by Mabel Suen
An alternative for holiday gifts exists just on the horizon, and it doesn't require spending a single penny! Gut Check would like to re-introduce a concept that most at least have vague familiarity with: bartering. Bartering, or the trading of goods and services for others without the use of the conventional dollar, takes place regularly through underWARES and the Cowry Collective, two active bartering groups in St. Louis, and each season, they put on a collaborative event for newcomers and interested parties.
"Barter Fest is basically an event where barterers can come in and make trades on the spot of anything they'd like to, whether it's something they made or something extra at the house they don't need anymore," explains Barter Fest and underWARES co-coordinator Stephanie Co. "While we have a directory online that anyone can check out to make offers and swaps, we wanted people to meet face to face and all at once."
The fun and easy share and swap of sorts occurs quarterly at small, independent local businesses in different neighborhoods, with this event marking the third collective get-together. Several artisans, vendors and neighborhood association representatives on hand will offer everything from homemade foodstuffs and art prints to music lessons and hair cuts.
"Both Barter Fests so far have had live hair cuts, so it was cool to see someone come in and then leave with a different haircut. One of the trades was a haircut for a sock monster stuffed animal," says Co. "It's also kind of a social networking experiment because it's a lot of small businesses and vendors without storefronts, so it's a great way to get the word out about their businesses...Everyone is welcome, and the more, the merrier!"
Co stresses that a good or service isn't necessary to participate. For example, an individual once attended with lettuce and a book and traded everything he had. The event also features a pot luck, clothing swap, live music and a variety of workshops, some of which could take place informally on the spot.
Barter Fest takes place this Sunday, Dec. 11 at The Juice Box (3101 Arsenal Street; 314-667-5248), so stop by any time between 2 to 5 p.m. Admission is free, and the family-friendly event is open to all. For more information on how to get involved and to sign up for a table, visit the Barter Fest Web site and see what else underWARES and the Cowry Collective have to offer year-round.