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Royal Oak Farmers Market Holiday Show Potentially a Great Show

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of doing the Royal Oak Farmers Market Holiday Show. It was a winner for a first time event and it has the potential to be one of the better shows in the Metro Detroit area. This show is put on by the Guild. This is the same group that has its own Ann Arbor Show, the two Birmingham shows and a few others within a hundred miles of Ann Arbor.

First a little history. This show was started a couple of years ago as the Ann Arbor Holiday Show. It was held at the Eastern Michigan university arena where Eastern plays its basketball being part of the MAC. It was a strange place for a show because of the location. The arena is built into the ground so as a customer, you enter at ground level and walk down to the floor. This was not so good if you were old or had a hard time walking. If you ever attend a sporting event you know what I mean. And, yet, it was a good show for most of us. I was looking forward to doing it again last year until I looked at the dates and saw that it was the week before Christmas. The reason for this was that EMU had home basketball games the weekends leading up to Christmas and The Guild couldn't get the arena and earlier. So, I skipped it last year.

This year, they decided to move it to Royal Oak at the Farmers Market building the week before Thanksgiving. My first thoughts were "not another show in Royal Oak, bleech." Then I went to the web site and looked at who was already in the show and I was impressed with the quality of the artists who were doing it. Plus, if I did the show, I could have Thanksgiving and spend time with my brothers. So, I did the show. I had very low expectation because I don't really have holiday items. I thought that maybe I could pay for my trip and have some fun. Surprise, surprise, I did twice what I expected to do. I got to hang out with my brothers and their families, went to a Red Wings game, watched Michigan lose to Ohio State (lol), took a side trip to Ann Arbor to see some friends, dropped off some pieces to the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Association gallery that I sell out of year round, and had a generally great time.

The Guild tried some things with this show that was somewhat new and different. The show was held on a Thursday and Friday, probably because it was in use on Saturday and Sunday with farmers coming in to sell their produce and the other stuff that gets sold at farmers markets. While it wouldn't be my choice days to have a show, I think it worked out. Another thing they did was run the show from 12-9 PM both days. The reason they gave for extending the hours until 9 was that they wanted to take advantage of all the people that come to downtown Royal Oak to eat and hang out at the bars at night. Those people didn't come to the show and the few that did were not buyers. I had no sales after 6 both days and the people who did come, were there just to be entertained. I'm not a fan, anymore, of entertaining people with my artwork. If I have any influence, it would be to change the times to 10 AM- 6 PM.

The one thing the Guild did above all else that made this show work is that they sent some targeted email to specific zip codes from their database of loyal customers. They sent a listing of all the artists at the event with a thumbnail of their work. Since the show had a number of top quality artists, that email was impressive. I know that worked because I had customers who told me they came because they knew I was there. Two of them bought multiple pieces to give as presents. It wasn't crowded, but, that didn't matter. The people who did attend were knowledgeable sophisticated buyers. It was my kind of crowd. There were not many walking zombies except maybe in the evening. Many shows like to tell you how big their crowds are and most of them are there just to look or to see the music and all the other distractions. If you eliminate all those people, most shows would look like this one. I heard that many of those people who attended called the city to tell them what I nice show it was and how impressed they were with the art and the artists.

This show has earned a good reputation and should be better attended in the future. Hopefully, the Guild will keep the quality of the art high. I liked that there were only 85 booths. I hope that stays the same. Also, the art was the focal point of the event. I've pointed this out many times, that the best shows only have artwork and very little, if any, sideshows like a music stage. There were a few food vendors and they were high quality too, including Slows Barbecue.

Setup and take down were are easy as it gets. Setup was on Wednesday or Thursday before noon. There were plenty of people on hand to help unload and load back into your vans. Nicole and Allan did a great job of helping artists with any problems that might have occurred. Their crew was impressively friendly and helpful.

In conclusion, this show could be a gem for years to come as it gains a reputation. It is imperative that the quality remains high and the number of artists stay low. There may be a temptation to make it bigger, charge more for booths, and add things that take away from the artwork. There may be a temptation to add more food booths, too, which would be ok if the quality of the food stays high. If the Guild could get the building for Saturday and Sunday, that would help. I'm assuming that the booth fees would have been higher for a weekend event because the building rental would be higher. That would have to be taken into consideration. Thursday and Friday were ok. And, I would change the times to open earlier and close earlier, especially at the end of the show. By being open Friday night from 6-9, there were assuming that some of the best sales would have taken place at the end of a show, which, almost never happens.

