Hi, all. I've been doing something my engineer ex-husband calls "accelerated life testing" on my new show setup. My tent, walls, and artwork have been all set up out in my back yard continuously for a little over a month now. We've had several days of high winds, a few thunderstorms, a monsoon or two, some freezing nights, and some very hot/muggy days during that time. I've learned a lot about what works well and what will withstand the vagaries of Midwest outdoor weather. Thought I'd post my results here for those trying to make decisions on what to purchase for their own setups. I know lots of people here have lots of experience with weekend or three-day setups, but leaving everything in place for a solid month is a different kind of test that I thought would prove useful.

I have a Trimline with four walls. Each wall has the middle zipper. The front wall has three panels so that I can make a door for shows where it's raining hard enough to worry about my art but not hard enough to go home. I have an awning on the front as well. I got the stabars and also the EZ riser kit. I was able to erect the canopy on my own, but it was tough. I am 53 years old, 5'3", and overweight. But I was still able to accomplish it. To help keep the walls in place, I used small bungees in the grommet holes at the bottom middle of each wall to secure it to the stabar. That little touch really made a difference in keeping the walls from flapping too much during high wind. I also put the little tent stakes that come with the canopy at the bottom inside corner of the side pieces of the front wall and bungeed those in place when the walls are closed up. 

For the first two weeks the tent was set up, I used the four long screw-in tent stakes. Tent didn't budge, even during 70 mph wind gusts for two days in a row. For the last two weeks, I've been using the John Deere suitcase weights. I'm thrilled with these. Tent still hasn't budged, even though the wind is gusting away outside as I type this. While the weights are very heavy and I can only move one around at a time, I'm really surprised at how small and compact they are. About the size of a 600-page hardback book. They actually fit inside my tent, between the stabar and the propanel. Nice for situations where your assigned space is precisely 10x10. I have them bungeed to both the vertical leg of the tent and the horizontal stabar. With the tent walls down and Velcro'd in place, the JD weights are pretty much invisible.

I'm using knock-down MD Propanels. I didn't put up three contiguous walls, but did something slightly different, with half of the back wall forward 2-1/2 feet to make a little cubby in the back as my work/wrap area, and one panel in the front, facing the sidewalk/walkway. I used an extra crossbar (three total) on the top to add stability and I also used a generous amount of canopy hooks. The walls haven't moved. Again, I've spent time out in the tent during bad weather and, while the walls do "wuffle" a little, they don't move nearly enough to make me concerned for my artwork. I've actually been out there when a big gust just smacks the tent like a giant hand out of the sky, and, yes, the whole setup kind of shifts, but then everything just shifts back and is fine.

I bought several of the bins that attach to the propanels for use as small print bins. These are just awesome. They completely eliminate the need for tables, tablecloths, and tabletop print bins, and, IMO, give the booth a much more professional and cohesive look.

I started out with drapery hooks and Velcro on the bottom corner of each framed print. That lasted all of two days. I lost five framed pieces because they fell off the wall. The glass actually broke in two of them. I must have had 20 small cuts and bruises to my poor fingers, and repositioning those hooks is murder. Not to mention that the heavier pieces were actually making the carpet pull away from the walls. So I went looking for something better -- and I found it. I bought 100 ProHangers from prohanger.net. Those things are the greatest thing ever! For my heaviest pieces, I use as many as five of them in a row. They are wonderful, though. So easy to position and reposition. And -- just like the website says -- NO MORE SORE FINGERS! I also used small pieces of industrial-strength self-adhesive Velcro on the bottom back corner of each piece. I tested that these can be easily removed after sale, and they can. Having the Velcro on the bottom helps keeps the pieces from sliding around during high wind too. Since installing those nearly four weeks ago, not one piece of art has fallen or even changed position!

I've attached my jury booth photo to give everybody an idea of how I've used everything. In actual usage, there is one more large freestanding print bin, identical to the one at the back left, that sits in front of the wall bins on the right side, but I took that out for the jury photo. Otherwise, except for a candy dish, business card holder, pen holder, and receipt book, all on my desk, and my director's chair behind the desk, what you see in the photo is what my booth actually looks like on show day. Oh, I also cloned out the edge of the little table behind the left wall, just to keep things looking clean for the jury photo. In reality, you can see that there is a table back there.

