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Nature's Noel, Indian Creek Nature Center's annual holiday market, returns this Saturday

Volunteers bond during annual market preparations

Jan Aiels of Cedar Rapids trims greenery while working in the Maple Sugar House at Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, as volunteers prepare for the upcoming Nature’s Noel fundraising event. Aiels is the former education director at the nature center. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Jan Aiels of Cedar Rapids trims greenery while working in the Maple Sugar House at Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, as volunteers prepare for the upcoming Nature’s Noel fundraising event. Aiels is the former education director at the nature center. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Inside Indian Creek Nature Center’s maple sugar house, a group of women tucked greenery into handfuls of moss caged in chicken wire, creating lush kissing balls they would later adorn with ribbons, seed balls and berries.

Warmed by a crackling wood-burning stove, the volunteers were preparing through the week for the Nature Center’s annual holiday market, Nature’s Noel, scheduled on Saturday.

The hanging kissing balls the women fashioned will be some of many crafts — including wreaths, treetoppers, table centerpieces and yule logs — for sale from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Preparation for the holiday market culminates in a rush of volunteer work this week, longtime volunteer Anne Salamon said, though she has spent months collecting items needed to fashion the decorations — she brought in items found at yard sales, estate sales and even branches from her neighborhood.

“Especially after Thanksgiving, it’s such a nice way to enjoy the season without the rushing crowd at the mall,” Salamon said, after fiddling with a radio that softly played Christmas music. “Do you smell the wood smell? Do you smell the greenery? It’s a nice way to enjoy the season.”

Longtime volunteers “scavenge” for pretty items to add to their holiday crafts, she said, and proceeds from sales go to the Nature Center’s educational programming.

Jan Aiels, a volunteer who retired as the center’s education director about two years ago, said she keeps returning to the center to be with its people.

“It’s the camaraderie,” Aiels said. “We have a great bunch. It’s work, but it’s a lot of fun, and it’s a good cause.”

The volunteers’ handcrafted decorations will be sold alongside items from about 15 artisanal vendors at the nature center, 5300 Otis Rd. SE, according to the center. Last year’s event raised more than $18,000.

For the tight-knit group of volunteers — known as Friends of the Nature Center — preparations this week are an opportunity to give back and to spend time with each other.

“We have talked that if we ever got too old to do this and we have to quit, we’d still get together just to have lunch and be together,” said Mary Christensen, a Nature’s Noel volunteer of 18 years. “The bonus is we’re doing it for a great purpose.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

Nature’s Noel

What: Nature’s Noel Holiday Market, featuring fresh green decor and artisan gifts for sale; proceeds benefit the Indian Creek Nature Center

When: 9 am. to 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Amazing Space, 5300 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids

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