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Review: Colorado ArtFest at Castle Rock September 10 & 11

Background

I originally applied to this show at the recommendation of a jeweler I met in Wichita back in the spring.  I am a photographer working in traditional and historic processes with a mid-range price point.  I do offer a limited number of lower cost reproductions and postcards as well.  Castle Rock is located on I-25 just south of Denver, and about 30 minutes north of Colorado Springs.  It's an upper-middle class to high-end area with traditional-leaning tastes.  And while it's a 45 minute drive from my home, I still consider it to be local for me which helped with expenses.  The show is centrally located in downtown Castle Rock with shuttles for both shoppers and artists running regularly from the nearby Douglas County Events Center.  This is a two-day show with 177 artists and no electricity produced by the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce.

 

Layout

This is an art festival first and foremost.  The show is laid out in two parking lots, one behind the library and the other behind the town hall.  The street between the two lots is closed and has may 10 artist booths along it, giving the show a loose "z" configuration.  There was a small food area near the library lot with about 5 or so vendors (no turkey legs!) and an adjacent entertainment stage with a variety of intermittenent acts.  A children's art area was set up at the far end of the town hall lot.  There was a Chobani truck situated at one end of  the cross street giving away free yogurt all weeked.

 

Set-up

Set-up began at noon on Friday.  Artists picked up their packets and staged at the events center.  Vehicles were allowed to proceed to the festival site as space became available and the wait time seemed fairly short.  Most people were able to drive up to their booth spaces to unload.  The pace was faily relaxed and I had my tent up before my car needed to be moved.  Booth spaces varied depending on location.  I was in a center aisle, so I had another 5 or so feet of storage behind my booth.  Those set-up on the cross street or around the perimeter of the lots had no space behind them.  Set-up was smooth for me, but others had issues - more on that below.

 

The Show

This is a high-quality show.  The level of the work was very good, with little to no BS.  While there were a few contemporary artists showing, most of the work catered to the more traditional tastes of the local clientele.  I saw few booths that I would have been unhappy to be next to, and I felt comfortable that my work fit in well here.  Sales here were not generally record-breaking.  Saturday morning people were buying from the time the show opened at 9 and the activity didn't drop off until lunch.  It picked up again mid-afternoon and dropped off about 4:30, with the show closing at 6.  Sunday was a bit slower start until the after church crowd arrived and activity stayed strong until about 2:30 or so.  Sales were largely non-exisitent in the last hour of the show from 4-5.

On Sunday morning the judges came around and handed out the awards.  There was one jurors' award in each category, plus best fine art, best fine craft, and best of show.  Only the last 3 had money attached, totalling $700.  I am proud to say that I recieved the jurors' choice award for photography.  Best of fine craft and jurors' choice for ceramics were both given out a few booths away from me.  It was a good corner to be in.

As far as amenities, the show had a hospitatlity tent with light breakfast items, coffee, and snacks throughout the day.  The portapotties were clean and had real handwashing stations next to them.  While a bit inconviently placed, they were located away from the artists booths so that wasn't an issue.  Trash cans were a tad harder to come by, but a local Boy Scout troup made the rounds both days picking up trash and sprucing up the portapotties.

 

Tear Down

As is the case with many shows, little direction was given about tear down on Sunday.  But this didn't stop it from being an orderly process.  This show is done by a lot of pros, so folks were talking with each other and helping out as usual.  The only hitch was that the artists' shuttle only ran until 6:00, so I could only partially break down before going to get my car.  Fortunately this wasn't a problem space-wise and I was able to pull up in front of my booth with no problems.

 

Sales

As I said before this was not a record-setter for most people.  Nobody I spoke to zeroed, but the a painter and a sculptor near me only had one sale each.  I did slightly better here that I did at the 6-day odessy in OKC this spring, so it was an OK show in that respect.  A nearby jeweler said that it was a "medium-good" show for them and better than anything they had done in AZ this year.  A couple of old-timers were saying that it wasn't worth doing for them anymore.  No one I spoke to said it was a "great" show, but most of the newbies and short-timers said it would be on their "do again" list.  Because it's local for me with a reasonable booth fee I will definitely try this show again next year.

 

The Bad Stuff

Every show has its issues, so I left them for last:

1.  When buying your booth space, you were given the option of standard, double, corner, end, or a combination.  For $70 you got maybe 4 extra feet on one side if you bought and end.  If you were on the island end, no biggie.  But these were over sold and created in places other than just the end of a row.  It was 4 feet between booths and if you displayed your work on the outside people looking at your work would block the view of your neighbor's work and vice versa.  There were similar complaints about some corner booths ($90) not really being corners as well.  For the most part the promoter worked these issues out to the artist's satisfaction.

 

2.  Parking/shuttle issues:  The artists' shuttle didn't run on Saturday morning, reportedly because the driver didn't show up.  Some artists made the substantial trek from the fairground to the festival site across the busy railroad tracks on foot, others were left jogging up the hill from artist parking to customer shuttle to get to a ride.  The artist parking was in lot 1 at the bottom of a hill, but the artist shuttle only picked up at the top of the hill in lot 5 (the customer lot).  They would drop you off at the end of the day in lot 1, but wouldn't pick you up there in the morning.  A minor thing, I know, but confusing for the artists when you're told it will be otherwise.  It would be lovely if this were corrected next year.

 

3.  I had a little trouble getting the gift certificates cashed in on Saturday, so I had to wait until Sunday afternoon.  Since they were a small denomination it wasn't a huge deal, just an irritation.  Better communication between the promoter and the volunteers would fix this.  Ditto with the sales tax forms at the end of the show as no one knew where these should go.

 

All in all I have done much worse shows sales-wise and organizationally.  Like I said, this is on my "do it again" list.  If you're already out this way and have high quality traditional work this is a decent show.

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Comment by Richard L. Sherer on July 10, 2012 at 10:22am
I live about 30 minutes fro CR and do not do the show but have walked it for info. Coupe things not mentioned. There is an admission fee and alcohol is sold on site. Weather can be a factor. I did a an outdoor historical cultural event in Denver and had a sheet of ice on my tent overnight. CR had rain mixed with snow and the show did not open until around 1:00 pm Saturday. Other years the weather has been beautiful. I don't do the show because we have lived her for 31 years and most locals know where I am at.
Comment by Bill Coleman Entertainment on September 14, 2011 at 10:30pm
Comment by Jacqueline Webster on September 14, 2011 at 12:30pm
Yep, that's what I heard from the folks who've done this show for a while.  And there were many comments about the the landscape/wildlife photography.  There were a couple of exceptions to that, and I was one of them.  My work definitely doesn't fit that mold.  The Chamber folks were lovely, especially the co-chairs, but as with any volunteer-staffed event there can be hiccups.  I will give it another shot next year.  I'm thinking that maybe some of the artists who've been doing this one long-term may need a break for themselves and the customers.  Skipping a year may refresh everyone's palettes.
Comment by S Brian Berkun on September 14, 2011 at 11:36am
Sounds like things (results) at this show haven't changed much since the last time I did it and that was 4 years ago! Seems like this is always an "okay" show never "great". Like you, the show was easy for me to do as I worked in Castle Rock at the time so I could set up right after work. Typically the stuff that is juried in is fairly "conservative" in terms of style, the last year I did the show there was a lot of landscape/wildlife photography, not too challenging to the viewers. The "promoters" are the Chamber of Commerce as they run the show largely with volunteer help so it can be a hit and miss at times in terms of things running smoothly but they do their best.

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