Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
I hope the analysis in this review will be helpful to artists new to the business. This was the 43rd annual Art in the Park. Steamboat Springs is better known as a ski destination and a number of Olympic skiers call it home. During the summer, river activities, cycling, hiking and golf are popular resort activities. A lot of wealthy people have summer homes in Steamboat Springs, and many own horses. Access to Steamboat Springs is by I70 and US40 from Denver, and US40 from Utah. The show is held in West Lincoln Park along the Yampa River.
The show is managed by the Steamboat Springs Arts Council and there has been turnover in their personnel from prior years. A hot-air balloon festival and the continuous PRC weekend rodeo are concurrent. There was complimentary coffee and goodies in the morning provided by a local grocer.
Application to the show is through Zapplication. There is a $35 jury fee and single booth fee is $300. Application deadline was May 15th with notification May 22. This is late for the Colorado summer season. There are about 160 booths. Set up is on Friday and the show runs from 9-5 on Saturday and 9-4 on Sunday.
The weather in Steamboat is typical of Colorado mountains in the summer. Afternoon thunder showers are common, and daytime temperatures are usually in the 70s to low 80s. This year there was only a brief thunder shower Saturday while the sun stayed out. It was hot Saturday and Sunday in the mid 80’s without the usual afternoon cloud cover.
Booths are arranged around the perimeter of the park and around a manmade lake. There are sulfurous springs in the park. If you have silver, you need to request booth space away from the springs.
I first did Art in the Park in 1998, and because I sold two saddles it was a $7K show (closer to $12K at today’s prices). I did not return because the sales of other items were not strong. I went back in 2005 after looking at booth pictures and realized my sales were weak because my inventory was sparse in 1998. I did the show continuously seven more years from 2006 to 2014 with sales ranging from $2.4K to $4.0K:
I had concerns about the show, so we decided to give it a break and go to Jackson, WY in July 2015 and 2016. The plan was to then alternate Jackson and Steamboat Springs. The historical sales told me this should be a $3K-$4K show, but a lot has changed in the last two years.
Set Up, Take Down & Parking
Check in was at 12:00 noon on Friday. Traffic to unload is well controlled and at most, you have to dolly about 1/2 block, but the grass in the park can be thick, and dollies with small wheels are difficult to move. During the show, artists park in lots a couple blocks away and take a free shuttle back to the park. There was plenty of space behind booths for storage. Take down was well managed. You were not allowed to bring your vehicle into the parking lots until you were ready to load up. It looked like parking on US40 was first come that got the spaces.
This year, Routt County 4-H kids were there to help unload and set up. I grabbed two teens who looked like sturdy ranch kids and they pushed the loaded dolly for me. They earned a $20 tip for about 40 minutes work. I lent the dolly to them for other jobs.
Prior to the show I did not receive all of the documents needed for city sales tax in May. I emailed them and did not receive what I asked for, but did get a lengthy PDF with the document in there. The person I dealt with was gone by July. The city sent me an email that ended up in junk and got deleted with the 300-500 other emails that come in every day. I finally got the issue resolved a few days before the show by calling the city.
The first red flag I saw was the condition of the park. I have always liked the Steamboat show because you could kick off your shoes and work in the cool green grass for set up. This year there were large dead spots and lots of dandelions and thistles. A jeweler neighbor was digging the thistles out of her booth space as stickers and sandals did not mix. It has been a dry spring in Colorado, but the park has sprinklers.
The next issue was set up. About a dozen artists were in line at noon to check in which went ok. Most of us had been there about 1-2 hours early. When we get to our vehicles in the parking lot, a volunteer tells us we can’t unload because he is “waiting for a truck”. This guy was really rude too! I had my 4-H kids hand carry stuff and load the dolly over a small fence and never stepped into the traffic lane. I complained to management.
Finally there was my neighbor who really got a raw deal. We both applied under the category of “Fiber”. She had been to the show last year and they knew her to have leather. So, show management places Sherer Custom Saddles, Inc., the professional saddle maker with 58 years’ experience, next to the leather crafter. You would think that my business name would have clued management in that I was also “leather”. I felt bad for my neighbor, as she did not have good sales.
Finally there was the show crowd. Noticeably lacking were the wealthy professionals, lawyers, real estate people and ranchers. There are several businessmen who are “gentlemen ranchers” using their ranches as tax shelters around Steamboat. I only made one sale of a $275 silver mounted hat band to one of their trophy wives this year, and they are usually some of my best customers. I talked with some locals I know, and they confirmed that the moneyed people have stopped coming to the show because it has become “too crafty”. I noticed this too, even though there were also high-end artists there like myself, because of historic good sales. I talked to some artists who had $0 sales which used to be unheard of at this show.
The bottom line is I will not return to the Steamboat show until I hear from other artists that it has recovered.
This year my gross sales were $2.5K and that barely met my minimum for returning to a show of $1.2K average sales/day. I had 42 sales, the same as the last time I did the show in 2014, but instead of average sale of $85, this year it was only $61. Also, I cannot remember a show where I have not had 6-10 post show special orders to make up. At this one there were no holsters, no belts, just zip.
I have always enjoyed going to Steamboat Springs. It is a neat trip across the mountains and up the valley along the Blue River. Then there is Rabbit Ears Pass and now half of one ears is gone. These are spires of volcanic rocks named back in the 19th century. Freezing, thawing and gravity took its toll this winter and half of one of the ears collapsed. We took Monday off and spent the night at Hot Sulphur Springs, CO. The springs were visited by the Ute Indians, and Anglos began developing them in 1840. There are 21 mineral pools with temperatures ranging from 98-112 degrees. We spent most of our time in the 105-112 pools relaxing. I really needed the break.