Hopefully, this report will be useful to others. My first show with this setup is in just over a week. I can't wait!

P.S. I also bought a used Dodge Ram 1500 cargo van after I got everything set up because I realized there is no way on earth all this stuff will ever fit in my every-day car. The van is essentially just a big metal box on wheels. Driver and passenger seat, and not much else. I got a shockingly good deal on an older van with less than 100k miles that had belonged to a construction contractor. I found it on craigslist. My brother is an auto mechanic, so I had him give it a good going-over before I bought it, and it passed inspection with just a couple of minor repairs. One of the biggest headaches for me last year was packing and unpacking my car (a PT Cruiser with the back seat removed). It took extra long because I had to do it just so or it all wouldn't fit. Such a PITA. Not to mention either driving it all around during the week or unpacking it all and trying to pile it up in the garage when I wanted to go grocery shopping or whatever. Now I can just throw it all in the van and leave it there between shows. Yay! I'm debating ways to install some bins/boxes/frames of some kind to hold framed prints safely during transport, but that's a project for another day right now.

Small Cropped Booth Shot.jpg

You need to be a member of Art Fair Insiders to add comments!

Join Art Fair Insiders

Votes: 0
Email me when people reply –


  • Excellent post!

  • This is such a wonderful write-up!! Thank you for taking the time to do it. I am just in the beginning stages of considering a booth re-design and the use of ProPanels. Please update this thread with any insight gained once you use the booth at a show!

    • Will do, Jan. The setup is coming down this Thursday to pack up for Saturday's show. I'll post anything relevant at that point. One thing I would probably do differently now is that I'd buy the full-size walls instead of the knock-down panels. At the time I bought them, I was planning to transport them in my car; I didn't yet have the van. Now that I have the van, the full-size walls would fit. I will probably try to leave the knock-down panels hooked together to save time. We'll see how practical that is ...

  • Deborah, thank you for writing such a thorough review of your experiment and experience.  I'm a newbie to the art shows, and trying to soak up as much information as possible.  You've given me lots to take notes on!  Love the booth shot -- looks very clean, practical and professional!

    • I'm so happy you find it useful, Cricket. There are so many possibilities and options out there. It can be really daunting trying to figure out what works best for you. I spent months drawing things up on paper and reading websites and trying to imagine how it would all work together. But it's still not the same as actually putting it up and using it. I feel very well prepared and ready for my first show with the new setup now that I've "played artshow" for several weeks. It's been a very worthwhile experience.

  • Wow!!  Thank you for such a great review!  So very helpful to read your experiences.
    • I'm glad you found it helpful, Morgan. It's been a real eye-opening experience for me. After doing over a dozen shows last year with a home-made setup of covered gridwalls, tables w/tablecloths and tabletop print pins, freestanding canvas print racks, et cetera, I decided that I needed to rethink and restart from the ground up. I decided to really invest in my booth and go with the best I could find and afford. I'm extraordinarily happy with the results. I've invited family, friends, and neighbors over to make pretend sales and get opinions, and it's really been invaluable. Not to mention it has reassured my neighbors that the big white tent in my back yard is not a greenhouse for growing or raising something illicit! :-D

      One thing I forgot to mention in the first report was that the expandable crossbars at the top of the propanels need to be arranged in a certain way. After the very first night, I came out the next morning to find one crossbar just lying on the ground. I was horrified to think that that could have happened during a show and hit someone on the head, or damaged a print hanging on the wall. Nothing was damaged, thank goodness, but I needed to reexamine the way I had them arranged to prevent that from happening again. I don't know how well you can discern it from the picture, but the two crossbars actually make an "x" from corner to corner on the left-hand side. Since the back wall on that side is essentially freestanding, without the ability to connect it to the top of the canopy, I wanted to make it as stable as I could; which is why I added the third crossbar to the standard package. What I discovered is that by putting the crossbar for that wall underneath the other crossbar, and then putting the canopy hooks over the corner connections of the second crossbar, everything stays in place quite nicely. I had it the other way around at first, and, apparently, small movements of the tent caused the uppermost crossbar to work loose and fall down.

      Lesson learned. And fortunately, without any lasting consequences. That all by itself has made this little exercise pay for itself, IMHO. ;-)

This reply was deleted.