COLUMBIA — Once thought a pest, the church mouse now has center stage. Every year, dozens of mid-Missourians flock to church to buy 5-inch-tall felt rodents dressed in various clothing and accessories.
Calvary Episcopal Church has held an annual bazaar since World War II, according to church administrator Laura Davidson. The event has gone through various name changes over the years, but the mice remain at the center of the event. The purpose of the St. Nicholas Advent Bazaar remains the same, too — to raise money for city outreach projects.
The bazaar takes place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Calvary Episcopal Church, 123 S. Ninth St.
Breakfast begins at 8 a.m. and costs $8 per adult and $4 per child 12 and younger. St. Nicholas will make an appearance, and all ages are welcome.
All proceeds from the event will benefit city outreach projects.
Historically, the biggest money-maker has been the Calvary church mice, which are hand-crafted by female church members throughout the year. Selling at various prices, each of these collectibles take around eight hours to create, according to Ele Dockweiler, who's been crafting the mice for more than 25 years.
Dockweiler is the self-proclaimed "mouse teacher" who passes along the skill to interested church members with basic sewing knowledge. There were 10 to 12 mouse-makers this year, according to Dockweiler, and each takes creative license with the characters she puts together.
Because many of the craftswomen work independently on their mice, it is often a surprise to see the cast of characters that show up at the event.
"I just don't know what to expect," Dockweiler said. "Everybody's imagination is different."
Last year, in addition to the traditional church mouse with choir robe and hymnal, there were MU Tiger fan mice, Nutcracker Suite-themed mice, a mermaid mouse and many more.
Dockweiler said one woman mentioned wanting to make an Elvis mouse this year, but the mouse teacher wasn't sure whether he would make an appearance come Saturday.
Regardless of which felted creatures show up, the collectibles usually sell out in the first hour and a half of the bazaar, according to Dockweiler. She said shoppers often line up outside the church before the doors even open.
All of this mouse-making is time-consuming, but Dockweiler said with a laugh, "I do have other things I do in life."
Dozens of different character mice, along with books, tote bags, baked goods, candles and more will be on sale from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Calvary. The traditional country breakfast also begins at 8 a.m. and will include Burger's Smokehouse ham* and other hearty food items.