I just finished exhibiting at the Belleville, IL, Art on the Square. Without a doubt, the artists' treatment, care, hospitality and wellbeing is paramount to the people who run this show. I can't really remember when I've had so much attention paid to my needs! From continual water, snacks, food, buffet meals, volunteer booth sitters, runners for cocoa - it just doesn't get much better than what Patty Gregory, the director and chief cheerleader, and her seemingly endless number of concerned helpers will do for us street urchins! And the buffets - Sat. night for the high school art exhibit to the Sun. awards banquet - I gained weight from all of the tasty foods offered to us artists. And the pre-show money raised in non-refundable tickets sold solely for the purchase of art: $104,000!!!
Even in the bitter cold winds and ceaseless drizzle (more about the weather later), volunteers were always available to take of our needs, even to watching our booth while we made a mad dash to the port-a-potties or to grab a bite to eat from the nearby food booths (which had good - and hot food at reasonable prices).
Unfortunately, the weather was a total downer. On Thurs., those of us who wanted to set up could do so. We had from about noon on. It was hot - 86F - and humid. The weather forecast was for some winds and a lot of light rain/drizzle from Fri. night to Sun. night, with a storm front hitting the area late Thurs. night
And the storm did hit! The boomers woke me up about 2 AM. Concerned for my booth, though I had cross braces, cement blocks, a bunch of sandbags (also another thoughtful consideration by the show folks) and a Lite Dome booth, at 2:30 AM, I found it to be taking the wind without a problem. Not so for a lot of other booths. There were a number of them with corners bent under, EZ-Ups mashed, even Lite Domes and Trimlines tossed about, with several of them spun around or upside down. The wind was howling and the rain relentless. Much of the damage, even to the better tents, came from poorly weighted corners and so many artists didn't use the sandbags offered in huge numbers or used them inadequately.
In spite of terrible conditions, there were about a half dozen Belleville firefighters and another half dozen Belleville police officers, plus a number of the volunteer show staff - all of them valiantly struggling to save tents. A lot of artwork was loaded into police vans and carried to the police station to protect it.
I can't say enough good things about all of these people - watching them get soaked and battered by the wind while trying to save artists' tents. Even the mayor came at about 3 AM and went to work helping out!
Well, Fri. night was chilly, so the public turnout, from artists who had done the show before, was down a bit.
Sat. and Sun.: temps in the low 50s, with a windchill factor near freezing from 15-25 mph gusts and almost non-stop drizzle (when it blows horizontal most of the day, everything and everyone gets wet) really reduced the size of the crowd. From the artists I talked to, sales were from down a little to down a lot. BTW, Fri. night is patrons' night, Sat. seems to be for folks coming from St. Louis and Sun. is when the local towns come to the show.
The forecast for the show? I don't think anyone will hesitate to apply again next year. According to Patty Gregory, over the years, the average temp for the show is 77F. - always a good temp! I didn't do well, but I'll be sending in that jury fee next year! How could I not, what with treatment like I received. Now, I just have to lose that weight....