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This year I was accepted to exhibit for the first time at Black Swamp Arts Festival (Bowling Green, Ohio). Yippee! Since setup begins at 5:30am on the first day of the festival but sunrise doesn't happen until 7am, I'm wondering if there is enough street lighting at this downtown location to setup easily, if I need to bring some type of portable lighting or if it's best to wait until it's starting to get light out. I'd be grateful if anyone who has done this festival could share their experience/thoughts. 

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I've never done this event but I'm starting to steer away from events that don't allow "day before setups".

There is a particular promoter that wants artists to come at 3:00am to drop off their stuff. Then leave and return after 5:00 or 5:30am to setup. Then wait until the show opens around 10:00... ugh! Think how many hours and inconvenience invested before you start your work day.

Thanks for the reply Larry. Since it takes me a bit longer than most to setup and I like feeling rested, showered and cleaned up before a festival I'm not too keen on same day setup too. The best I can figure is that somehow/somewhere I missed seeing the setup statement. I sure appreciate you taking the time to reply and I wish you a great rest of the festival season. 

I doubt if you will be in the dark or at least not for long.

I would call the promoter and just ask. Also find out how dark/light your particular spot would be.

Thank you Judy. I tried contacting the promoter a while back with those same questions but haven't heard anything yet. I suspect they're swamped with other things. Thanks.

Yuck! Why do artists put up with this?

Hi Cindy. As I understand it now, for this particular show, which is right "on" the Main Street of this town, they don't want to make it too difficult for customers visiting downtown businesses by closing the street during the work week. Since it's tiring enough to set up and because I want to be energized and presentable, I've always tried to avoid these situations. But since I'm in, I'll give it my best shot and see if how it goes. Thanks for replying.  

Good question Cindy. Artists are nothing if not inventive and we come up with solutions to every problem thrown at us, but should we? I did Three Rivers this year in Pittsburgh: wasn't given a pass to drive near my booth until 10 PM, had a long dolly, set up in the dark until 3 AM. Was also told I had 20 minutes to unload (you take as long as you need but the pressure is a pain in the ass) and then had to move my high roof van somewhere in the city on a busy Friday night. No artist parking. I grew up in Pittsburgh and know my way around but it was still a challenge to find a suitable lot half a mile away across the river. This weekend I did a show in a beautiful location but my booth space was on sloping ground with a 4 foot high fence post exactly in the middle of my space. Crazy stuff. Exorbitant booth fees, unrealistic set ups, few amenities, rules upon rules, sometimes surly promoters-- is it that artists just gradually get used to it? Is it some variant of the Stockholm Syndrome? The few times on this site that someone has suggested unionization, there has been a tepid response which is sad, because the shows won't change without collective pressure brought to bear. I know that artists, and especially artists on the fair circuit, fancy themselves as mavericks, rugged individualists, independent entrepreneurs, etc, etc., (and therefore resist collective action), but sometimes when I watch us all schlepping from city to city, standing in line, abiding by all the imposed rules, we seem less like mavericks and more like herded sheep.

Hi Al. We did Three Rivers just once many years ago and experienced the same logistics problems as you did this year. Once was enough. I remember pushing the dolly up the ramp from the lower level parking structure ... won't forget it. 

The closest artists have come to a union is the NAIA (click the link on their logo on the left hand side of this site or visit their FB page: This organization has made some important changes with the festivals. It is the only unified voice. As an individual voice shows need to know in their surveys what is making it hard to do their shows ... individual complaints or constructive suggestions are usually listened to. The alternative tell them you're never coming back. I've certainly done that.

Hey Connie. I hope you're well. I'll always remember your effort to help me at Ann Arbor a few years back. Thanks again for that. About Pittsburgh. As you probably know I left unsaid many other complaints about that show. Too bad because it's my home town, I love the city, still have family there, but can't imagine doing it again even though I had a decent show. There are good shows and good directors, I know. I just did Longs Park where artists get treated (the fence post notwithstanding) like the main attraction that they are. But in many, if not most shows (IMO) artists get treated like hired help who are expected to feel grateful just to be there. I got into this business too late and I'm way too old to become numb to what seem like absurd expectations that the show organizers have for the artists. I'll certainly check out the NAIA site. Thanks again, Al

I've done a few show that had a early morning setup. I did not enjoy being sweaty, tired and worn out by the time the show starts. I don't apply to them now. A show that has a nighttime setup with time to shower and rest ia much more reasonable and appealing now...

I've never done a nighttime load-in, but have come across several folks in other festivals that have somehow worked "load-in" magic for several hours in the night gone to their hotel, had a nap/shower and looked great opening day of the event. I know for me I wouldn't be at my best but sometimes, like you, we find a way to make it work and then know better whether or not we want to do it again. I hope the rest of the festival season is a good one for you.  

If the street lighting is bad, use a battery/inverter combination to power for lighting, although there are several LED work lights that have a built-in battery good for about 4 hours or so. If set-up starts at 5:30, arrive earlier and unload. I do the same thing for a local one day show in the heart of Indianapolis. As long as you know where your space is, you're good to go. Unload, set up the tent on the sidewalk if the street is not closed yet, and just walk it into place when traffic is blocked. Then start hanging panels and work after that.


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