Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
We had that show that is near my house. It has been a bad weekend all around for the artists, the organizer, the shoppers, EVERYONE. Oh, and the weather was a major player too. Where do I start.
Let's start with the weather. It was predicted it would begin raining on this past Wednesday through Friday, I think. Then the rain did not come on Wednesday. It started on Thursday night. Much better, right? Noooooo. The rain came hard, winds, and before Friday was over there were reports of hail in our area the size of 1/2 dollar. On our personal rain gauge it said it rained at a rate of 8" per hour for about 10-15 minutes.
Let me begin by saying that this show has been going on for 20 or more years. It is held every Palm Sunday weekend on Saturday only and the first Saturday of November. It is a fundraiser for one of the plantation homes in our town. It is in fact a very big deal to them having funds to operate. It has been successful and has 300+ booths, hot cooked food to purchase, tours of the plantation, and more. They handle all food sales with volunteers from service organizations manning the food booths (Rotary, schools, etc.). We started doing this show in 2013.
We decided that since it was not supposed to rain Friday morning that we'd go and get a head start on setting up, rather than do it all this morning. So about 1/2 hour after arriving it began to drizzle. We had put down a tarp on the ground in the booth, also our Astroturf. We put up the sides, a tarp over the top, weights on all corners, etc. All the things we are "supposed" to do. We did not put any of our stock in the tent, thankfully. It rained off and on all day Friday and into the night.
We went back over about 6:40 this morning to prepare for the 8:00 AM open time. As we approached our booth I was just ahead of dh, who was pulling a wagon loaded with booth stuff. I looked for our booth and was confused. The area did not look like we had left it. It was all .... messed up. I realized our booth had collapsed in the night. It was awful. It was totally lost, totally unsalvageable. Fortunately, we lost only a tent, no loss of life or limb. We decided right then to notify the director what happened and why we were not staying, then the tear down process. Everyone we know who now knows about it has been totally sympathetic and concerned for our welfare. There were others who lost their tent and more.
The grounds of the venue, the plantation, were/are miserably soggy, ankle deep in water in some places. It was a miserable place to be. There were many spots that were empty, due to artists not wanting to risk their art, as is understandable. There were some booths that were empty because they have low spots, which makes them have standing water when it rains this much, this close to a show. It was awful. I felt bad for fellow artists and crafters, as much as I did for myself.
Some of the artists and crafters called on the host to delay the show a day. Of course there are many reasons not to delay the show:
1) Some/many of the artists must get on the road home or to other commitments
2) the volunteers may have other commitments the next day
3) security is contracted
4) insurance purposes
5) rented equipment
6) and many more.
Actually if the powers that be had decided to wait to hold the show Sunday and my tent had remained intact I would have been okay with that. However, the show went on as scheduled.
There ended up being a lot of finger pointing, anger, confusion about why the board continued with the show. The grounds are shot with tire tracks and ruts. I am sure that whatever group you look at you’ll find a good percentage of them mad.
The other thing is the staff and board putting on the show. The director is new to her job. The assistant director is new. The word on the street is that the previous director left nothing for the new director to work with for this show. Word on the street says she was in over her head and knew it.
There were posts on Facebook from confused and angry artists that were deleted. I saw them before they were deleted then saw the angry response from the original poster over the deletion. I think at that point it was a matter of damage control. Damage was done on all sides I think.
Personally I did not respond on Facebook. I decided to resist the temptation to reply, not that I am better than anyone. However, many times we have all seen statements or questions on Facebook blow up over being misunderstood. I am not at a point I want to burn bridges with this place. Now, if someone directly asks me my opinion I’ll give it to them. If I am asked advice and I have something worth sharing, I’ll share. There are some people I know personally who have been to this show as artists that I have spoken with face to face or private texts that how I feel about things.
This particular venue had a poor last show due to weather but not to the extent of this show. It has not rained prior (or very little) but did rain the day of the show. It cost this venue plenty in gate fees thus less foot traffic, lack of food sales, grounds rutted up from vehicles, etc. Attendance last fall was about 25% of what it normally is. I would guess that today was about the same or worse.
My concern over back to back poor shows is a certain reputation getting out whether it’s valid or not. One poor show can happen to any organizer or any venue on any given day. When you have 2 in a row I believe word, gossip, starts to get out. I may be wrong but I believe now after 2 poor shows that artists will pull out, never to return. Then as they pull out new artists will begin to question why so many are not returning. They will begin to ask questions, some of which will get accurate responses and some will get gossip.
One more thing that happened is this. The venue puts out a program with a map of the grounds and it’s pretty accurate. It also has a 2-page list of all the artists with his or her name and booth number. The layout of the artist/booth list has worked for a very long time. It was easy to figure out and if you advertised your booth number in social media or other publications, it was easy enough for someone to find your listing by your booth number. Someone, not sure who, got really creative and changed the whole format of the artist/booth listing. I had seen the original listing quite a few times. This new one was harder to decipher because instead of having columns going down the page in numerical order of the booths, it went across the page. Some booth numbers were skipped, not sure why unless they were not filled at the time of printing.
When I picked up my packed Friday morning I picked up on of the programs and was looking at the map. The volunteer, a gracious mature lady, said something about it being different and how she was not sure why they did that. I told her then and there it was confusing and that they had screwed it up.
Since we got home we have done some things to remedy our plight. Dh started pulling the tent sides out to hose them down. I took our drapes and table covers (still in their bag) which got totally wet and started washing them. We got our boxes of product out and on tables in the garage. The cardboard boxes the coasters were in were softening due to the humidity event though they remained in the truck in the camper shell. We unboxed all of them.
I decided to make lemonade out of lemons by having a Flash Sale. I went to social media and announced it for this afternoon. I did make a whopping $40, plus one friend arranged to purchase and pick up $24 worth of car coasters. Back on Thursday, I think, another friend had ordered $24 worth of car coasters. So, I’ve made just over ½ of my booth fee. It is not a total loss but I was hoping for much better.
Fortunately for us this was our last outdoor show of the season. I have an indoor show next month that is 3 days. It is my first time there and I am looking forward to it. It is supposed to be upscale shopping.
Now is the time for us to start looking for a new tent and insurance. No, I did not have insurance so that is what makes this even harder. I am going to back to the forum over the next few days and weeks to read up on insurance and tents.
More pics to come.