Hugging the edges of the Village Green lawn sat robots made from scrap metal, World War II-era gas masks, sculptures and waves of colorful fabrics — all part of the third annual Fairhaven Funky Bizarre Bazaar on Saturday, Aug. 5.
From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., hundreds gathered for live entertainment, handmade art and historical oddities — all to raise funds and awareness for mental illness, primarily benefiting NAMI Whatcom.
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Whatcom — a nonprofit and local chapter of the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization — provides free programs to those affected by mental health conditions, executive director Kim Sauter said.
Organized in 2021 by Shan Sparling, a community supporter who works part time for the Fairhaven Association, the bazaar is an effort to bring the community together following the COIVD-19 pandemic.
A board is slowly filled with answers to the question, "What does self care look like to you?" in NAMI Whatcom's booth at its fundraiser. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
“I wanted to do it to benefit something that is really needed in our community and it was such a weird, unsure time,” Sparling said. “When I started asking people where they get their support, everyone pointed me to NAMI Whatcom.”
All proceeds from donations and a raffle that was held will go to NAMI Whatcom, Sparling added.
“We really have a higher fundraising goal this year,” Sparling said. “We hope to make at least $10,000 for NAMI. They really need it.”
The bazaar’s name was intentional to let people know that the event is something different that attracts people who are searching for unique community-made items, Sparling added.
The clever naming is what attracted Emmy Gregg, a Bellingham resident, to the Village Green.
“It’s quite bizarre. It’s great to see craftspeople displaying their talent and beautiful art. I am really drawn to it so that’s why I’m here,” Gregg said. “I am not usually drawn to a lot of events but this one just sounded really interesting to check out.”
Maddie Christensen, sporting a cat face and tail, leaps around as Rachel Carter dances at the Village Green. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
Sauter said the bazaar helps decrease the stigma around mental illness, which is the largest obstacle for people seeking help.
“Most people don’t come to NAMI until something pretty bad has happened,” Sauter said. “It’s hard [for people] to call and find out about the programs. It’s kind of one of the last things people want to talk about.”
Sauter, who has a child with a mental illness, said her experience not only makes the work personal, but also makes her a good fit for the nonprofit.
Rachel Carter, a belly dancer at the bazaar, got connected to the event in 2022 when Sparling reached out to her. Carter said the event has grown since last year and was run more smoothly. She is hoping to be invited back next year.
“As long as Shan wants me, I am delighted to help. The NAMI Whatcom is a cause that is very dear to my heart,” Carter said. “This is a struggle that we have had in our family so it’s very personal and I am just happy I can do a little something to help.”
Coloring books and informational magazines were available at the NAMI Whatcom booth at the Fairhaven Village Green. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)