Nancy Calder of Clearwater works on some pages that memorialize a friend’s wedding during Crop Till You Drop Feb. 1 at the Highland Recreation Complex.
LARGO – Scrapbooking is a serious pastime. Just ask any of the ladies who set up stacks of colored pages; plastic boxes of glue, pens and markers; miniature shapes bought at craft stores and several types of cutting tools for an entire weekend of scrapbooking at Highland Recreation Complex.
“Everything has to be readily available,” explained Sherri Snyder, a particularly organized scrapbooker who sits beside a spinning rack of clear hanging folders displayed on top of a cart of colored drawers.
Crop Till You Drop, Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, took up a whole gymnasium at the recreation complex. The event gives women a chance to step away from their busy schedules, spread out materials for several days and devote their focus on a fun activity with friends.
“A lot of women don’t do this at home, with kids and work,” said Amy Cornelius of Spring Hill, a scrapbooking vendor and participant at the event. “So they come however many times a year and … they don’t have the phone bugging them, husbands are leaving them alone. You’re just here.”
Scrapbooking events, called “crops,” are held all over the state. Snyder, who hails from Melbourne, attends events about two weekends a month as a vendor and participant.
“It’s the people you meet, and the fun and the laughter and the relationships – that’s what is important to me personally,” she said.
After the success of Largo’s first two annual Crop Till You Drop events, held in the fall, the city decided to add a second crop to the yearly calendar, said Krista Pincince, program manager for Highland. Fifty-one people were registered for the weekend crop.
“The event has grown continuously,” she said.
The tradition started as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Parks, Arts and Recreation department. The city held a 50-hour crop, but organizers quickly discovered that even diehard scrapbook fans “don’t literally stay overnight,” Pincince said.
Now the event closes between midnight and 8 a.m. The Highland staff served six meals between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening when the event concluded.
The walking track that circled the top of the gymnasium where the scrapbookers worked was an added bonus and welcome method to stretch one’s legs between pages, Snyder and Cornelius agreed.
“We’re definitely going down the slide later,” Snyder added.
Snyder pointed out that scrapbooking, while it involves a lot of sitting, is a healthy diversion for the mind.
“It is a proven fact: women that craft – I don’t (just) mean scrapbook, but sew, knit, quilt, crochet – live longer. It’s a stress-relief,” Snyder said.
The event attracted several groups who meet regularly to share materials, ideas and the love of scrapbooks. One such group of a dozen women were set up side by side along a table in the center of the gym. After gifting one of their members, Karen Rodgers, with roses for her birthday, the group – all wearing red, pink and white – set off to take a picture together. Then each decorated a page on which the developed photograph would appear.
“This has been a great crop,” said Mary Lubin of Safety Harbor as she pressed letters to spell out “Crop Till You Drop.” “They said breakfast at 8. At 8 o’clock, it’s out there. Lunch is exactly on time.”
Her friends agreed that organization is important.
“We totally know disorganized,” said Julie Wilmarth of St. Petersburg.
The group meets monthly at the craft store, Whim So Doodle in St. Petersburg. They started getting together primarily out of necessity, said Dianne Jerkins with a laugh.
“We needed tools from each other,” she said. “Everybody brought a friend, and before we knew it, there were 12 of us.”
The group participates in Operation Write Home, making cards for soldiers serving overseas to use to send their greetings back home.
“Mostly though, we just drink margaritas,” Lupin said with a mischievous smile.
The “good, clean fun” is expensive, they admitted. After all, scrapbooking is “the art of spending almost $30 to frame a 99-cent photo,” Lupin said.
“Do you see the 80 different products that we’re (using) to put on one photo?” she asked the group in a moment of introspection.
“You have to have them all,” Wilmarth insisted.
“Oh, you need them all,” said Toni Slowgrove of Oldsmar.
On a more serious note, scrapbooking is a means to a social end, said Dianne Thurn of St. Petersburg.
“We’re all very different. We’d all probably not be friends if we didn’t have scrapbooking in our mix,” she said.
The group supports each other, through cancer treatments and difficult surgeries, she added. They make every holiday festive and keep track of each others’ birthdays on a group calendar.
“Sometimes people don’t take the time to do that,” Thurn explained. “It is really an amazing group.”
Teresa Nimrick of Largo, sitting with another group, said Crop Till You Drop gave her a chance to work on her own projects, a needed respite in her busy schedule of helping others.
“I take the weekend here to come and work for myself,” she said. “I like to be able to tell a story.”
But the conversation with friends – taken up as Nimrick looked through pictures for her next project after finishing pages commemorating her son’s graduation – is part of the reason she came to the event.
“We could all be at home scrapbooking on our dining room tables – why do we want to do that?” Snyder asked. “We want to get and meet people and talk and have fun.”