This is my second year doing this show, which takes place in an absolutely gorgeous spot in the mountains of west/central Virginia.
My first year was not a bang-up show, but was solid enough that I thought I should try again. I live in Virginia, so it was not such a long drive (5 hours). In addition, I'd been amazed and honored to find that the show had chosen my art for their postcards, posters and program this year - and I thought this might help with sales.
Alas, it was not to be.
I am an oil painter with large, bright pieces. My prices run from $125 to $8500. I do not have prints.
The show's topography is interesting, and was different this year than it has been. It takes place in Claudius Crozet park, a beautiful spot with big green fields, a YMCA building with workout room and pool, and a playground. You can camp there during the show, and I did this, which of course cut my lodging costs deeply.
The largest group of artists and crafters is under a huge tent. The tent is open at the sides, and is lighted, but is still very dim. The booth fee ($300) includes electricity. In past years, there has been a second tent, not as large as the first, but this year, that tent was not used. There was a row of tents outside the big tent; artists choosing to set up their own tents in this row got a $50 discount. An artist I know who took this option was not happy with his sales, and said that basically, no one made it out to the tents. There are two small pavilions, also, and these are the prime spaces, brighter than the tents, cleaner and with easier load-in and load-out (I think). I asked for one but didn't get it.
Load-in runs the gamut from fairly easy to very difficult, depending on where you are. There's a large grass parking area across the entrance road from the west edge of the tent. I was on the west edge, so I was as close as one can be to the parking. Still, I had to use a dolly, and wheel my stuff up and down a small hill. Load-in and -out on the other side of the tent - and from the outside artist tents - was difficult, I was told.
There are good and bad parts about being along the edge. There is storage and seating space behind your booth if you're on the edge; if you're inside, there is zero storage space. It rained on and off all weekend, though, so I had to cover my stuff, and couldn't sit outside.
An additional issue for me was the height of the big tent at the outer edge. I use a Showoff tent, and my sidewalls attach via zippers along the bottom of the roof. The big tent started about an inch above the upper edge of my tent frame, so I couldn't put my roof on, and had to jury-rig the back wall. If it hadn't been drizzly and wet all weekend, I could have simply not put the wall up.
Turnout seemed to be lower this year than last year, especially on Saturday. On Sunday, Mother's Day, the crowd also seemed light, and there were lots of people with little kids, which bodes poorly for me. People wheeling strollers don't buy large paintings, I've learned.
People around me seemed to fare better than I did. A glass artist on one side, a photographer across the way and a jeweler across the aisle (I paid $25 extra for a corner), all seemed to do well. They were all from the area, and friends and family came to see them throughout the show. A painter friend from the Norfolk area did better, too, though her price points are generally lower than mine. A jeweler from Pennsylvania told me she had an excellent show, as well.
The quality of the work in this show seemed very uneven. There was some excellent, very high-level art and craft, and also some lower-end, lower-priced items. I didn't see any buy/sell, or at least none that I could identify, but some of the items made me shake my head and wonder a little bit.
Lodging is scarce in the area, and what is available is stupidly expensive, in my opinion ($135 a night was about average). Sleeping in the van has been a good option for me. You can camp on a level concrete area that is probably a basketball court. I have camped, both years, in a second grassy area fairly close to the concrete area, but quiet and more solitary. Showers and indoor bathrooms are available for campers, in the YMCA building.
Communication from the show was pretty good throughout. You pay your booth fee via an invoice that is not through Zapp, so that had me confused for a while, but the director was patient with me.