Art Fair Insiders

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

Show Time on Sanibel, Feb. 19-20, 2011

Sanibel Island is a big tourist draw in SW Florida for its beautiful beaches, natural setting, absence of "big box" retailers and grocery chains, superb shell collecting, locally-owned restaurants, and expansive bike paths. It's accessible by land only by a three-mile-long causeway that connects it to  the mainland (you've got to pony up a $6.00 toll when you leave the mainland; the return trip is free).

The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary has hosted this show for many years and it's a community favorite; there are only 4 outdoor art festivals on the island all year. Many artists return year after year to do this show.  Of those veterans, most said that crowds and sales, though decent, were down somewhat from last year.  It's not the fault of the Rotarians who run the show, however.  The weather was just beach-perfect, and SW Florida has been cool and cloudy for many days since Christmastime, so folks were eager to hit the sand. Showtime was 10 AM sharp (no early arrivals allowed), so folks stormed the gates early on Saturday morning (they paid $1 each) in a buying mood,dwindled somewhat after about 1 PM in favor of a beach blanket, then returned in the late afternoon. 

The Rotarians did a nice job managing parking, with an assist from the friendly Sanibel police who manned the crosswalk across Periwinkle Drive--the main commerce route on the island--from parking area to show venue.  Because parking is extremely limited on the island, a shuttle service was also provided. (Sanibel's the ultimate bike-and-pedestrian friendly town: signs provide constant reminders to drivers to stop and  allow pedestrians to cross, and bike paths are everywhere).

Sunday crowds were down at least fifty percent, and the crowds were more in "browse mode", but sales were still decent.  At most "shuttle shows" I've noticed that people will shuttle in, and if they find art that they like, they'll return with their vehicles to pick up and pay.  So several of my Day 1 browsers turned into paying customers to give me a decent, if not spectacular, paycheck for the weekend.


Setup/teardown:  You can set up anytime between noon and dark on Friday, or early Saturday morning.  Check-in at the parking venue (across Periwinkle from the show) was easy, and the Rotarians were organized: they'd hold you in queue and communicate by walkie-talkie to determine that you'd have a clear path to your booth on the show site.  When the coast was clear, they'd stop street traffic to let you drive across to the site and unload. 

The show layout takes advantage of every nook and cranny, and for the most part artists had only six inches of extra space...not enough to be useful.  I was able to borrow some space from friendly neighbors who had several extra feet of space they weren't using, or managing back-inventory would have been impossible.  The venue had no pavement and only a little grass. It's mostly very fine sand--the kind of sand that makes for great shelling, but also gets fine dust all over your artwork, and Heaven help you if it gets wet, because the sand locks itself into a proto-cement slurry when exposed to moisture. 

The show ended at 4 PM (not 5) on Sunday to allow everyone to get out before dark (there are no lights at the venue).  The Rotarians did their best to manage the logistics, but I felt that they'd have been better off if they'd simply controlled access to the show site, but not tried to micro-manage where artists parked their vehicles.  I wound up dollying about 30 yards, zig-zagging around a nearby artist who  broke down her tent and put her supplies (and her lawn chair), with the show's blessing, in the path I'd expected to use to shorten my dollying. 


All in all, this is a solid, dependable show, though, somewhat paradoxically,  one that provides better results if the weather doesn't lure so many folks to the beaches.  One last note: I always ask folks where they're from, do they own property here or are they vacationing, etc.  And there were a large percentage of Canadians among the show-goers.  I'll ship anywhere in the U.S. but I don't have a plan for shipping to Canada, and that might have cost me a couple of sales. I'll remedy that, if I can, before I return for the Lions Club show here at the end of March.

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Comment by Connie Mettler on February 22, 2011 at 3:50pm
thanks for these two good reviews...great details and I think we all get the "drift"...

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