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Pike's Peak Arts Festival-"That way madness lies"

Had a free weekend, didn't have to drive too far, could commute from Denver, thought I'd try something different. What is the saying attributed to Einstein? "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Well I asked for it...I know better than to mix holidays (Like the fourth of July) and art shows. I guess the only outstanding exception to that caveat would be the Cherry Creek Art Show but I wasn't invited to that show this year! (Or any other year that I've applied for that matter!)

Pike's Peak Arts Festival was held in a nice park just off the I-25 corridor near downtown Colorado Springs, CO. Set-Up is pretty much all day Thursday the day before the show so there is no stress with that. Although artists are allowed to drive on the circular sidewalk around the park it can be a little tight if people are not considerate and move all-the-way over to the right! I was fortunate in that my space was not far off the sidewalk so load-in was pretty easy. Got the tent all set up and most of the art went up but when I put my foot on the "sta-bar" to tighten up the 'ole Mesh Panels one of the hooks popped the seam, remember the part about being within driving distance of home? Well, I was glad that I was as I had to take the panel home and resew the seam over night and reinforced the one on the opposite end as well while I was at it!

Over night my cat Jessie woke me up with the suggestion that perhaps I hadn't set my tent up facing the correct direction. She's never done a show with me, what does she know? Rather than losing sleep over it I got up at 4 to drive the hour south to "The Springs", as we northerners refer to it, to be there at 6 and found a helpful helper from the show staff who sure enough confirmed that Jessie was correct, hmmm I was facing the wrong way. Going to a show 101! Had to take all the art down some of the wall pieces and poles and fortunately there were enough friendly artist neighbors around who helped lift all the corners and turn the tent around the right way.

It was all put back together before the 10 o'clock show opening so my stress factor didn't go too high! Let's see, it's a three day weekend, most people have the Friday off don't they? Now to wait for the crowds...that didn't show up. There were a fair number of people there but not enough to keep me constantly engaged in conversation about my work so I wandered around during the down time and visited with the other artists who were wandering around visiting...you get the picture. It is never a good sign when artists are wandering around and visiting! The functional ceramics guy with the double booth behind me had no time to visit, I've seen him at other shows and he NEVER has time to visit. I don't begrudge him. His work is functional for the most part, earth tone glazes, some decorative items, lamps, mushrooms for the garden crowd, etc. His price points are reasonable and people always like his stuff, heck, I like his stuff!
It is the beginning of the monsoon season in Colorado and sure enough when 4 o'clock or so rolled around so did the clouds over the top of Pike's Peak along with the rain. Got the tent shut down with nary a worry or wet work and waited for the storm to pass, which they do. Within an hour or so the clouds moved off and so did most of the crowd. Most of the artists, myself included, were still there although the northern most part of the show had a lot of tents closed that didn't reopen. By the end of the day I hadn't sold anything and neither did some others nearby and apparently all around the show results were pretty much the same. "Tomorrow is another day."
 
Didn't have to get there quite as early for Saturday as my tent woes were in the past. Whatever strange celestial event that had occurred on Friday had passed and the people did show up. There were good crowds throughout the day till the inevitable cloud building and dark skies showed up. Sales weren't much better than the day before and at 4:30 when it looked like the rain was inevitable I zipped up and headed for the van with the intention of not returning as did many others. The show was over at 6 so I didn't feel too guilty leaving early. In the past I would slug it out till the very end, I'm either getting older or wiser!
"The show ain't over till its over." I try to bolster myself with these aphorisms of positive intent when all the evidence looks otherwise abysmal. Sunday rolled around with pretty much the same scenario. I noticed that the popcorn and home brew creme soda guy as-well-as the Jamaican food truck guy were not there. Crowds came early, clouds showed up at around 4:30, etc. I managed to sell one small print and the other photographer guys I knew at the show did somewhat better, one or two others boasted to their friend (who was dubious about their results) that they had done really well, REALLY? I don't remember seeing too many pieces with legs attached so who knows.
So, the moral to all of this for me? I told myself a long time ago, "Don't do holiday weekend shows" unless, there is always an "unless" (there are no hard and fast rules) you know more about the show first-hand. I know better than to mix holidays (Like the fourth of July) and art shows! I just didn't listen to myself, I wonder what Jessie would have said?
Post Scribble: I guess it begs the question, "Why don't I do holiday weekend shows?" It has been my experience that the holiday weekend crowd is usually looking for entertainment without going too far or spending too much and there was enough music going on at this show to keep people entertained in-between looking at the other art. The exception to this, as I pointed out, is the Cherry Creek Arts Festival. It has an established reputation for bringing out the buyers despite the holiday and the entertainment. It has been the only decent art show in the Denver area since the "People's Fair" turned into a romp in the mud of Civic Center Park along with the drunks rolling down the hills of the park. That show predates the Cherry Creek show and used to be held on the esplanade of East High School, it was a small high quality show at the time (somewhere in '86-89?)

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Comment by Geoff Coe on July 16, 2013 at 11:08am

I lived in Denver when they started the Peoples Art Fair downtown.  It was a fun event.  By the time I moved to FL in 2004 it was a mess. 

Comment by Patti Leota Genack on July 16, 2013 at 10:14am

I was an artist on the northside of the show. I agree with all you have said. Poor attendance. I was left with the impression that most of the people who came to the show came with their children for the fountain or some other outside recreation. Not the show. Also. didn't the wind hit your side? We thought we were going to loose our tents on the northside of the show. Tear down was horrible since the food trucks were parked on the sidewalk around the show. I was lucky and had friends that came to help me tear down. Just bad all the way around.

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