My first ever festival was this one day event this past Saturday in Boulder's Central Park. Held monthly in conjunction with the farmers' market, this was the first of seven events for 2010, and the only one I was invited to (wait listed for 4 more).
For those of you who aren't familiar with Colorado, there are a few
things that you should know. First, there are many things that folks
in other states take for granted that are completely optional here,
such as road maintenance, road markings, and snow plowing. This is
demonstrated by the fact that we had to 4-wheel it all the way off
the mountain through about 4 inches of snow on the road, we encountered
a small rock slide on a state highway near our home, and the entire
trip up Hwy. 93 I couldn't tell what lane I was in thanks to a light
Second, the joke here is that if you don't like the weather here, just
wait 5 minutes 'cause it will change. Unfortunately this resulted in
me wearing snow boots in 65 degree weather all the way through tear
Third, Denverites make a lot of jokes about the Free Republic of Boulder. Depending on your point of view, this may be true.
So, after obsessing about the weather and a winter storm at my home 30 miles away from Boulder in the foothills, we found zero precipitation when we arrived at 5:15 AM. Because the regular festival manager wasn't there (home sick) and and a large number of vendor cancellations due to possible inclement weather (nearly half), there was a small amount of confusion at the outset. Once booth assignments were adjusted for the no-shows, folks went to work pretty quickly. Set-up began around 6:00, and the art/craft exhibitors had to be unloaded by 6:30 when the farmers arrived and took over 13th Street. Parking was a few blocks away in the RTD parking garage. My husband shuttled both of our vehicles over there while I began set up. Once unloaded, we had until 8:00 when the market opened to finish up. As for load in & set up, it was pretty easy. We could park at the curb and carry our things across the sidewalk and up a small hill. We were set up towards the Canyon Blvd. end of 13th Street facing the backs of the farmers' booths, which were set up down either side of 13th St. We were required to have either stakes of weights for our booths, but with the hill I was placed on it became clear that if we weighted the front the booth would collapse down the hill (even with shims), and we could only get one stake to hold thanks to about 6 inches of bark mulch underneath us. Fortunately there was nothing behind us so we took most of our weights out back and tied down to them. The down side of this was that we couldn't zip up the back wall of the canopy.
The first thing that I noticed after set-up was that my booth and display were way more complex than the others. EZ Ups? You bet. Plus there were backyard mosquito huts and shade awnings. Second, I was the only photographer. Third, I was the only non-crafter. Fourth, my price points were way too high.
I was in between an silver spoon wind chime booth and a scrapbook style greeting card booth. Once the crowd picked up around 11:00, I got plenty of traffic, lots of positive feedback and a few leads, but absolutely zero sales. The wind chime folks sold a couple of pieces, the soap lady down the way was really working on making her booth fee (not sure she made it), and the card ladies on my other side just made the booth fee off of $2.50 to $5.00 items. And this was after the sun came out and gave us a glorious warm and dry afternoon until the market closed at 2:00.
Tear down and load out was similar to load in: we had to wait for the farmers to clear the street and then shuttle our cars in from the parking garage.
All in all this was a good learning experience for me. I know that I need some lower priced items now. I also know that this was way too much work for my set up and will probably eschew the one day festivals from now on. The interaction with the good people of Boulder was fascinating. It truly does take all kinds. And my thanks go out to the lovely people at the Dushanbe Tea House who opened up their restrooms to the vendors and public with a smile, even though we were traipsing right through the middle of their restaurant.
So to sum up: if you are a local crafter with low to mid priced tactile items and a simple booth set up, you may do very well at this festival. Folks are not in the fine art or big purchase mode when visiting the market, even if you do take credit cards. And don't be afraid to show up if there's an iffy weather forecast - I went home in snow boots with a sunburn.