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Comment by Connie Mettler on December 6, 2016 at 5:02pm

Loving this, Barry! So glad you were there and reported back. When I heard about this show (in this particular piece of real estate) I had hopes it would be a good one.

Many years ago I lived nearby on the northern edges of Detroit and we used to go to this Farmers Market on Saturdays to shop for produce and on other days to the antique market. It is a great neighborhood, full of young and older families, a great sense of community AND this is a place people like to go. 

Now here we are, many years later, and the neighborhood is even better! and people still love this location, know where to park, then go get a great meal nearby -- and a small art fair! People in the area love art fairs, it is part of the Michigan culture. Glad to know this worked. I hope the Guild can get this edged into the weekend, but still ...

You and I have a long history with The Guild. They do work hard to make their events work. They had a long running holiday show in AA many years ago (what happened to that?). 

(Really that was a LOL about the football game? Still in depression over that.)

How many artists do you think were there? 

Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on December 7, 2016 at 3:49pm

Very nice review Barry.  It is always nice to read about a good show!  Sounds like a good one to go back to.

Comment by Barry Bernstein on December 7, 2016 at 4:55pm

I forgot to mention that artists had free parking at the church across the street.

I don't know what happened to the AA show. Maybe they lost their location. As I said, a couple of years ago, they tried to start it up again, in Ypsilanti. When I asked why Ypsi, they said they couldn't find a decent place on a good weekend in Ann Arbor. This is a good solution.

I've railed against big bloated shows for a long time. This is my kind of show. High quality, very little distractions, and knowledgeable buyers. It wasn't very well attended and I'm sure a lot of artists went home unhappy. Is it better to have a lot of people wandering through just looking or is it better to have less people that are interested in the work. I've lost my patience for people wasting my time. With some good press, this show should improve over the years. One thing I didn't mention was that the booth fee was an attractive $250. I really appreciated that. I hope they keep it that way, at least, until the event gets established. It's hard to find good holiday shows with quality work. I see it attracting even better artists in the future.

Comment by Jane Shaffer on December 13, 2016 at 2:00pm

I just saw that they are doing a Spring show in March.  They took your advice and changed the hours - a little - 10 to 8.  Do you have any thoughts on how this will go over in the Spring?

Comment by Barry Bernstein on December 13, 2016 at 3:13pm

I don't like it because it is too close to their other shows and probably could dilute the sales at the holiday show. One of the things I liked about the holiday show is its exclusivity. I wonder if the City of Royal Oak pushed for this? They are a greedy bunch of a-holes who have no concept of how these things work. The more shows that get added to the area, the worse it gets for artists. I'd only be in favor of this if the guild dumped the spring Birmingham show. It's only a shadow of what it used to be. I might consider doing it if I could get in at the last minute. It's a week after the Garage Sale and, for me, 4 or 5 solid Florida shows. Hopefully, I will have an empty van that week.

Comment by Christina L. Towell on December 23, 2016 at 9:01am

So happy to know about this and to read a positive review, Barry.  I live nearby but missed it this year, will look into it for next year, it might be a good fit for me...thanks for this informative critique!

Comment by Jane Shaffer on October 2, 2017 at 9:50am

Barry,
Based on your review, I decided to do the Royal Oak Holiday show this year ( I will also be able to visit with my relatives.)  I was wondering whether you used an inside setup with drapes or you set up your tent.  If you set up your tent, did you put the top on?  Thank you for any information you have on this.

Comment by Barry Bernstein on October 2, 2017 at 10:06am

I just used my frame to hang my lights. It's an indoor show, so, use your indoor setup. I probably won't be there. I am going out of the country and won't be back until some time on setup day. If I get back around noon, I will go over and try and get a space from a last minute cancellation.

Don't blame me if the show doesn't meet your expectations. Some people didn't do well and it is a typical guild show with some great work and some crapola. It should be better this year than last being that last year was its' first year. There are no guarantees.

Comment by Jane Shaffer on October 2, 2017 at 10:53am

I would not blame you.  I know it is a long shot, but I can stay free at my brother's house and visit with my relatives.  Thanks for the info.

Comment by Barry Bernstein on October 2, 2017 at 11:32am

You can do me a favor and tell Nicole that you did the show based on my review and recommendation.

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