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Bridal fair helps brides, vendors, kids in need

By KBell
Aug. 15, 2010 at 3:15 a.m.

Victoria school district community initiatives coordinator, Becca Garcia, 52, exchanges a bag of school supplies for a bridal goody bag at the Bridal Fair Extravaganza Sunday afternoon. Brides who brought in school supplies were entered into a drawing for a $5,000 wedding package.

Sarah Marek lovingly poked her fiance's belly as they looked through photography books Sunday at the Bridal Fair Extravaganza.

"He didn't want to come, but he's having fun," she teased.

The groom-to-be, Armand Gonzalez, 23, said he already contributed his part to the wedding planning - food and tuxedoes.

But the day wasn't a total drag, he said.

"I'm just happy she's getting free stuff," Gonzalez joked of his 21-year-old bride.

About 46 vendors - from limousines and nails to DJs and portrait studios - set up booths at the Victoria Mall for the 10th annual bridal fair.

Many gave away door prizes throughout the day.

Marek said she won a free facial.

Another bride, 26-year-old Ashley Veliz, won a makeup kit.

But most had their sights set on the grand prize - $5,000 worth of wedding services.

To get into the grand prize drawing, brides had to donate school supplies to the Victoria Independent School District.

The coordinator of community initiatives for VISD, Becca Garcia, said the school received about twice as many supplies at this drive than in past years.

Four plastic bins overflowed with backpacks, crayons, notebooks and other supplies, which Garcia said would be handed out to kids in need.

While brides waited until 4:45 p.m. to see if they would win the grand prize, they browsed through booths and watched a fashion runway show.

Veliz, who's getting married in October, said the fair helped spark decorating ideas.

"And it's reminding me of everything we still need for the wedding," she said, adding that fairs like this help ease the stress of planning.

The bridal fair is a good deal for vendors, too.

Christine Swanson, who owns Balloon Banquet, said she usually makes about 50 contacts at the annual fair.

"Especially since it's in the mall, you don't just get brides, but all kinds of people walking by," Swanson said.

Swanson said that her businesses has participated in the bridal fair for six years and that she also participates in the annual quinceañera fair, which is in April.

Both fairs are hosted by Annette Franco, who owns Accent Designs By Annette.

Franco said the bridal fair she started 10 years ago has grown from only 12 vendors to a major production.

Franco, who's originally from West Texas, attributes her booming business to the celebratory culture of South Texas.

"It's very loving, very romantic," Franco said. "To me, it's one of the most fun jobs you could have."



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