings and have people share their stories of what they remember when they see them.”
“One really special thing about Armadillo is that you get to see all of that in one place,” Johnson says. “It's a one-stop shop – you park and you go inside and you get to shop all of these local artists, you get to shop the curated national talent that Bruce and Annie and I have found across the country. We actually do travel across the country and scout out really talented fine artists and bring them to our show. We [also] have 36 bands playing over nine days, which is the most we've ever had. It's gonna be great.”