10403825873?profile=RESIZE_710xI just did the art fest in my birthplace and it is still an uncommon experience--for the better.

Mainsail is St. Petersburg's premier artfest.  This is now a town where downtown condos start in the low two millions.

I was born in the forties there.  It was a whole different town.

As Johnny Carson (I know, some of you are thinking, "Who is Johnny Carson?).

used to say,"St. Petersburg is God's waiting room.

In the day, forties, fifties, sixties, even seventies, almost eighties, it was an inexpensive town to retire to. A town blessed to be by two beautiful bodies of water. Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Retirees flocked here.  It was affordable and the weather was perfect.

As Carson so sardonically observed, people sat on Green Benches-up and down downtown.

Early on,I observed a very important lesson about life.

I was going to my Little League practice, across town

We passed by Webbs City on our bikes, this was the fifties.

I looked at all the retirees sitting on the Green Benches.

I looked at my buddy Dave Pontious, who threw the most wicked curveball, ever, and said, "Dave, you notice there no big dogs standing there.  They are all wee little people."

An important lesson about life I learned at age 10.

And so, in the mid fifties, age 10, I became an entrepreneur.

At Christmas, I would gather holly berries, pine needles and cones and make them into wreathes.  I would board the bus from the south side, and for a nickel, ride downtown with my wreathes.

I would sell everything I had to all the retirees on the Green Benches.

Fuck, Johnny Carson, they were my nirvana.  I would come home with more than twenty bucks, in change. That bought a lot of baseball cards and bubblegum.

So now I live in Mellow Yellow New Smyrna Beach and I was returning home to Mainsail.

For crying out loud, Nels, were you ever tell us about the show.

Thought you would never ask.

Plus, I will tell you more useful information than you will ever find on any other social media.

So Here Goes.


Mainsail was cancelled 2020 and 2021.

People were rolled over.

I took my refund in 2020, so I was not  rolled over.

I juried and got in.  They added 50 extra booths, over 270 artists.

I figured with no show for two years, and people buying two million condos, they would be chomping at the bit.

I was woefully wrong.

First, some useful info about the show.

Most people never talk about this.

It is held at a treed, waterfront park with lots of bare dirt and some grassy areas.

Monthly, there are usually two to three events going on here.

The show had been cancelled, due to Covid, both 2020 and 2021.

This year they expanded it by adding 50 extra booths--totaling 270.

They give 12 foot square booth areas with booths in rows. Booths are back to back.  Rear storage can be tricky.

Setup is Friday afternoon.  The committee does not give out booth space numbers in advance.  Only Godknows why.  When you apply on Zapp you can request a specific booth, that is the only time.

They have reserved parking for artists.  The show is two days.

Here is some demographic info.

St. Petersburg has become a very hot destination.  Lots of young, very monied people moving here.  Downtown condos starting at $2 million and being snapped up.

Lots of great restaurants everywhere. SP is blessed to have two water locations.  Tampa Bay with Tampa 20 miles across.  Then the Gulf beaches. Both locations hotly sought after.

Kids on motorized skateboards, bikers everywhere, morning joggers by the hundreds, incessant traffic, hard to find parking spaces.  This town whirls and whirls.

Usually this show attracts multitudes of buyers looking to fill their condo walls and decorate with fine sculpture. In the past 30 years that I have exhibited here I have always done nearly $4K on Saturday.

Being a hometown product probably helps.  I have patrons who tell me about buying my images in the 1980s.

That said, this show was disappointing for the majority of exhibitors this year.

One, it was held on Easter weekend.  Never good.  Fewer buyers on Sunday.

Two it was warm and humid. 
Three,and most important, the crowds were way off both days.

Of course, there were a small percentage of exhibitors who had a five figure show.

But most were lucky to get to $4K.

You would think that having no show for two years,that they would be chomping at the bit. Not!

I saw very few Good Shoes people there.  I had almost zero conversations about a patron looking for a big piece for the living room or bedroom.

I sell mostly color photos printed on paper under glass, matted ones in print bins, and large metal images on aluminum.

My prices range from $40-$1200. I mostly sold framed 16x20 images at $200 each.

I sold about nine, then other sales were for small mats.  No interest in my larger images.

The crowds were very thin both days.  Usually by noon you cannot see across the aisle because of the crowds.  This time I could have thrown cinder blocks across and hit nobody.

Most people were just walking their dogs, no art in their hands.  It made for a very slow, boring show.  No great conversations.

Several artists I know said their sales have been going steadily down the last five years.

I concur.

Unfortunately, I think people just think of us as just another event like a blues fest or seafood fest. Art is not for most.  Too bad.

My main gripe with the committee is their lack of caring where the event is held.

Too many of us were on black dirt, not a blade of grass near.  This is very disrespectful to the artists. I know of no other show of this stature that allows this to happen

I do not think things will change.

So, if you come, now you know what awaits you.

Nobody else gives you a blog with this kind of info--Nobody!


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  • great recap, Nels. One thing that I can't understand, is the setup times - artists MUST be out of the park by 6pm Friday, and they were militant about it (yet joggers, dog-walkers, and scooter-riders were still there in droves). Then we can't start setting up until 6am Saturday (9am Sat start). Impossible to set up a big double in 3 hours Sat morn, and I detest Friday setups, especially when I have to take 5:30-6pm Fri to close down, then 6-6:30am just to get back to 5:30 Fri's point!  I did mention that in my artist survey, but I'm sure it's unlikely to change

  • I always look forward to reading your blogs! I did Mainsail this past weekend. I am one of the few that made over $5k.  I never sat down, never peed until end of the day, never had time to eat for 2 solid days. And I had my husband for backup!  I lived in St. Pete for 15 years 1988-2003. Johnny Carson was spot on!  I was single, straight out of college and lived on the waterfront in Treasure Island, Pass-a-grille, St. Pete Beach and downtown (I liked to move around). My monthly rent for a furnished condo was never more than $375!  I tried taking my husband to the beach on TI and St. Pete Beach, parking $55!  Fuck me running. Seriously, I didnt want to buy the beach, just stick my toes in the sand and have a fancy drink or 2.  Every restaurant was delicious, very expensive. I highly recommmend The Bier Boutique, downtown.  As far as the event, it was chaotic to setup. Very dirty. The organizers must have saw where I was from, Bryson City, NC in the Great Smoky Mountains, and gave me a tree for shade. Without this tree, I would have melted!  I do not plan on returning just because of the 1,500 miles, expensive rent Airbnb, expensive food, and dirty.  I am not a fan of port a johns....just saying, artists should be provided with a clean potty and wash area. 

  • Thank you for the good report - I was considering adding mainsail to the calendar for next year; now I am still considering, but helps to have more info.

    "G-d's waiting room" - ha, hadn't heard that one

  • Photo was taken at the show on Sunday around 2pm

    • That sucks. At least there was a little shade.


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