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Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

Carbondale Mountain Fair, Carbondale, CO, July 27-29, 2018

Fees: Jury $20, Booth $350

Medium: Leather: plain and hand carved equestrian, K-9,

personal leather goods and gun leathers.

Price Range: $16 set of napkin rings to $9,800 silver mounted



     The 47th Carbondale Mountain Fair was held in Sopris Park, a grassy city-block park with large old shade trees.  The big draw for the event is the live music.  The stage is at the NW corner of the park, and 152 artist booths are along the north and west and south perimeter of the park.  The booths are far enough away from the music, whose volume was well controlled, so artist could converse with clients.  All mediums were represented, the quality was high, and there was no buy/sell.

     Carbondale is a small town with a population of about 6,500.  It is in the northern end of the Roaring Fork Valley which extends from Glenwood Springs at the north on I-70 to the ski areas of Aspen and Snowmass to the south in the mountains. It is a bedroom community for workers in Aspen.  Forty-four percent of Carbondale is Hispanic, and I had the opportunity to practice my Spanish during the fair.  The Roaring Fork Valley is one of the most affluent areas of Colorado and the US. The Aspen/Snowmass skiing complex and summer recreation drive the economy of the region.  Carbondale is about 3 hours from Denver and about 1 3/4 hours from Grand Junction, CO by way of I-70 and Colorado 82.

     Besides the music, the Mountain Fair has 14-mile and 4-mile races, bike race, pie and cake baking competitions (you can buy slices for $1 after judging), raffle, wood splitting and fly-casting competitions, youth music instruction, Sunday morning yoga with live Eastern music, and lots more.  The event is ecofriendly. Locals told me that based on alcohol sales (beer, wine, mixed drinks), the crowd is more than 20,000.  In talking with my clients, I found folks from Denver, I-70 corridor, area ranches, Netherlands, Greece and the UK.

     Locals refer to Carbondale and area as ”a bubble” different from everywhere else.  The crowd was a mix of 30 somethings Aspen chic; scruffy ski bums and snowboarders waiting for the first snow; a few bikers and ranchers; lots of ink, dreadlocks, and man buns; young families, and everything in between and on the ends.  Many arrived on bicycles and large bike corrals are provided.  Overall I was thinking 1960’s hippies fast forwarded to 2018.     The local police have tie dyed uniforms with “POLICE” on the back.  I hope you get the picture.


SET UP AND TAKE DOWN. Set up started at 3:00 Thursday and extended until noon on Friday when the fair opened.  Unloading on the south and east side of the park was well managed. Generally, you have 30 minutes to unload before beginning your setup and this was enforced.  Take down began at 5:00pm Sunday and artists were supposed to have everything down and ready to load before parking on the perimeter of the park. This wasn’t enforced, and the perimeter was packed with vehicles before a single tent was down. This didn’t affect me as it takes me about 4 hours to pack and load.  Professional security is provided Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

     Show hours are 10:00am until dark, more or less. I shut down around 6:00 on Friday and 7:00 on Saturday.  Electricity is not available.


WEATHER. The temperature was in the mid-70’s to low 80’s.  Three or four close lightning strikes Saturday at 12:30 kicked off about 30 minutes of heavy rain and hail.  Another 30-minute rain with a microburst happened at 4:30. Patrons ducked into booths and continued shopping when the storms passed. These were very localized mountain thunderstorms. 


THE SHOW.  This is a well-organized and managed show run by Carbondale Arts, a volunteer organization.  This was the first year I had done this show.  Back in the 1990’s I looked at it but did not put in on my list because they took a commission from artists’ sales.  I had heard from other artists that sales were inflated to get invited back, and that did not appeal to me.  This policy changed, and I found artist friends who had been doing the show for several years who recommended it.

     Sales tax of 8.4% is collected at the end of the show. This saves you from reporting it to the state.  They request that you have a FEIN when paying your sales tax.


THE NUMBERS. Sales were very slow Friday afternoon and I did not make half my daily minimum which was a concern.  Saturday and Sunday were busy, and I ended up with sales in the $4.5K-$5K.  Belts were my best seller and I had one sale of 6 carved belts for a wedding party.  There were sales of gun leathers, horse gear, dog leashes and personal leather goods, in the $100-$200 range that kicked up the gross. I had 67 sales and the sale average was $69.  My margin for the event was 72%.   


OTHER STUFF. Jean was hurting at this show with a sore thigh muscle.  We had gone on a climb of Mt. Bierstadt (14,206’) Sunday with some folks from the gym. She didn’t summit but climbed for a good 3 hours. Tuesday, we had yoga class.  Wednesday, we had our workout with our trainer and we did an unusual number of different squats that do a number on your thighs.

     I found a studio apartment to rent up Cattle Creek about 15 minutes from the show. It was peaceful and quiet, but because of the late show hours, we didn’t get home in time to use the hot tub.  The show listed some locations in town for overnight camping.

     We had thought about driving up to Marble, and McClure Pass on Monday but decided to head home with Jeans sore leg.  We took a back road (County 113) over Cottonwood Pass (not the same as the one west of Buena Vista) to Gypsum on I-70.  It cut off Glenwood Canyon as we were on the high country to the south.   It was a fun narrow paved and dirt mountain road to drive, and there was some interesting geology.

PHOTOS: Carbondale Police, after the hail storm, the crowd



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Replies to This Discussion

Wow, that hail!  That was a lot but nice it didn't seem to scare the shoppers away.  

Tye dye cops!  That was a little hard to imagine.  

Thanks for the thorough review.  You always seem to find the best places to stay in at shows.  Your show weekends are almost a vacation. 

They are mini paid expense vacations for me and Jean. But, she was really hurting with a sore thigh muscle this trip. Sunday before show was Mt. Bierstadt climb with gym folks, Tuesday yoga and Wednesday tough workout at gym with lots of squats. Sunday's sore muscle didn't have time to heal. I had to quit climbing 260' from summit because of severe leg cramps but was fine next day. "Ya gotta drink that pickle juice" LOL. We are both in our 70's.

I did this show years ago, late '80's or early '90's? A lot of "hippie" artists with pottery before the days of the fancy show tents, stuff was just cobbled together from whatever. It didn't impress me enough to go back for a second go round, not enough people showed up to make it worth my while, maybe things are different these days! Thanks for the update.


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