Scrapbook convention brings enthusiasts together

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 25, 2010

NATCHEZ — For the last three days, the Natchez Convention Center has been filled with S.L.U.T.S.

But these S.L.U.T.S. weren’t women with bad reputations because of poor life decisions. They were the self-styled Scrapbooking Ladies Under Tremendous Stress, a group of scrapbooking enthusiasts who attended the Scrap-N on the River scrapbooking convention.

Local resident Pam Frank has organized the convention — which kicked off Thursday and lasted until midnight every night through Saturday — for the last six years. She compared the convention to the female version of a hunting camp.

“Whether it’s hunting, fishing or golfing — whatever men like to get together and do — this is our, the women’s, version,” she said.

And they do it with gusto. Participants brought bags and cases — sometimes as tall as the scrapbookers themselves — full of ribbon, colored paper, buttons and thousands of other craft knick-knacks, and vendors around the convention center hawked their frilly wares, offering lessons in the newest scrapbooking techniques.

But why shouldn’t they? What some may write off as a mere hobby is actually a big business.

“How big a business is scrapbooking?” said vendor Melanie Hyatt. “It’s huge.”

It’s a big enough business that the annual scrapbooking sales figures surpass the budgets of many states. Scrapbooking is a $30 billion a year industry, Frank said.

For the Natchez convention, Frank said approximately 150 were in attendance for the full convention and approximately 15 more attended at least part of the convention, traveling from areas such as Dallas, Little Rock, Ark., and Pensacola, Fla.

Convention attendee Deanna Dillard said she was happy to contribute to the scrapbooking economy.

“We are preserving memories that last a lifetime,” she said.

“It’s about teaching people what to do with their photos properly instead of storing them in the attic or in a shoebox under the bed.”

Convention attendee Amy Billings said the art of scrapbooking was her therapy, and attending conventions was a way to get fully immersed in her own version of self-medication.

“I like to be with my friends, and we all have children so we can’t do this at home,” she said. “We’re getting away from the kids and husbands. Some people go out and drink, but we scrapbook.”

The atmosphere of the convention is similar to that of a slumber party, minus the pillow fights, Frank said.

“When we try to shut down at midnight, we will have to be begging them to leave,” she said.