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Choochokam Arts Festival - Langley WA - July 2013

Now that we are at the end of July, I’m finally catching up on show reviews for July. Between having our house close on July 18th and having shows 3 out of the 4 weekends in July, I’ve definitely fallen behind on show reviews. This show is always held the weekend after 4th of July and with the 4th being on a Thursday this year, we decided to depart Seattle a day earlier and spend some R&R time on our favorite island, Whidbey Island. This year’s festival was scheduled for July 6-7.

The Choochokam Arts festival is all volunteer run and this year they changed directors. That turned out to be a bit of a fiasco, organization at this show has never been great, last year it seemed to be improving over prior years and it seemed like they were “getting their act together. This year’s organization was the worst it has been in the 5 years we’ve participated, organization and communication was horrible. At midnight on the 4th of July emails went out to most of the artists asking for their insurance. What? Yes, we had sent in our proof of insurance but they changed that to needing us to have them listed as a named insured. OK, so that meant Friday morning instead of enjoying a cup of coffee and lounging my morning away, I was having to deal with contacting our insurance company and then figuring out how to get a copy of it printed since we had already left our house and our printer behind. Then we received another email saying we hadn’t paid the last half of our booth fees, but could pay at check in on Friday evening. OK, no big deal, but really, you would have thought they realized they didn’t have all the artists fees yet. Normally I’m more on top of that and had realized a week or two before that we were never even notified about our booth location, payment or official acceptance. So I had emailed and finally received the load in info, but based on all the comments for a Face Book group I’m on, we were not the only ones with all the last minute notifications, etc. In fact, it sounds like almost everyone got the same emails. Gotta love Thursday midnight emails when Friday is a travel day and load in times are Friday night. With many of the artists battling Friday afternoon traffic through Seattle and then waiting for the ferry to Whidbey Island, that didn’t leave a lot of time to deal with the last minute show requirements. And for those artists who are procrastinators and still needed to pack or were trying to finish that one last piece??? Definitely added some unneeded stress for the artists.

Another big change for this year was the booth layout. In the past the booths on our street were all quads, this year they set them up in groups of 6 with the 2 inner booths being “dead zones” and that’s where they put all the new artists, including AFI’er Steph Mader. I’m guessing these inside booths only saw about ½ the foot traffic the rest of us saw. The show also seemed really excited that they added more booths and had more artists than ever before. That left a lot of scratching our heads, do they not realize that’s just less dollars per artist as they spread the spending out more????

With the additional booths, we were concerned that load in would be difficult so we took our time after checking in, knowing we would be among the last to load in based on our booth location. We had a leisurely dinner and then showed up to load in and had no issues. Most of the artists said it seemed better than prior years, although some still had to wait 30-60 minutes past their designated time to be able to drive to their spot. This is one of the shows where they really micro manage the load in, are a little more relaxed for load out. Again, due to the additional booths, load out was a bit more problematic this year, took us a little longer and we ended up parking a couple of booths away from our spot and having to hand cart things. Load in, they had volunteers available, would have loved to see a few more volunteers at load out when we were lugging our stuff around.

Overall we still had a good show, within $15 of last year’s total sales, however, many of the artists I talked to reported lower than normal sales for this event. It was the normal mixed bag of results, a few artists had one or two large sales that made their show, most of the newbies for this show weren’t happy, but that was due to booth placement. Our sales on Saturday were way off from previous years, Sunday sales were the best Sunday sales we’ve ever had at this show. We sold one of our $500 necklaces that a customer had to go home Saturday and think about, her husband talked into going back on Sunday and buying it!! We also had 2 fairly large sales to customers who had bought smaller items in the past and decided this was the year they were buying a bigger, more expensive piece, so we had fewer sales on Sunday compared to Saturday, but the average purchase per customer was triple the amount.

This is one of our favorite shows to participate in, location could not be better, but of course, we are somewhat partial to Whidbey Island. What’s not to like about island life? A little slower pace of life, beautiful scenery in all directions with the Puget Sound, Olympic and Cascade mountains, lots of charming little towns and an island that really supports artists. Will we do this again? Probably, it’s an expensive show to do with a $390 booth/license/application fee plus the ferry fees which for our truck / 5th wheel totaled $125 round trip, plus having to pay camping fees at the local fairgrounds, however ferry / camp fees are a lot less than the cost of a hotel on this island.

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Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on August 1, 2013 at 12:05pm

Thank for your review Ruth.  Sounds like things started off kind of hectic but ended up pretty well.  I love the Seattle area.  I have never been on the island, but maybe someday.

We are so glad that we are seeing you here again on AFI.  I hope life suits you both traveling around as nomads.  Where do you plan to base yourselves in the winter months?

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