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Not a Chamber-of-Commerce weekend on Sanibel: Tornado Tales, and more

A friend tipped me off that Nels Johnson, in his Sanibel post, was accusing me of consorting with ponies or some such, on Sanibel. So I figured I had better weigh in, in case authorities were alerted. ;-)

It was a rough weekend, but as Nels points out, other shows had it far worse.  Of course, if you were one of the four artists whose tents flipped on Sanibel, your viewpoint probably differs.

We spent Friday morning huddled in the solidly-built community center, drank coffee, paced, told war stories, paced again, and mostly peered out the windows at the storm.  Weird, like an out-of-body experience, to see rain and wind pelting tents, raising flaps (if you were lucky!), roofs and tents (if you weren't).  Promoter Richard Sullivan mentioned that it was a Godsend to have the building there, as few wanted to take their chances waiting out this monster storm in a high-profile vehicle, and "it is a lot easier to communicate when everybody's in the same room, instead of trying to track people down in their vehicles," he said. 

I offered help to a couple of artists who were checking their tents outside, then left on Friday (day one) after the severe thunderstorm warning was extended to 5 PM and the show was called.  Made a delivery to a customer about four miles from my home in S Fort Myers, and learned that an F0 tornado had touched down briefly earlier in the day, less than a mile away from my customer's home.  I made my delivery, then went home for the night. 

When I got back on Saturday, I began pulling 16x20 matted prints out of their travel bin and immediately knew I was in trouble: the bottoms of the mats had gotten soaked through their Clear-bags. I pulled everything out of the bin and flipped it over to find a hairline crack that I'd never noticed: when the ground flooded overnight, the water breached the crack and got in.  A few were OK; most weren't.  And when the customers began arriving, thankfully they bought several Gallery Wraps off the walls, which made it an OK day for me...but nothing like a usual Sanibel show in season.  Load-out was muddier than usual, but went smoothly since I took my time, and because artists were helping each other out any way they could.  I joined several others to assist Nels when, apparently, the Hovercraft option on his white van failed to engage and he wound up stuck in the mud behind our tents.  (Key takeaway: Never stand behind the rear tire in the mud. And Nels, the dry cleaner bill is on its way to you! ;-)  ) 

The next day, I got lucky: My source of custom-cut and (in this case) emergency mats, The Great Frame Up in S. Fort Myers, is right across the street from my home.  And when I told the story of the weekend, the owner ordered up some matboard stock and cut me a couple of dozen on Wednesday at their cost.  I'm very grateful for their generosity!

That day, I tossed out about a recycling bin's worth of soggy matboard and maybe 15 damaged photos, but was able to re-mat about 40 pieces, safe and dry, just in time for my scheduled setup day--Friday--at the Art Fest Naples show.  

And you probably are learning already what has gone on at THAT show--rain nearly all day Friday, and (on Saturday)  winds over 35 mph (gusts over 50) that were so strong that at least one artist, on the windward side, couldn't even set up his tent.  As of this writing, on Saturday morning, the story of that show is still being written.  But it won't be written by me: I cancelled at 7:30 am Friday.  

In my eight years in the biz, I've never seen a prolonged stretch of weather like this, and folks with far longer memories than I say they haven't either.  One of my best buds on the circuit--a jeweler--keeps a "Suck it Up Straw" in her booth, reminding her to stay resolved in the face of adversity.  This season, I'm gonna need a boxful!

Views: 893

Comment by Shoshana Matthews on January 23, 2016 at 2:50pm

All I can say is in 22+ years I've never had a run of weather like this!!  Glad I'm not doing a show this weekend -  weathered the tornadoes in Cape Coral and Sarasota 2 weeks in a row.  Did go to the farmers' market this  morning (Saturday) in Cape Coral (not far from the Ft. Myers show) and found produce booths set up without tents.  Most produce vendors didn't even show up.  The wind is still howling at 3pm - knocking over everything in its path.  I've quit picking up my potted plants until this all stops.  Hang in there folks.   Hope you all have a better day tomorrow.

Comment by Christina L. Towell on January 25, 2016 at 9:54am

Great review, Geoff...sorry it was such a washout.  I guess El Nino continues to have the last word.

Comment by Karen Holtkamp on January 25, 2016 at 10:17am

Sorry for all the trouble so far during the Florida season.  And thank god for good folks like your framer.

Geoff, if I may highjack your thread for a moment ... I can't find anything on last year's inaugural Art in the Middle show in Urbanna, VA, however I see you attended.  Briefly, is it worth a trip from Ohio?  Thanks so much.

Comment by Susan J. Cole on January 25, 2016 at 10:23am

I was at ArtFest Naples this past weekend!  On the windward side, with a baseball field on one side and a playground on the other.  On Friday, we set up in the rain.  On Saturday, we couldn't even open the tent until 2:30 in the afternoon.  Sunday was beautiful, if a bit chilly for Florida.  However, the buyers were out even under adverse conditions. 

I've got to say this, though.  The organizers were fabulous.  Whether or not to open on Saturday was left completely up to the artist.  Some set up and stayed closed.  Some packed up and went home.  Some (mostly on the leeward side) opened or did a "soft open".  The organizers continually walked the show and were genuinely concerned about each and every artist.  They offered assistance as needed, and encouragement throughout.  As far as I know, no tents were damaged, even though the winds at times gusted up to 50 mph on Saturday.

The buyers were abundant, and we had very good sales, as did many of our neighbors.  Many of the patrons came back on Sunday, and the organizers waived the $5 donation for returning customers.  Adversity builds character!

Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on January 25, 2016 at 2:31pm

Wow!  You all are hardy folks.  You'll have lots of stories to tell about "the storms of 2016."

Comment by Cindy Welch on January 25, 2016 at 3:08pm

Geoff, thanks for the write up your experiences at these 2 shows.  It was a very good read.  Like most, I've never heard of these shows and, now knowing where they are, they sound awesome but too far for me to travel.

Comment by Geoff Coe on January 25, 2016 at 3:17pm

You are welcome, Cindy!

Karen, my short take on Arts in the Middle:  Wonderful folks running the show, and a beautiful rural venue that has had success before (with a previous festival that included art but was not limited to art).  Not near any major metropolitan area, really:  Richmond is a little more than an hour away; the town hosting the show is kind of a weekend retreat for city folks, lots of antiques and B&Bs.  
Biz was okay on the first day but empty on the second.  No one knows why, weather was OK both days.  I think in time, the show has a shot.  But for now, I wouldn't travel from Ohio (or even, say, DC or Va. Beach) to do it. 

Comment by Karen Holtkamp on January 25, 2016 at 3:49pm

Thanks so much for the info, Geoff.  Now back to the regularly scheduled programming: Tales of Wicked Weather in the Land of Sunshine.

Comment by Connie Mettler on January 25, 2016 at 4:47pm

Yep ! "Adversity builds character!" so correct -- and as you pointed out, Geoff, even veterans learn something new at this kind of show. Those print bins call for special attention. I well remember closing ours up tight and then bunge-ing a tarp around them. Once at Boston Mills (Ohio show well-renowned for flooding) we put the bins indoors on the bench of the picnic tables ... the pavilion flooded ... we have stories to tell our friends. My kids, subsequently well-educated, still never "got" our willingness to go out into storms, stand on street corners in 100+ heat, take our winter coats in July to Denver, etc. 

Why not?

Comment by Cindy Welch on January 25, 2016 at 6:00pm


Kids .... go figure.  LOL  As much as we try to "educate" them there are still some things that are only learned with age.  <vbg>


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