Art Fair Insiders

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

Madison Art Fair on the Square - July 14 & 15, 2012

Well, here we go.  My first show review.  Hopefully I'll be able to provide some good information.  This was my first year participating at this show.  There are actually 2 shows going on at the same time.  The Art Fair on the Square consists of approximately 450 artists.  About one block away the Art Fair off the Square is held with approximately 250 Wisconsin artists, which I did last year.


Load in/setup was scheduled to start at approximately 6:00 PM.  According to the show information, "artists are allowed 15 minutes to unload their vehicle."  The vehicle was then to be moved before setup.  It was also recommended to show up after 8:00 PM if you had a trailer.  Well, this is where I committed my first rookie mistake...I followed the rules.  I showed up at 8 since I have a trailer.  Unfortunately, the 15 minute rule was not being followed (at least not in the section that I was setting up).  Because it is Friday evening, there is no parking available around the area.  At around 9:00 PM I was able to get close enough to my spot (still outside of the square) and start carrying items to my spot.  It was approximately 9:30 PM when I was able to move my car close enough to my assigned space and really start the setting up process.  I had most of my setup in place by 11:30.  The plus to this is that I am local.  I only live 10 miles south of Madison.  So that made a huge difference being able to go home and hit my bed.

I learned my lesson...get there as early as possible.  I could have just arrived mid-afternoon and taken 2 meter parking spots close to my booth area (about 40 meters) and just cart everything at 6:00 PM.


On Saturday mornings the local farmer's markets is held around the square from 6:30 AM until 2:00 PM.  People around here are used to heading out early on Saturdays to shop or just walk around the square.  Knowing this I made sure I had my tent ready for business at 6:00 AM (the show officially starts at 9 on Saturday).  I figured that people would start looking around early and possibly buying (that is what I have done in previous years).  I left the trailer at home and just parked my car in one of the parking garages.  Because is the weekend, parking was only $5 for the entire day.  Before I parked, I was able to drive up to my tent and off-load a few more items that I brought with me.

Having my tent ready paid off.  By 9 I had already sold $430.  There were some nice clouds and breeze in the area that kept the temperature nice throughout the morning (between 89 and 91, low humidity).  People were out...and they were shopping.  From the moment I opened until around 3 PM I was able to take one break.  Sales did slow down considerably late afternoon as the temperature rose.  Even the number of people just looking was lower.  I only made four sales between 3 and 6 PM.  My total sales for the day were just over $8,700.

I was not going to make the same mistake that I made Friday evening.  So I went into town at 5:30 AM and got the first corner parking spaces closest to my booth.  I made sure there wasn't a parking space behind me so I could load my trailer with no problems.  I even had my car facing away from the escape route was well planned.  Since the show doesn't officially open on 10, I went to the Starbucks on the square to relax and watch a movie on my iPad.  So I was able to kill a couple of hours.  At around 8:30 I noticed some people walking around, so I decided to open up.  The temperature and humidity were supposed to be higher.  So I figured that there would be some early shoppers.  People did walk in.  But sales were much slower, as expected.  It felt considerably hotter than Saturday.  I had 2 fans running, one behind the tent for me and another one inside the tent mainly for customers.  Between 10 and 5 PM I made $2,000 in sales.

Load out seemed to go smoother.  I was able to cart all my art to my trailer.  By the time I had taken down my tent, there was space for me to drive my car/trailer right in front of my booth space.  I was home shortly after 7 PM.

Other Stuff

- I only recall seeing booth sitters just once on Saturday.  However, this could have been because I was very busy throughout the day.  On Sunday I did see them approximately 5 times.

- Breakfast (juice, coffee, pastries, bananas) were provided Sunday morning.  I am not sure if they were provided on Saturday.

- The booth setup here requires that 8' of the tent are in the street and the last 2' up on the curb.  Once I knew my tent location I stopped by one morning and measured the height of the curb.  I then had a friend help me build a ramp.  This allowed me to use the entire both for display and avoided having customers tripping over the curb.

I will definitely be applying to this show again next year.

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Comment by Cassius Callender on July 17, 2012 at 10:30pm

Thanks everyone for your comments!

Comment by Leslie Turner on July 16, 2012 at 10:20pm

Great review full of need to know tidbits. I would love to have info like this on every show I wanted to apply for. Congrats on your monetary rewards!

Comment by Annette Piper on July 16, 2012 at 6:22pm

Well done Cassius - a great review and what a wonderful result for you!  Your ability to plan ahead would have enhanced the experience for both you and your customers and your early morning strategies worked well!  Congratulations :)

Comment by geri a. wegner on July 16, 2012 at 3:56pm

Great review.  Excellent first review!!

Comment by Connie Mettler on July 16, 2012 at 2:14pm

I ran across this great photo today by Peter Patau at Madison. I think it really captures all that is happening at Madison: the crowds, the art, the heat...

I have Peter's permission to reproduce it here.

Comment by Paul Strohman on July 16, 2012 at 12:40pm

Thanks so much for a really great review.  It will help us all in the future.  We hope to eventually get into this show and your review was extremely helpful.  ML

Comment by Nels Johnson on July 16, 2012 at 11:01am

A welcome review by a newcomer--who knows how to write and give good info--how refreshing, aloha, Nels Johnson, photographer.

Comment by Connie Mettler on July 16, 2012 at 10:20am

Great job, Cassius! Thanks for all these details and it is great you also made $$$. Congrats.

Here's an article from the Wisconsin State Journal: Heat doesn't slow art fair

Comment by Marti McGinnis on July 16, 2012 at 9:25am

GREAT tips! Well deserved succe$$!

Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on July 16, 2012 at 9:23am

What a great show!  Enjoyed reading your strategies.  You were really prepared and it paid off big time!

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