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This blog is aimed mainly at you newbies or any artist who has never been at a show yet where a dangerous weather pattern hits.

I was at Columbus this weekend with Ellen showing too.  We both escaped any damage.  We were lucky, but also did some prudent things.

In the more than 1300 art festivals I have done, I have had my booth leveled twice.  A hurricane, in MARCH at Vero Beach in 1994, leveled my booth and everybody elses.  Winds came thru at 4:30 am clocking at 80 mph.  Had my canopy blown away at Springfest Charlotte.  Nasty winds downtown.

What we are going to discuss does not have anything to do with when you are at a show and you get a rainstorm.  You still need to take proper percautions to keep you and your work dry.

When a nasty storm cell, like what hit Columbus, things can become very serious as evidenced by the pics on Facebook showing the damage.

Most times shows are on top of dangerous weather and give artists a heads up.  Sometimes there is no time for a warning which was the case in Columbus.

If a bad storm is coming here is what you should do.

First, make sure all your weights are properly in place, if are staked to the ground, make sure everything is tight and right.

Second, zip the booth up tight on all four corners.

Third, if there is time, take down all awnings on front and rear--they are just wind-catchers which will endanger your booth.

Fourth, and most important, GET THE HELL OUT OF YOUR BOOTH. Get to a shelter or get to your  van, asap.  Do not try to ride out bad weather from the inside of your booth.  It could cost you your life or a limb.

The natural inclination of most people, when faced with bad winds and storm conditions is to stay and try to physically hold up your walls against the vector forces.  Don't do it.  Flying debris from your neighbor's booth or your own booth can cause nasty, sometimes fatal injuries.  Several artists were injured Saturday by flying objects.

Believe me, it is better to lose your booth and art and inventory then to sustain an injury.  The hospital bills will be much higher.  You can always buy another booth, you can always make more art.  But if injure yourself, it may cost you time in recovery without making art or money.

When winds were buffeting the rear of our booths I was yanking poles off the rear canopies as fast as I could.  Ellen was inside her tent trying to rearrange stuff.  I yelled to her loudly, "Get the hell out of there now, Ellen, go to the van.  She did.

If your booth takes a direct hit, nothing is going to save it.  You could have 10 Shaquille O"Neilles hanging on to your walls and they would be blown away as easily as grains of sand.

If you have a corner spot at a show, it is great for business, but it sucks for bad weather.  You have to be extra vigilant.

What was tough about the Columbus situation was that the show was checking with the local weather and it showed, at 7:15 pm, that really bad weather was supposed to hit around 9:30.  Guess what?  Two minutes later the cell hit.  It  was like it germinated right there at the show.  None of us had any real warning except for two big facts.  You could see the sky was getting dark purple, the temperature was falling fast.  Secondly, as a product of our SmartPhone culture, hundreds of shoppers were all showing the radar to each other.  There was a lot of anxiety.

I noticed it and took the very precautions I have previously mentioned.

After the storm passed, we got out of our vans and surveyed the destruction, it was everywhere around us.  The show said another bad storm was still coming and for everybody to get in their vans or shelter.  This was around 8 pm now.  I looked at Ellen and said, "We have done all we can do to protect our booths and they are still standing.  Let's go get some martinis and eat dinner."

And that is exactly what we did.

PS.  Before we left we helped others, but many did not want any help.

We were lucky.



I just remembered a kind of humorous  situation related to winds at art shows.  Hopefully you will appreciate it too, plus it leaves this blog on a lighter note.


So, about 1985 I was doing a December show on Miami Beach.  I had an early KD canopy like so many others.  Our booths were set up in a narrow park by the water between tall hotels--a classic wind tunnel if there ever was one.

This bad storm hit us late afternoon, winds were in excess of 30 mph.  My neighbor was this little old lady probably about five-feet-tall who was painter.  She had a KD and it was not weighted down anywhere.

So, me and several others are hanging out in our vans behind our booths, smoking hooters and drinking beers.  All of a sudden we hear this tiny plaintive cry through the wind,"Help me, please somebody help me."

We ran over to her tent. The wind was blowing fierce.  She was holding on to the canopy for dear life, and with each sudden gust, she was being lifted four feet off the ground with the canopy.  She kept yelling "Help Me."  

Finally we got six guys on the darn canopy to hold it down and release her.  She was one grateful woman.

