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

A Tale of Two Shows: Part II - Lamb's Farm Craft Show

33rd Annual Lambs Farm Holiday Lights Gift & Craft Fair - Dec. 6-8: Arlington Heights, IL

This event has been around for a long time and supports the Lambs Farm, a non-profit organization serving people with developmental disabilities. I've had it on my radar to attend for awhile now. It is held indoors at the Arlington Racecourse, a very attractive venue. My art fair friend Sandy Dunstone and I attended on Saturday and there were huge crowds spread over 3 levels with a reported 500 booths.

I'll let the photos tell the story, but basically there were a lot of Christmas decorations, lots and lots of food vendors who had prepared products that would make good gifts, commercial vendors (think Cutco, Chicago Tribune, Pampered Chef, etc. There were even people who had purchased products, e.g., cake pans in boxes, pet treats, for sale in their booth). 

What I learned is that this event brings in busloads of people to shop (I could see evidence of that in the size of the crowds), but that it used to be run by Arts Plus, a local art organization. Now it is run by Tower Show Productions and from the looks of it there is no saying "no" to anyone who sends in a check. There is an admission fee of $8.

Booth fees start at $450 for prime placement on the first floor and I believe they may be only $250 on the third floor. 

Over the past several months I have lost 4 pair of earrings so I was definitely shopping for some replacements but almost every jewelry booth (and there were a lot) looked the same! Swarovski crystals everywhere, Michael's beads strung about, etc. It was hard to believe I wasn't going to score here. I took very few photos and when I did a quick video of some work that I thought caught the flavor of the event an exhibitor asked me to delete it. I suppose protecting his one of a kind work, that to me looked like five other people's.

Learn more about this show:

Were there people making money? Of course, folks! Big crowds getting good deals means some people are doing fine and they have the right product for the marketplace. 

We spoke with many exhibitors, some who had participated in it before the organization running it changed hands. No one seemed displeased with it. Yes, they said, it was better before the great recession, but it was great to sleep at home and be able to make a decent profit. 

Did we spend money? Well, yes we did. It was a great place to pick up some Christmas gifts. 

On CBS Sunday Morning a few weeks ago they did a segment about discounts and getting shopping deals over the years. The summation basically was everyone wants a good deal and a bargain and they go looking for them. If you think you can sell in an atmosphere like this this may be the show for you. Just think about it: you can be part of the OOAK Show and spend $2500+ or be in Arlington and spend $400. 

What do you think would work for you?

(See Part I about the One of a Kind Show in Chicago this same weekend right here:

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Comment by Connie Mettler on October 29, 2014 at 3:56pm

Aisha, the lesson is to always check here first. We don't have everything but we are a solid resource. Use the search box and put in the name of the show to find it. If you see my post here about "tags" you'll learn why.

It all depends on what your expenses are and your price point. They do get a lot of shoppers. If you're a beginner at this business it might be worth it for what you will learn, lots of lessons here.

Comment by aisha ahmed on October 29, 2014 at 3:20pm

i wish i had found this article sooner. I was looking for a winter art fair and someone told me that i should apply to  Lambs Farm Holiday. I already paid and i am selling handmade ceramics. Do you think i should still go ahead with it or back out. Any suggestions are much appreciated. Thanks

Comment by Christina L. Towell on January 31, 2014 at 8:59am

Okay, good to know...btw, if I'm still in town next year, I'd love to go along...

Comment by Connie Mettler on January 29, 2014 at 11:08pm

No, I won't go back, Tina. There were a lot of things that I can find locally, if I want them at all. If I'm trekking to Chicago with all the expenses involved it will be OOAK for me AND on that weekend I'd hoped to visit 3 shows and ran out of time. Next time it will be One of a Kind and the Renegade Craft Show. I think this event used to be better but I found it very discouraging to see booths with obviously purchased goods. I mean, booths with pet products that looked like they'd been purchased at some outlet?? and metal cake pans in their packaging? This isn't even stealthy buy/sell.

Comment by Christina L. Towell on January 29, 2014 at 9:24am

Ah, the long awaited Part Deux...sounds like fun, Connie.  I saw that same CBS Sunday Morning show and my take-away was that no one wants to pay full price for anything anymore.  The American public has been conditioned to only buy merchandise when it's "on sale".  With that in mind, I marked down some of my own creations at a local gift shop but had  abysmally lackluster sales nonetheless. Sounds like you found some great deals and cool gifts...would you go back again next year?

Comment by Connie Mettler on January 29, 2014 at 7:05am

That is kind of what I feared, Rich. The people on the top layer did not seem happy, although it was warmer up there and the booths cost less. Not a good place though. It was busy on the second floor, but there was a maze to the layout. 

Yes, we bought wind chimes, Christmas decorations, small gifts, a plastic windshield scraper, handmade body lotion, Geri. My one unhappy moment was when I wanted to spend about $60 and low on cash (we were just coming from 2 days in Chicago and already been to the OOAK show and we had another day before we went home) and the seller didn't take credit cards, but said they would take a check. Who carries a checkbook these days? I did not make that purchase.

Comment by Rich Terry on January 28, 2014 at 5:23pm

I did this show for the first few years when Tower took it over after the defunct Art Plus went under. I was on the second floor with continued promises of a place on the first floor and after 3 years of those promises and the numerous fights and conflicts over the single freight elevator to serve the two upper floors I said never again. I carried my entire booth down the stairs and out to my trailer before the people next to me ever got their first load on the elevator. 

Comment by geri a. wegner on January 28, 2014 at 4:33pm

My partner in crime  goes to this one every years and finds fun stuff.  We aren't talking art festival quality or craftsmanship but you can find fun stocking stuffers.   

Comment by Connie Mettler on January 28, 2014 at 9:59am

My apologies for taking so long to post this. I had a video also that I was waiting to edit and now can't find it. In addition, it was very cold in Chicago that weekend, around 8 degrees, yet there was a very good attendance at the show. Chicagoans love their art and craft shows and will attend regardless of the weather. 

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