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Main Street Fort Worth—Killer Show even though we lost one day

For me, this is the best show in the nation for sales.

It is a five figure show for the majority of artists.

They get about 1400 applications and only 250 are picked.

Luckily, I have been in five out of the last seven years.  For whatever reason, I jury really well here. And, I have gotten in with 2different bodies of work.

Here are some of the basics about the show.

  • It is held on Main Street in downtown—eight blocks long.
  • Seven of the blocks booths are back to back in large tents supplied by FW. Artists set up their booths complete with their own side tarps and roofs.
  • One block of the show is held in an open square. Artists put up their booths out in the open.  This part is called Sundance Square.
  • FW is a four day show, starting on Thursday. Hours are 10 am to at least 8 pm.  You can open later if you wish. Sunday the show closes at 6 pm, but this year we stayed open til 8 pm. I will explain later.
  • You need good weights to anchor, this is a mucho windy show. Some gusts roll off the downtown 40 story buildings at 30 mph.
  • Oh, did I mention that a half million people visit this show.  And most buy something.

FW is a high rollers town. Lots of dinero from oil and gas. People here celebrate their cowboy heritage, big time.  You will see patrons sporting $500 belt buckles and walking in thousand dollar cowhide boots.

  • This Show is promoted by the Downtown Fort Worth Association.  They market it well and have a tremendous volunteer support staff.
  • Jay Downie is the show director and he runs a well-oiled machine.  
  • They cover everything.  You have a killer artist oasis. There is a preshow dinner complete with free wine and beer.
  • There is an awards breakfest on Friday and awards are handed out.
  • Some artists get to setup as early as Tuesday nite.  Everybody can setup on Wednesday.
  • Teardown runs very smoothly, and oh, free electricity for the booth.

This Show is consistently my best show of the year whenever I get in.  The bulk of my sales come in the $30-$150 range.  I am a photographer who has done outdoor shows for 45 years.  I am no spring chicken. But I can roar.  I love it when I have three people at once trying to give me money.

Ok, OK.  Enough of that, you can always read my past blogs, which are many.

So Nels how did this year go?

I thought you would never ask.

First off, I am going to do a Tequila Report. Most of you newbies do not know what a Tequila Report is, so I will explain. For many years when I have an interesting experience at a restaurant/bar I make TQ Report. Most Times They are humorous.

NELS will you get on with it!  

OK, do not get so huffy.

I woke up Saturday morn and hustled more work into my booth. Usually Saturday is the best day of this show.  It can be a $5-10K for many.

A friend walked by and yelled,”Nels, they cancelled the show today, lots of bad weather coming our way.” WTF! I was pissed. 

So I made a plan B. I would sleep in at the hotel.  At noon hustle over to Mi Cocina and consume tequilas and cervezas while watching the Masters Golf Tourney, Then take a nice long nap, get up and watch a movie on Netflix and go have dinner.  A reasonable plan.

Mind you.  The whole show was closed down.  No exhibitor tents open, no food booths open. Around 3pm I noticed a sliver of sunshine peak thru the dark clouds. It lasted about five minutes then back to darkness. Well, fueled by agave visions and peppered tacos I decided I would open up my booth and see what came along. 

There were a few people walking the street. So I peeled back my front tarps and pegged them to the corners. That way, in my figuring, an acquiring patron could get a glimpse at greatness. That is agave visions at their best when you do not have any magic mushrooms. Mind you, I was the only guy open.

Twenty minutes later, a father and son walked in.  They glimpsed and bought.  Shazam! A $150 sale. By then,I had attracted a fair crowd of fellow artists. They asked, “Nels are you having any luck?” I replied, “Took care of my Tequila bill and now I am working on dinner.” Minutes later the dinner bill got took care of. Sold another. I closed up and hustled back to Mi Cocina for more tequila and watched Tiger work his magic.

So How is that for a truly, true Tequila Report?

How I did at FW and maybe tell you about some of my experiences.

*FW is a long 20 hour drive for me. This year I took two and one half days to get there. I timed it so I got there early Tuesday morn so I could get a Prime parking spot in the garage. I was able to cart everything from van to my spot about 200 yards away. Got the booth up in gusty winds and went to bed.

Early Wednesday, I finished stocking the booth and got the lights up. That day we had 30mph gusts, it was a battle to secure things. The preshow dinner was a real hit. They had rare beef sliders and lobster rolls along with other fixings. Also a killer red Cabernet.

Thursday morn and we opened up to chilly weather with very mild winds. People bought at lunch and dinner time. If you make $1500 that day you are doing good.