The next day I went out and bought my Newton Porto-Canopy which I still use to this day.  It has weathered many bad storms and is till standing.

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Comment by Kelly Allen on June 11, 2011 at 9:21am
Great Advise! Doing shows for 20 years I did what most artist do I stayed in my booth at Broad Ripple to hold it down. I have put on a few pounds lately so I figure I could keep it on the ground. Located in the parking lot ended up good because I could tie my tent to a tree behind the booth. The wind kicked up fast as a gust came I reached for the bar only to feel my feet leave the ground! I had that we aren't in Kansas anymore moment. Then the storm was over. It went through so fast. Tent survived, I was one of the lucky ones. I will never stay in the booth again during a storm.
Comment by Karole Bowlds on June 9, 2011 at 3:36pm
Timely and very apt advice!! Safety first. Make it as secure as possible then get to safety- the best advise. Thanks Nels!!
Comment by Lynda Wallis on June 9, 2011 at 9:13am
Thanks for the real advice Nels. See you Saturday!
Comment by MICHAEL ALAN STIPEK on June 8, 2011 at 11:22pm
OK, what happened to those terrific - and terrifying - pix of the storm at the Columbus show?  I want to show them to artists who doubt my word about how awful the weather can be!
Comment by Colette A. Zilka on June 8, 2011 at 4:37pm
Thank you so much for posting this!  I feel horrible for all the artist that were in Columbus, but I am am glad that we are all getting lessons (some more real than anyone would prefer) as to how to deal with the worst weather possible.  These are things you need to know but never hear about until something really bad happens.
Comment by Katherine Graham Sarlson on June 8, 2011 at 2:43pm

Yikes!  Good advice.  It's true, realistically, all that stands between you and lighting is a couple of metal poles and the equivalent of a trash bag - that's not nearly enough protection to ride out a storm. 

 I haul a lot (but not all, sadly) of my art around in big Rubbermaid bins.  While they aren't foolproof, the lock down lids manage to keep most of my smaller pieces of art dry.

Comment by Annette Piper on June 8, 2011 at 3:41am

Ouch!  Those medical bills are outrageous!!  


Totally off topic - we have national health care here so treatment in public hospitals is free.  I'm always amazed at how your health system works (or doesn't!).


Edwin, glad to hear you had a great show in Chicago!

Comment by MICHAEL ALAN STIPEK on June 7, 2011 at 11:44pm

Nels, as always, good advice!  As to medical emergencies:  years ago, an artist at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, who was staying with my wife and me, ignored our advice about hydrating - drinking a lot of water in a climate where the humidity can be as low as 10% in the summer.  She collapsed and spent a night in the ER at a local hospital.  Her bill was over $1,000 (about 3x that in today's dollars).

In April, I had a medical emergency at a hotel before a show day.   Three hours in an ER and my bill came to $2800, not counting followup medications/exams, etc. for another $500 or so.  

Soooo, after securing your booth, seek shelter.  The medical bills can far exceed anything lost in booth or artwork!

Comment by Edwin Schmidt on June 7, 2011 at 11:38pm

I also agree with Nels.  Great advise.Although I was crazy enoung th ride iut the storm in my booth  I bougth my Craft Hut 17 yhears ago and have weathered many a storm although none as seemingly severe as in Columbus.  I live in a Columbus suburb and did that show for almost 20 years and almost always invited back.  Can't seem to get into the show anymore.  Not many local artists do.  Was in Chicago this past weekend which has its' own challenges but at least got home safely with and had our best show in at least 25 years.

Ed Schmidt


Comment by marie johnson on June 7, 2011 at 12:49am
tkx nels for the great advice. i must say that a few times we rode out the storm in our booth. our products were packed and and it started to rain then the wind. we were inside the booth not thinking it was too bad. when the wind/rain stopped and we unzipped the canopy oh my.. straight line winds had gone through. only 5 tents were left standing, ours was one of them. this was in Bayfield, Wi. a few years ago. We have heavy grids for our walls and believe that helps hold the tent. We were in another bad storm in Davenport, Iowa and had torn down per the promoter stating on Sat. night that a bad storm was coming. The people that left priceless paintings, pottery etc. in their booths with not much weight etc. was sickening.. So use the weights, stakes whatever you can to secure your canopy.. Everyone stay safe..

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