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Francisco's Farm Arts Festival, Midway, KY (June 26 and 27)

Traveling the show circuit you soon become aware that some shows are managed extremely well. Francisco's Farm Arts Festival is one of those shows. The show takes place on the grassy grounds of Midway College in Midway, KY, a very nice setting. This is one of those community shows, run by volunteers, where the entire community embraces it... there are other gems like this: Medina, OH; Williamsburg, VA; or Belleville, IL come to mind. Many of these shows hover under the radar of the big rating sites so word about them is passed on like folklore from artist to artist.

It was the 7th year for the show. Local sponsorship by area businesses was solid, which kept the cost down for artists (booth fee is $150). I was impressed with this show... knowing all the thought and planning that had gone into making the experience positive and hopefully enterprising for the artists. Seldom do you meet a group of volunteers who are as friendly and hospitable. There
must have been 50 volunteers working this show and each knew their role and worked hard to make the show as pleasant as they could for the artists and patrons who visited. There was a sense of pride on the part of the volunteers from Marcie Christensen (show director) on down ... it was their show.

So where is Midway, KY? Well, it's in the middle, midway between Lexington, KY (20 min.) and Louisville, KY (60 min.)...pretty country but it's out there. Because of its location, the show has the challenge of developing a marketing strategy and reputation that can draw folks from outlying
towns and cities. Surprisingly, most of the folks who visited my booth were from outlying areas and yes, several came from as far Louisville and Cincinnati.

About 150 artists attended and many like myself had returned; it was my 2nd year. The quality of the art was solid and mediums were balanced. I would say, most of the artists I met were local, an hour or two away but the show's web site indicates that artist came from 14 different states. I had traveled some distance to get to the show and my neighbor (fabric artist) came up from North Carolina, about 8 hours away. My other neighbor was local. There is a fun group of artists from the Lexington and Louisville area who participate in this show. It's a treat to be around artists that are so positive.

So how were the sales? The weather was hot...I mean, real hot (90 -95degrees!) A good number of the booths were out in the direct sun and I'm sure sales were affected. This made for slow sales, especially on Sunday. However, most of the southern artists seems to take the heat in stride and have created elaborate cooling systems in their booths... multiple fans that run off a marine battery. By the end of the weekend, I had battery envy.

The artists around me seemed pleased with sales and finished in the 2 to 3K range. For me, my expensive items, in the 300 to 600 range, sold again and again. I had a good strong show and finished in the 3 to 5K range (up from last year). Though money was spent by patrons, folks were cautious about their spending. I'll get a better sense on how other artists did, later. This is one of the few shows that I've participated in that aggressively collects financial data and comments from artists and then generates a report a few months later back to the artists showing the sale ranges for different mediums.

Amenities: You could stay in college housing for $45 per night and many artists enjoyed convenience of on the grounds housing and free breakfast..a big breakfast but you're staying in a dorm. Sorry Nels, this is an alcohol free campus... but there are some good places in town. You can get Sam Adams on tap at Duggans and it went down real smooth after a hot set up on Friday. Dinner was provided to all artists on setup day, catered by a local restaurant. On Saturday, artists were encouraged to head into town and enjoy the local cuisine... a smart strategy for bringing business to local establishments. Six other artist and myself enjoyed a fantastic meal at Bistro La Bella (a little pricey but YUM). The show had music, GOOD music, a nice mix and not too loud.

Things that need changing: Layout was confusing. It was modified this year because of construction on campus. You had to pay attention to make it to every nook and cranny and a few booths somehow got lopped off the main flow of the show to an outlying area... those artists did not do well. I suspect that next year the construction will be over and the flow of the show will return to its previous flow.

Attendance could be better. It was light, especially in the afternoon and went down to a trickle by 4PM each day. That said, my largest sales came at the closing bell on each day.

From my perspective, this is a show to pay attention to. Would I do the show again? Hell yes! It is well organized, has community backing, and an increasing and faithful following.

If you were there, tell us how things went from your perspective?


Views: 739

Comment by Nels Johnson on June 29, 2010 at 6:59am
nice review, it does sound like a little jewel. Frankly when it gets that hot, you are lucky to do any sales. Sounds like good food choices downtown.
Comment by Megan Martin on June 29, 2010 at 8:40am
Thank you for an honest and thorough review... I'm going to add this one to my list of shows to apply for next year.
Comment by Jennifer Simpson on June 30, 2010 at 11:50am
I just got back from this show as well - I'm a mixed media artist (hand painted photographs) and this was my first time doing the show. The volunteers here were AMAZING. I think they had way more than fifty though - according to the lovely flyer they printed out and distributed they have over 200 volunteers that help every year. You don't get to drive up to your booth to load or unload but everyone is assigned one of 5 'loading zones' - when you pull up you are immediately greeted by volunteers driving golf carts that unload your car and take your tent, etc. to your spot. This was a first for me lol. During the festival a group of volunteers is assigned several artists booths which they go by and check in on often. I had 3 different volunteers coming by every hour or so the first day to see if I needed anything. A little less frequently on Sunday but they were still very attentive and concerned.

There was great signage to the show - I had all my directions printed out but didn't even need to use them once I got off the interstate because there was a festival sign at every turn. There was also a giant banner downtown welcoming everyone to the festival - I got the impression that this is a highly anticipated and well received event as well.

My sales were decent - I would have liked to have done more but the crowds just weren't there. I actually did almost all of my sales the last hour of the last day so I spent most of the time thinking that it was going to be a very well run show with not great sales. None of the artists around me were happy with their sales either - maybe we were in one of those zones that weren't getting much traffic? I don't know. I chalked it up to the weather - it was EXTREMELY hot and humid although Sunday was better than Saturday because there was a breeze. It seemed like there were quite a few people there in the mornings (especially Saturday morning ) but anyone who came after that was walking around with sweat rolling off their faces and a 'lets just get through this' look. I also talked to other artists who've done the show in previous years, they said their sales were way down this year, that the crowds just weren't there. One thing that I thought was strange as well is that I didn't hardly sell any canvases. Normally my 25x25 canvases ($285) are my best sellers and I only sold one. My prints were really the only thing that was moving which isn't usually my experience at all. I did get a wholesale order for several canvases at the end of the show which was awesome, it made up for my lack of sales during the show.

I would definitely do the show again - it's only about 4 hours away (I'm in East TN), it's well run, and maybe once I build up a bit of a following in the area it will be a great show for me.
Comment by Phyllis Minnery on July 5, 2010 at 8:11pm
I did the show as well, and yes it was hot, but they do allow generators, and our Honda ran all weekend. This is my fifth year to do this show and every year my sales have increased. The crowds have never been large, but Ii'm sure the heat didn't help this year. I did have return customers from previous years which helped the bottom line. I was in a new spot this year due to the construction on campus, but I ended up in the shade for a large percentage of the day, so the move The volunteers are wonderful, they make the set up and tear down a much easier experience than at any other show.


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