Present Company

Present Company

A 40-year-old paperback edition of Heinlein’s Time for the Stars, its yellowed pages smelling of vanilla.

Edward Scissorhands on DVD, with some shredding on the slipcover.

American Bar, a classy, compact book of 500 cocktail recipes whose holder can make a Harvard, a Princeton and a Bulldog Highball in a jiffy.

At this year’s Trinity Holiday Bazaar, happening yesterday through Sunday in the undercroft of Trinity Church on the Green, you could’ve gotten all of that for just $3.50. You can’t get those exact items anymore, because I already did. But if your tastes are similar, you might be interested in stuff that was still around when I left, like any number of intriguing books, or a $0.25 early-issue VHS tape of Ghostbusters, or a copy of the board game Essexopoly, which had me chuckling. Put out by the Chamber of Commerce in Essex, Connecticut, the game’s just like Monopoly, while adopting what must be legally significant differences: you can’t pass “Go” but you can pass “Start;” you can’t go to jail but you can go to court; and you can’t buy Connecticut Avenue but you can buy Essex Pilates.

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Books, movies and oddities are just a small part of the bazaar. There are fine winter hats and scarves, knitted by Trinity members throughout the year; items satisfying countless needs, from glassware to toys, in the tag sale portion; kids’ and pets’ stuff (each has a devoted section); gift cards, of course; and gobs of parishioner-made Christmas decorations, like signature “Block Elves” with lettered wooden blocks for torsos and glitzy colorful birds protecting gold and silver nests. Over in the silent auction area, north of 250 items—from wine baskets to a grandmother clock to a framed King Tut needlepoint—fill every nook and cranny. Towards the entrance there’s a table full of raffle packages, plus a bunch of mystery gifts wrapped and sold for a flat price, sight unseen.

And then there’s the food. Along the back wall, a hot food stand with a menu of homemade soups and sandwiches boasts a stellar Vegetarian Chili ($5). Opposite that, the bazaar’s “Cookie Walk” sells something like 20 varieties of homemade cookies—from Salted Caramel Cashew to Lemon Drop to Peppermint Meringue—at any one time ($8 a pound). Nearby, chunky fruit preserves made by jam-meister Fran Hofmeister gleam in hefty glass jars.

Add in Christmas music, earnest green-aproned volunteers and chatty shoppers using picnic baskets to tote things around, and it all paints a pretty charming scene of community. Mary Ann Stroup, who became involved very shortly after the bazaar was first proposed some 23 years ago, calls the event “a mission”—not just because it raises funds to maintain the church’s infrastructure, but because it provides an affordable Christmas shopping experience to people of all religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, church members or not.

Regarding those members, she calls the bazaar “a ministry,” because it tightens the body of the congregation she loves. Trinity is a destination church, she says, meaning it pulls congregants from diverse communities—from Milford to Meriden to Madison—who may never see each other otherwise, and therefore may be less likely to get to know each other even when they are in the same place at the same time.

But the bazaar works wonders, as people have to sew and cook and plan together to pull it off. “This is the one event that we work on all year long, that really connects people,” she says. “This is really knitting the fabric of the church.”

Trinity Holiday Bazaar
Trinity Church on the Green – 230 Temple St, New Haven (map)
Today and tomorrow 9am-6pm, Sunday 9am-1pm
(203) 624-3101 |

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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