Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

Gasparilla: What a Difference a Year Makes

I'm a Michigan artist working digitally. I sell limited edition prints. Gasparilla was my fifth show of my annual two month swing through Florida. I know a lot of artists who have winter homes down here and summer homes up north, but there are not that many of us who do it like we do. It's the tourist season down here and it is pretty expensive to rent rooms. That's especially true for us. My wife, Marcia is my most valuable resource. She helps in every way, rain or shine. But she has also make it clear that if I want to pursue this crazy lifestyle, she will be the one to pick the accommodations and restaurants. And some of those accommodations have to be on the beach. She's not the sleep in the car type.

So, in order to make this annual trip south profitable, we have to do pretty well at the art fairs. This year, Gasparilla in Tampa delivered. We started out our Florida adventure at ArtFest Ft Myers in early February. We did very well there, taking the edge off our anxiety. Next was ArtiGras in Jupiter where we also had some success. Naples National was OK, but rather disappointing, then Lake Wales (didn't get in to Key West), where we were, again. disappointed. Finally, Gasparilla: a big town art fair with 100,000 expected attendance. We had a great show there, putting our trip firmly in the black, financially.

This is our third time at Gasparilla, and we have always done well there. Last year we didn't get in. Lake Wales was the same weekend last year, so we did that one instead. Although it also poured buckets at Lake Wales, the show closed early and we got out of there without too much damage. Hearing the reports from Tampa last year, we considered ourselves fortunate that we missed that one.

Gasparilla is set up in a spacious park next to the Tampa Art Museum along the river. It's a beautiful location, gently sloping down to the river. Last year the slope turned into a waterfall and mudslide. This year the park was improved with drainage sewers that drain into the river underground instead of over the grass... a great idea. Although we didn't need that this year, it will certainly be appreciated the next time it rains at Gasparilla. The show gives a whopping $75,000 in awards and another $20,000 in purchase awards. It seemed as if there were enough awards to give at least one to each of us artists. We didn't win one, but we saw lots of ribbons around. We did, however, see lots of customers. It seemed as if the crowds were trying to make up for last year. The buying energy was high. I didn't talk to any artists who were disappointed. The weather was perfect, in the low 70s.

Because of the narrow aisles and walkways, loading in and out of this show is a challenge. The committee tries hard to organize it to the Nth degree. Artists have the option of setting up on Thursday with a two hour allotment to unload, or on Friday with a 75 minute allotment to unload. Each booth is assigned the times for unloading (either Thursday of Friday) and the time for packing up on Sunday. They caravan 30 or so vans into the fair at a tyime, organized in such a way as to avoid congestion. Not sure how well that worked, but we choose Thursday setup, and it went pretty well. Our booth had an assigned time of 8:30 on Sunday evening to bring our van into the park to load up. Since the show closed at 5pm, we started looking for an alternative. There is an underground parking garage right next to the park. Although artist parking is free about three blocks away, we decided to pay the $20 for the day on Sunday, with the intention of dollying our stuff to our van at closing. That worked well. Although it took a lot of trips back and forth, it was only about a half a block from our booth to the van. I'm a little stiff in the joints this morning from all the extra work (but, then again I always am after an art fair), but we were out of there by 7:30.

Marcia rented a condo on the beach at Indian Rocks Beach, about 45 minutes from Tampa. This is the vacation part of our trip. Watching the pelicans fish this morning and a sailboat ghost by on the gulf makes all the work we do seem worthwhile. We plan to relax and eat a lot of seafood this week, but we have one more show to do before heading back north. Leesburg is next. We wanted to do Vero Beach next week, but we didn't get in. And, we wanted to do Winter Park the following week, but, didn't get into that one either. We're hoping for a surprise at Leesburg, but we certainly don't expect a windfall. Our success last weekend at Gasparilla makes a successful show at Leesburg less urgent.

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Comment by Sabine Chadborn on February 13, 2020 at 10:18am
Hallo John,
I just got called of the wait list for the Leesburg show in Florida. I'm coming from new orleans, so about an 9 h. Drive. The main reason I applied is to combine it with a visit to my daughter in Orlando.
But don't want to waste my time and money either.
Would you be able to tell me how it was for you ? So far I found very little and mixed reviews
Comment by Christina L. Towell on March 10, 2016 at 9:10am

Excellent recap, John, thanks...happy to hear you did well, now enjoy your downtime, you deserve a little r&r.

Comment by margaret luttrell on March 7, 2016 at 9:54pm

Things started out pretty crazy for me-anyone traveling down through Georgia knew we all hit torrential storms all the all to Florida on Thursday. In Atlanta the transmission fell out of my car...yea-lucky me. I had to rent a car and transfer all my work- all in a down pour. Ugh. What a way to start a show.                                                                                                                                But luckily, Gasparilla was wonderful and so glad it was great for you too John. Beautiful weather, easy organized load-in and if you had seen how many of us were packed into the place you would have been amazed it went so smoothly. This show sure brought out the crowds....It was an incredible  and luckily, it was a great show for me financially.(so I could pay for my car)  There was a lot of prize money and really great work was chosen for awards.This was my first year so I know each show has their own way of doing things. The judge was pretty speedy though. Load out was a bit crazy as everyone was in line for a long time trying to get into the site- but things were really so incredibly organized and the show committee was really helpful. Food provided to the artist's was generous and with great bagels.

Truly everyone involved was just lovely and helpful. Next stop... Winterpark for me....if it's as good as Gasparilla I'll be very happy...and hopefully it will be an easier drive. 

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