Friday, it got fricking chilly.  Opened up the booth in 48 degree weather, I think it barely got to 64 that day. I am just glad I brought a heavy jacket with a warm liner. Mind you, I had four layers on, and a lot of the locals were waltzing around in Cotten tee shirts, just a Texas spring day to them.

Friday sales were very steady all day.  I stayed open til 9pm.  It was worth it. All along, we had seen the weather reports.  We knew it was predicted that on Saturday there was a 90 per cent chance of storms. Damn!  They were right.

So Saturday I did what I told you in my TR. I was not going to have zero Saturday at FW. So far, I had observed a few salient things. First, the crowd was buying much more Lowend.  Did not see a lot of big purchases go by. Second, most of them were carrying very little cash.  Rare for FW. Everything was on plastic. That said, I knew Sunday would be momentous day.

This is not a Monday Show. So I awoke, Sunday hoping for a truly great day, and hoping that Tiger would win the Masters. Don’t you love it when a plan comes to true fruition? Sunday was sunny and chilly, and people were out buying. I sold all days.  Had some flurries, with people lined up to give me money, This only happens at the best shows.  You have to be prepared.

Heck, I was an Eagle Scout with 55 merit badges, I have always been prepared. Most artists had a great FW in spite of losing Saturday. It is just a great show to do.

I hope one day, all of you get to do it. It will take your breath away.

Aloha, I am on to Mainsail tomorrow, gonna do some serious red wine drinking with my buddy Richard who l have known since we played Little League back in 1955.

Views: 843

Comment by FaithAnn Givings on April 18, 2019 at 11:23am

Oh, to get into Fort Worth... and survive the winds!

Thanks Nels!!

Comment by Connie Mettler on April 18, 2019 at 12:16pm

Finally! I've been waiting for this report, Nels. Then remembered you have farther to drive to get back home now that you've moved to New Smyrna. 

How can it be that this show is so successful? And better than all the other Texas shows? It just has a cache that they don't? 

Re: rain again and your opening your booth ... a lesson for all. If you've spent all that time and money to be in Fort Worth, why not make the most of it? When we were first starting out doing art fairs we were next to an artist who would say after a sale, "good, I just paid the electric bill. Good, there was half the mortgage payment. There went the van payment." I like that you just made the tequila payment. 

There are so many logistics to making it as easy on yourself doing an art festival, especially one in a downtown area. Where your booth is to make it convenient for yourself, yet accessible and in the best traffic pattern. Where to put your vehicle so you can access it easily during the long 4 day show. How close will you be able to stay. When to get to the city so you can find that parking place. I commend you on parking space #1.

How is the parking in a downtown area like this for vans? It has to be complicated. 

Comment by Nels johnson on April 18, 2019 at 1:48pm


Comment by carrie jacobson on April 20, 2019 at 7:25am

Nice review, Nels, thanks. Some day, I'll get in. Maybe next year! 

Comment by Barry Bernstein on April 20, 2019 at 9:00am

My feeling after doing Ft Worth (and St Louis) is that it is the best show in the country sales wise. However, it reminded me of the days when Coconut Grove, Ann Arbor, and many others were great. This show is no better than the way things used to be, everywhere. It feels good to have sales all day long, every day. Ft Worth is great because they don't compromise on artist quality, first class amenities for the artists, excellent organization, and a public willing to support the artists.

I like to stay about 6 blocks from the show and either walk to the show or take a shuttle to and from my booth. That way I can leave my van at the hotel. The walk is healthy. A lot of people like to stay at the hotel right at the show. Those rooms are twice the price of my room.

I prefer a space in the tent. I think Nels has a space outside the tents. You can set up your own tent inside their tents. That works really well for blocking the wind. I wasn't there this year. The pictures of the wind damage was startling. Even those heavy show tents were damaged.

If the weather is bad on Saturday, people come on Sunday and Monday and the sales on those days make up for the bad weather day.

A little anecdote that illustrates the great customer support. A couple years ago, the guy who owns the building where my studio is, was coming to Ft Worth, with his family, to visit his cousin who he hadn't seen in a few years. His cousin told him to plan his 1000 mile trip a couple days later because his was going to the art fair.

Comment by Nels johnson on April 20, 2019 at 5:29pm

I was in a big tent with my booth setup. Booth 622 in front of the Marriot.

When you are making serious moola, like this show, who cares about the cost of the room, btw, rooms were $119 at the Marriot, I doubt anybody was getting a room in downtown Ft. Worth for $60 a nite.

FW is not a Monday show.


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