By BRANDON OLAND
Carroll County Times
WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) — The hot peppers are past their expiration date and no longer suitable for eating.
They have been given a new purpose, one that will stand the test of time.
Painter Merle Martin turned a batch of stringy hot peppers into Santa Claus ornaments, which she is selling at the 39th Mistletoe Mart at Ascension Episcopal Church in Westminster.
Mistletoe Mart, an annual exhibition of 50 juried artisans and craftspeople, runs from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. today and Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Some of the artists, Martin included, specialize in holiday decorations. But Mistletoe Mart features makers of pottery, quilts, candles, prints, pet beds and more.
Once again, roughly 25 percent of the exhibitors are new. That’s by design. Organizers want new offerings each year.
“We always want a variety,” organizer Sandy White said, “and we look for exhibitors who make something we haven’t had before.”
Martin, of Frederick, is back for her third Mistletoe Mart.
She spent Wednesday setting up her elaborate display. She will paint on just about any surface. She created a winter landscape, Christmas tree and all, on a wooden sled.
She also turned old spoons into Santa decorations.
And she’s back with her Pepper Santas once more, retailing for $3. They sold out the last time she brought a batch to Mistletoe Mart. They are likely to be hot commodities once again, organizers said.
Once the peppers are dried, they become unique canvases and are the perfect stringy shape for Santa’s white beard.
Exhibitors are encouraged to bring at least a few holiday decorations if possible, said Woodbine artist Melinda Byrd, of Byrd Call Studios.
She is known for her animal prints, but Byrd also brought along vegetables-turned-Santa decorations.
She dried okra and turned them into Santa Claus figurines suitable for hanging on Christmas trees.
“It’s such a small part of what I do,” said Byrd, but the Santas added some holiday flair to her second-floor booth.
With Thanksgiving two weeks away, the Mistletoe Mart is all decked out for Christmas with poinsettias in the windows in the cafe where food will be served. The church stereo system played Christmas music all afternoon. A few exhibitors were humming along to “The Little Drummer Boy.”
Martin spent her day unpacking boxes, showcasing her unique creations.
Martin typically only does two shows per year. The Mistletoe Mart is one of them, she said, because she tends to sell well there.
“I work all year for these two shows,” she said while positioning miniature Christmas trees on a display table at her booth on the first floor.
Information from: Carroll County Times of Westminster, Md., http://www.carrollcounty.com/
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)