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Tarpon Springs Art Festival--A lot of work for a little return

This is a very labor intensive show to do for setup and tear down. It is held on the grounds of a scenic park on a bayou in downtown Tarpon Springs. It is fenced off and they charge a $5 admission.


There are only three entrances to the show where vans can park and offload. Otherwise you are carting work from the van parked on the side streets, sometimes as far as two blocks away. It is one giant clusterfuck for the 200 artists there.


It might be worth it if you were selling $3-5K there. Most artists are lucky if they do $1.5K-$2K. You are selling to a mostly older crowd who buys mostly Florida beach dreck art and they want it cheap. My neighbor a water colorist had it down pat. She did not have a lot of originals there. Instead, she had giclees by the thousands and a printer wired up and running behind the booth. She popped prints into white frames that she sold at $22 and $39 each. She did this all show long. Her scenic spots were Florida basic beach 101 and that is just what the crowd wanted.


I showed up for setup on Friday afternoon. My spot was way out on the point, a long cartloads away.the winds were howling, 20-30 mph at times. I pleaded with the committee for a spot closer. They relented. They gave me the first booth spot on the sidewalk as the crowd would come into thru this gate. The kiss of death but it was the best I could get unless I wanted to stay not on the point. Not! I chose the closer spot.


The winds were so bad that it took me two hours just to get the Lightdome up. The winds tore my Velcro fasteners off my panel covers. I had to put v-clamps on all of them to hold in place. I triple staked each corner and the booth barely stayed still. Hung framed photos kept ricocheting in and out off the panels. Four hours later, I was finally setup.


I got there early Saturday morn to get a decent parking spot and found a great breakfest at the nearby Tarpon Diner. Naturally, I ordered the Greek omelet.


The show opened at 9 am and it was very quiet at my gate entrance. I figured I was dead meat. I was already considering tearing down that night and getting the hell out of dodge licking my seriously serrated artist wounds. By noon I was up to $300, my neighbor was already over $2K. By 1pm there were a suitable number of people coming by the booth. I sold to several longtime customers and actually ended the day doing about $1K. No tear down that night.


I got there extra early Sunday morn and got Position "A" for the van. Someday, when I am about to retire, I will explain Position "A". I had bought my standard Sunday NY Times. I can kill three great hours reading it while sipping on coffee, or over breakfests, or while just sitting in my booth chair waiting for an early bird customer.


Things finally started heating up around noon. I equaled the previous day's sales. I asked around the show early Sunday morn. Talked to about 20 artists in different media and asked how their Saturday went. Surprisingly, I did better than the majority of them. Not a lot of happy faces. During tear down I queried friends about the show sales. Most were ok, happy to have done $1500-$2000. But face it, if you are staying in hotels and burning gas, plus meals and a high booth fee then $2000 is not that great.
 This has been a tough spring in Florida. The shows have been off for more people than "on".


I made it to a local bar after tear down and got to see the end of the Masters. Overall, I thanked God, I got to live and fight as an artist for another day.


Next up for both Ellen and me is Main Street Fort Worth. We both make some very serious moola there. This is my sixth one with them and they just keep getting better and better. I got in off the waitlist and gave up Mainsail.


Adios, amigos. I will do a tequila report off this show as well.

Views: 507

Comment by Pat Falk on April 11, 2017 at 5:46pm

Hi  Nels! Your booth was actually my spot.  We set our tent up there on Fri. a,m, but with the howling winds, couldn't even zip our tent closed.  So asked to move to a less windy location.  Tore everything down and move to a short path which had little wind.  Unfortunately, it also had little traffic.  The show is large and the layout is confusing.  The attendees would come to an intersection, we were to the right, and they would keep going straight.  I spoke to some artists in this location and a jeweler didn't even make booth fee. A potter was disappointed as she had been in on the corner in previous years. A mixed media artist wasn't happy.  Everything we sold was small items and didn't amount to enough to make this show worthwhile.  Glad to hear you did well in my old spot. I couldn't stay there with my glass and the wind. You are right about the setup.  Shlepping all the stuff to 2 locations was exhausting.  On to the next show!

Comment by Connie Mettler on April 12, 2017 at 7:03am

I think this is the first report we've ever had for this show in Tarpon Springs. Thank you.

I've never heard of someone with a printer in their booth making more work! A battery run printer?

This event is an example of extreme schlepping. The last time we did it Norm did all of the things about parking the van, finding spot A, getting there early so we could get out. You all know what I mean. It is probably the only show we have ever don't where we didn't go back because of the bad blood between local artists, who I think have the better spots, and us out of towners. Nearly a fist fight with someone who "knew someone on the committee" and who would make sure we didn't get back again because we pulled our van in before we were completely torn down, or was it because we started loading out before the tent was down ... you know, some of that stupid stuff. It got a little ugly and then we got out of there. A nice town with somewhat decent sales if you haven't come far but a long way to go from Michigan.

You go get 'em, Nels, I'm glad you "got to live and fight as an artist another day." Me, I'm recently back from the Yucatan where we were warned not to drink the water but drank some tequila anyway. Which is less dangerous, a margarita on the rocks or frozen? 

Comment by Barrie Lynn Bryant on April 12, 2017 at 10:22am

Connie, I did one in 2014 and Nels did another in 2011. But R.C. Fulwiler did one in 2010! LOL!

Comment by Connie Mettler on April 12, 2017 at 10:48am

Okay ... and I probably said the same things. Norm was lucky to get out of there without a fistfight. That definitely made an impression on me. 

Comment by Barrie Lynn Bryant on April 12, 2017 at 12:06pm

My wife was the same way about this show, Connie. Some of the show crew are over-the-top fussy and bossy with complete disregard for courtesy. We were always on the cul-du-sac, so we occupied prime real estate during this show. Being on the river side is best. But we only did great one time. Won some nice awards there until a certain retired photog showed up on the scene with his master plan.

Being on the cul-de-sac was an easier place for load in and out since we could park very close to the booth, but load out was always a tremendous hassle no matter what. And some of the staff made it worse. Still, I love that community and others on the staff.

Comment by Christina L. Towell on April 17, 2017 at 10:05am

Thanks, Nels...what connie said, especially the part about you getting to "live and fight as an artist" for another day, Yes!

Comment by Laurel D. Rund on April 17, 2017 at 10:11am

First the positives.   Lovely setting, good staff and other then the winds on Friday - beautiful setting. Had a great space, so I thought, with plenty of room.  Not knowing how the show operates, I'm still confused as to where the "best spots" are for sales.    The negatives - barely made the cost of the show and expenses.   For me, the way the show is laid out makes it hard for potential customers to find you - the "I'll be backs".   I even got lost trying to find my way back from a rest room stop and walk around.   Was the least successful show of my season, which was disappointing since I came in with great expectations.  Won't be returning next year.  Yes, once again, the community and the show folks are wonderful.   Sales, not so much.   Frustrated to hear about that one person mass producing on the spot - that feels like going to a Home Goods store, not an art show.     

Comment by Larry Sohn on April 25, 2017 at 3:52pm

Nels
I sent you a "friend request" with a PM. I wanted to talk with you via Private Messge.

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