Setup: Friday after 12 noon; show 10-5 Saturday and 9-4 (yes, you read that right) on Sunday. This is the third of four shows at the Community Center grounds, the only place on Sanibel that hosts an outdoor art show (Richard Sullivan of Boulderbrook Productions does shows on Thanksgiving weekend and--new this year--January; the local Lions Club has one coming up in exactly one month.) 

We got a break from the weather, and although it was a little crisp in early morning and just a bit breezy at times, you'd have to say it was near-perfect show weather. Quite a contrast to the Boulderbrook show last month, where we stood inside the Community Center and stared out the window as the howling wind took a few tents to the ground.

The water levels from that deluge and a few that followed have not yet dropped to their usual January marks, but Rotary did a good job amending the original booth layout so that everyone was on dry land.  Artist and patron parking locations were adjusted as well, which was a good thing: In the grassy lot across from the show, two vehicles that arrived Sat. night for a theatre production didn't heed the barriers and parked in low-lying areas that had been marked off-limits.  They couldn't extricate themselves at the end of the play, and by Sunday morning, their vehicles had sunk up to the axles. 

Anyway, back to the art show! Total attendance (I got this from a Rotary member during breakdown) was about 5600 for the two days...about par with last year, he said. This is one of those shows where they're lined up at opening bell, ready to see some art! Attendance always drops in the afternoon as folks head out to restaurants and beaches, so you want to bring your "A" game early. (Oh, and if you provide shipping, advertise it! Lots of vacationers, and only a few shipping locations on the island.) 

Nearly half the attendees, I'd say, are homeowners on Sanibel and Captiva; a few of my customers came from S. Fort Myers. This is peak tourism weekend here in SW Florida; traffic is heavy and there is a $6 toll to get on the island, so you're not going to lure folks from other FL towns to this show.

The Rotary does a good job communicating before the show and they are experienced with their check-in and setup rules on this postage-stamp-sized lot. It goes smoothly and efficiently: Check in across Periwinkle Dr. from the show, allow the Rotarians stop the traffic to help you get your vehicle into the show area, unload, move your vehicle if necessary back across the street, then set up.

Tip: Look at the show map when it's available and figure out if you are likely to have storage space. Not everyone does, but you can usually find a nearby artist that can let you "borrow" some of theirs. Tip 2: Get there as early as possible so that you can unload your stuff into the space next to yours and get your tent up and weighted before your neighbor arrives.

On show days, parking was in several locations, some within easy walking distance, others required a shuttle hired by the show. (I skipped the shuttle and grabbed a spot nearby each day). Storage space varies with your location. With booths to my right and behind me, I didn't have any.

Compared with next month's Lions event, this is a high-caliber show. Lots of good 2-D art and some fine craft, an abundance of jewelers and (mea culpa) wildlife/bird artists for this beach-loving community. A couple of junk stands, too, and the artists manufacturers from Hudson River Inlays.

Sales were pretty brisk, especially, it seemed, for painters. (Two of my nearby friends sold nearly all their big pieces at four-figure price points. Most of the other artists I talked with were at least satisfied, although many commented that the buying energy was a bit down compared with recent years. This was one of my more mediocre Sanibel shows--just a bit better than I did at the Thanksgiving show, before the tourists arrived-- no doubt because I had a ton of competition in the bird photography genre.  But that's cool, I get lots of post-show business from Sanibel, and I handed out about 150 business cards to locals.  By the time the post-show sales are delivered, I'll be just fine.

Load-out was managed as well as the setup. Environmentally-conscious Sanibel has minimal commercial lighting; thus the early stop on Sunday (4 PM) was instituted this year to help as many artists as possible get packed before dark (about 6:30). I was nearly the last one out, at 6:45.

The 4 PM end time on Sunday got rave reviews. The 9 AM start? Not sooo muuuchhhh.

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