Art Fair Insiders

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

Planning for Emergencies at Outdoor Events

Saturday night a freak storm came up at the Indiana State Fair and destroyed the main stage and killed four people, sending many more to the hospital. 

So here we go again. Just as these storms have wreaked havoc on much smaller tents at art fairs it even happens at the big events. The Indiana State Fair is one of the biggest ones in the country and a large crowd had gathered to hear the band, Sugarland.

Monday morning the regular staff meeting in preparation for Labor Day weekend's Arts, Beats & Eats in Royal Oak was even more intense preparing for even more disaster precautions. I'm sure everyone of you who participates in outdoor events understand the fragility of their situation when severe weather approaches. Please reevaluate your tents and weights and keep in mind possible disaster when you are setting up.

Here is the story from CMT News:
Indiana Concert Tragedy Underscores the Complex Art of Staging Outd...

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Comment by Ann Marie Crosmun on August 25, 2011 at 2:32pm
We were driving right by the fairgrounds (from Minnesota to North Carolina) during that hit. I managed to get our vehicle between a big semi and another larger trailer (so I was sandwiched on both sides). The wind was whipping from all angles. Thank goodness no one was driving above 27mph. And, no accidents on the road. All I kept thinking about was the microburst that we barely survived in Asheville. After we passed through all that weather, I couldn't believe the clear skies--it was like nothing had ever happened. But, let me just say, it was scary, even being protected by being in a car. And, I feel so bad for those that were out in the open, with no protection. I still jump at any wind today. (Thank goodness our VA show has been cancelled & we don't have to try to survive in Irene). I would probably be a basket case by now.
Comment by Donna Sauers on August 23, 2011 at 9:49am
Connie, I wish promoters would include some information on how to properly weight your tents and the importance in the information packet (and maybe some photosof what can happen if you don't!).  I know that I could have used this info when I first started.  It's not just the "pop up" tents that are vulnerable, and I have also seen large Trimlines fly and topple because the artist thought it was heavy and wouldn't fly, or they had huge weights but they weren't attached properly to the tent and it pulled right out of them!  And it still amazes me when people don't bungee cord or secure their PVC weights to the legs to keep them from swinging in the wind.  A weight to the shin hurts!!  I think we have all been next to a person new to the art fairs and have asked "um.. do you have weights?"
Comment by Connie Mettler on August 21, 2011 at 9:59pm
That is really good advice, Pat. I'm going to print out your suggestions and make sure that the artists at Arts, Beats & Eats know where they are! We have new emergency plans in place and will make sure that info is in the packets also.
Comment by Barry Bernstein on August 20, 2011 at 7:00pm

Yikes!! Just as I was saying that the Detroit Metro area hardly ever gets hit with heavy winds and storms, they had just that today.  Note that the trees were uprooted at 13 Mile and Main St.  That's less than 2 miles from the AB and E site.



Comment by Tamara Hoffbauer on August 20, 2011 at 9:09am

Just to be clear, NO evac order was given. People were told there was a storm coming and given options for places to seek shelter, but they were not told to evacuate. The Fair director, Cindy Hoye, has said that they had just made the decision to evacuate, however that call was never put into action. I live here in Indy, and we were aware there was a storm developing as early as 7pm, so if you know something is brewing you need to be planning way ahead, not waiting until four minutes before it hits to do something about it. This goes for the Fair as well as the rest of us!


Definitely be aware of weather, learn how to read a radar map, and always plan where you will go if bad weather hits. If you do not have a smartphone, pick up a weather radio. They are cheap and effective and you can get weather 24 hours a day. Just make sure that if you travel, you can get local NOAA stations on your radio. Be safe!


Personally, I'd love to hear some ideas for making our tents a bit more sturdy - even the expensive canopies are no real match for strong storms. Weights, cross bars, stakes, lowering the top...any other ideas?


Comment by Leslie Turner on August 19, 2011 at 5:23pm
It's too bad you can't carry your storm shelter with you, because Barry is right, the weather has gotten meaner in recent years. Hopefully it will cool off and calm down, but I'm not going to hold my breath. I think we are all going to have to develop ways to cope with more frequent inclement weather.
Comment by Barry Bernstein on August 19, 2011 at 3:55pm

I definitely think the weather is getting more fierce.  For the first 20 years of doing shows the wind was never an issue.  I didn't even have weights except for Ann Arbor and then I screwed the booth into the asphalt with dry wall screws.  That did the trick. Now, it is mandatory to have weights.


I recently did a show where, towards the end of the first day the committee went around and told people to close up and leave because we were going to get 65 mph winds and hail.  Fortunately, the storm veered South and missed us.  We got about 20 minutes of rain and that was it.  However, I talked to a friend of mine who does sound stage work at festivals and he was at a music festival about 15 miles west of where my show was.  They got the 65 mph winds.  It only lasted a minute or two, but, it tore the roof right off the stage, which was secured with industrial strength covering.  At 65 mph, there is no chance of not getting some damage no matter how much weight you may have on your corners.  Fortunately, I never recall the Detroit area ever having winds that strong.  It would be a freak occurrence.

Comment by Connie Mettler on August 19, 2011 at 11:17am
So, I'm thinking (sort of tongue in cheek) that when the artists check in besides asking to see their ID we should say "show me your weights?"
Comment by Donna Sauers on August 18, 2011 at 9:56am

Even on bright sunny days there can be a false sense of security and a storm cell can pop up out of nowhere.  I have lived in the midwest long enough to know that and the "weekly storms" we have had this season that have taken down trees seemed to come without much warning.   The one thing that is unsettling is the customers that are still strolling the show as big black clouds are looming and the wind and lightning are picking up and we know we are going to get slammed.  As we scramble to secure our tents and work they look at us and ask "is it going to rain?"  And this weekend the judges came in my booth, crawled under my awning that was already secured, and asked me about my work as I was driving in extra stakes since they were predicting up to 60mph winds (luckily it didn't happen) Yish...  I miss not having my own radar at shows and have to rely on my neighbors (thank you Tahmi for being near me at shows and keeping me posted - but I'm not going to believe you when you say we are going to be ok today - tee-hee!!).

And so much of it depends on what way the wind decides to swirl and in heavy storms no tent is "safe".  I have been at a show where my row wasn't even swaying and the 2 across from me were battling winds and tents were flying.  A trimline across from me flew in the air, over another, and landed on an EZ up (a buy sell booth where amazingly people still kept shopping as they tried to get the tents untangled!!).  If you are on an end and the wind is coming from that way you know you are going to get hit more than others since you already are at a dissadvantage with no wind block. 


Personally I think that no one should be allowed to set up a tent without proper weights.  It doesn't take a big wind to send some toppling.  And when a storm is coming that is not the time for promoters to come around and say "do you have weights?"!  The ones that aren't properly secured are the ones that will damage others, their work, and people. 

Comment by Oscar Matos Linares on August 17, 2011 at 8:10pm
You can go about  this over and over. Does not matter how secure your tent or what type of tent. If you get high winds or micro burst is nothing you can do other than hope for the best and run for a more secure area. There is difference between 25mph winds and 70mph winds. A tornado will flat a town so please be respectful people died in this very sad event. If you see the video we should be happy that very few lost of their life. This could be a lot worst.

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