CHICAGO (CBS) — Tower Show Productions was the go-to group for mega-holiday craft shows in the suburbs, but now they have gone out of business.

As a consequence, vendors are out thousands of dollars in fees they paid in. A nonprofit that serves people with developmental disabilities and is the benefactor of an annual craft show says it is is also going to suffer.

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CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar spoke with those who say they were blindsided by it all.

With COVID-19, it has been a tough year for artists who rely on craft and trade shows to make a living. Now, the organizers of one of the area’s biggest shows seemingly closed up overnight and can’t be reached.

Claudia Putignano has made and sold Christmas ornaments for 25 years – Santas, unicorns for little girls – and most of her sales come from craft shows.

One of her biggest every year is the Lambs Farm Holiday Lights Gift and Craft Fair.

“A quarter of my income from the year will come from that show, so it’s a big show,” Putignano said.

Tower Show Productions has organized the event for years. The craft fair is held at the Arlington International Racecourse, and a portion of the money raised from vendor fees goes to Lambs Farm, a nonprofit that assists people with developmental disabilities at their facility in Libertyville.

“I’m out $1,075,” Putignano said. “They’re keeping hundreds of thousands of dollars that they didn’t work for.”

A letter from Tower Show Productions sent to craft vendors last week said the company is going out of business after 40 years. There was no contact information and no word on any refunds.

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Putignano: “No longer a Facebook page. They don’t answer any emails. They don’t pick up their phone. There’s no contact.”

De Mar: “So they sort of packed up in the middle of the night.”

Putignano: “Exactly, exactly.”

Sandy Davis traveled all the way from Iowa to sell her home décor at the show for years.

“That’s a crock of crap,” Davis said. “It’s just a really bad way to do business.”

Davis is now out $1,700.

“Crafters work hard for their money, and it’s a lot of hard work,” she said, “and for you to take advantage of us in this way is just totally wrong.”

Lambs Farm said they too were blindsided by Tower Show Productions’ decision to close up shop, and they will been negatively impacted by the lost funds this year.

Several of the vendors with whom De Mar spoke are exploring legal options to try and recoup some of their money.

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Our attempts to reach the company also went unanswered.

Charlie De Mar