Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
After having done the Catoctin Colorfest for the first time, I’d like to share the Good News, the Bad News, and the Worse News…
Good News: the entire town gets into this event so participation and visitor-ship is huge!
Bad News: the entire town gets into this event so the entire town looks, and feels, like a flea market
Worse News [and the reason for this review]: the management is incompetent, unreliable, untrustworthy, dishonest… all this is addressed in the below-attached letter I sent to them…
We participated in the Catoctin Colorfest 2019 and it was our first time exhibiting in your show. Our booth location, listed in the program and advertised to our customers, was #85. When we arrived at registration we were not given that location per the map but had been moved to a spot with a hole, a tree, and half a driveway in the middle.
After a bit of back and forth, you offered us our choice of two spots; one being nearly the last booth in the show [notable: this is a show where everyone moves as a unit in one direction — so the “end” is the absolute end] and another other spot which seemed great: level, middle of the show, plenty of storage room. So we took it. Then we found out you had neglected to tell us that this spot was adjacent to a 20 foot wide food booth, (claiming this food booth had never been in that spot in previous years) with a queue stretching 30 feet down the road in front of our booth and that of our neighbor. As it turned out, this was more than a problem for us, it was — literally— a show stopper.
The entire flow of show visitors moved in a now-much-denser mass on the opposite side of the food line, either unaware of our booth or unwilling to try to cross through the food line to access our booth. We were having brisk sales up until the line spanned our entrance; as a result of this scenario, we did 85% of our sales before 12:30, when the line first formed, and only 15% —two sales— during the remainder of the day as the line had remained in force until late afternoon.
In talking with other exhibitors, including the food people, we find that:
When we spoke to you about this your response was, “who would have foreseen this?”, even though it had happened repeatedly in past shows.
We take our commitment to our Art, and to the shows we do, very seriously. This is our livelihood. We made sure to invest in inventory, advertised to all our customers, and set up our display in advance to make sure it will work in the pre-assigned location only to have a different booth and the access to our new location blocked. As far as we are concerned, you broke your contract with us and it cost us a great deal of time and money.
Please — Do not ever do this to another artist. I know that at least two members of show management also exhibited at the fair; ask yourself: would you be willing to set up in this booth space and have your entire entrance blocked for the major selling hours of the show?
Because of your amateurish mistakes and lies, of omission and outright, your failure to correct or avoid recurring problems ahead of showtime, and your apparent inability to learn from past failures, we will not only never apply again, we will include this letter in reviews we post.
We drove up to this show to check it out and everything you said was what we saw. It was crazy! People were everywhere and there were a million yard sales happening along the road to get to the show. Everywhere I looked there was Buy Sell. We turned around and went home, we never left our vehicle. I'm so glad we made the trip to investigate it because now I know for sure, it is not a show for me.
Thank you, Chris. This is such useful information and I appreciate your sharing it here. This is a great service to readers here.
I especially love the letter you sent to the art festival organizers. This is a great service to the show organizers AND to all festival organizers reading here.
Artists need to step up and critique in a positive way, this helps the show and other artists. Just leaving an event that disappoints you seems like enough ... but feedback MAY make a difference for their next event and participants may benefit from your help.
Thanks for the feedback. Had a similar situation at the 2019 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and wondering if a response to their team would be worth my time.
A letter to the Balloon Fiesta certainly couldn't hurt... unless you are worried about a future retaliatory non-acceptance. We didn't have that issue with Colorfest. I will say though that a letter to them needs to be polite but also needs to pull no punches. You'll notice, in my last paragraph, I called it as I saw it.
All this notwithstanding, you could still review a show in the various venues and be confident that you'll avoid any repercussions with the show. I guess it all boils down to what you're expecting to accomplish... some compensation or such from the show, a venting to the show, an honest warning to others to beware/avoid a show... The answer here will guide you.
One year at the Rio Grande Festival Balloon Fest I was next to some guy demonstrating and selling fire starter sticks, no one saw me. However, which Balloon Fiesta show did you do?
There are two shows one run on the grounds of the "Fiesta" which is a mad house of long hours and few people unless it is lift-off time. The other show is across the highway at the Sandia Resort and Casino, runs two weekends and is run by Rio Grande Art Festivals, Ruth and her family. Ruth is very conscientious about her show and very approachable if there is a concern or need. The other show at the lift off park?
The Show was @ the Balloon Fiesta on the grounds. Yes a grueling schedule of long hours;made longer by the disorganized traffic to get into the park. The Artisan tent is in a disconnect.
Wow, this is just extremely sad to hear but not surprising. I hope they never do this to another Artist as well.