Art Fair Insiders

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Tarpon Springs: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


Got a call this morning from Nels. "Why don't you write up the show, I left early Sunday morning".

I remember hearing that at the show Sunday morning, and saying to my wife, "There's a smart man!" The weather report was as bleak as it could be. We would be hit by rain around 1 PM and it would last all afternoon.

Tarpon Springs is a small town with a lot of character. The tourist draws are the sponge docks and the Greek food. I've done the art festival off and on for 2 decades and have been in most locations throughout the park. Some locations are better than others. I have gravitated to the hardest location to set up, but where the sales, for me, are consistently good.

The Park is hastily fenced around its perimeter on Friday so an entry fee can be charged. The artists can load in on Friday too, but the degree of difficulty is in direct proportion to your assigned spot. Mine is a cart-in from 50 yards away, if I can get one of 2 parking spots. Tear-down is worse, sometimes 100 yards and then carrying everything up a grassy hill to the curb. I couldn't have left Sunday morning even if I had wanted to. Nels is always in a different area and this year he had a perfect load-in/load-out spot, but he said it lacked steady traffic and therefore, sales.

He shared his number with me and, really, I only made a few hundred more on Saturday. Oh, by the way, Saturday was a perfect day! Great crowds and lots of people carrying bags.

The show hours were 9 to 5 on Saturday and 10 to 5 on Sunday. We arrived at 9:30 Sunday morning and found the parking difficult and the crowd huge. They were letting people in early due to the threat of rain. By the time I got back from parking many blocks away, Kim had the booth open and was putting up as many awnings as we had. I mention this because a year earlier, we couldn't do this even though we had the same booth number in the show.

Let me digress to editorialize to promoters everywhere:

When an artist requests the same booth number they had last year, they don't really mean the same number, we mean the same real estate! Last year when we arrived for set-up Friday afternoon, we found another booth set up in the spot we had had for several years in a row. We had to set-up in the grove of trees where a booth had never been set up before. It seems a volunteer didn't realize a booth should not be placed there, but there I was, same number, but one space away from "my" spot. Same thing happened to me in Naperville last year. "Spot" means location not number!

So, last year when the rains came we could not put any awnings out. This year, when the rain came, there was no reason to. The crowd evaporated so fast we just dropped our sides. Up to that point, sales were fantastic and we did as well in a few hours as we did all day, Saturday. The show was officially closed and artists were given permission to tear down in the poring rain.

Several artist joined us in drinking beer (the beer booth stayed open) and we sat in the booth plugging leaks and telling stories for a couple of hours until one of my loading spots opened up and then we proceeded to pack-out in a steady drizzle.

That makes two weeks in a row of short Sunday afternoons and a lousy pack-up. Between the cold and the rain this year, Florida has been pretty miserable.

Views: 116

Comment by Connie Mettler on March 29, 2010 at 5:20pm
Great report, R.C. Welcome back.

We did this show a couple of times (great place, lovely site) but the load in and load out was so annoying we quit doing it. Some of us are more crotchety than others and don't have the patience to hang back and drink beer. Maybe a few more dollars would have helped.

I'm with you on the "spot". Shows that have volunteers doing this do not "get" it. Sometimes you have to say specifically, between the two maple trees near where space #87 was in 2009...right?

We are looking forward to welcoming you all back to the north in a few months. If Washington can have record snow, Florida can have record cold. It seems the weather slipped south this winter.
Comment by bruce ferguson on March 29, 2010 at 5:47pm
It would have been great if leaving early was possible. Although The people that came in early bought quick and didn't lollygag like they did Saturaday. What a mess packing up in the rain
Comment by Bill Sargent on March 29, 2010 at 9:09pm
Sounds like my Saturday last weekend at Winter Park. I don't know which is worse.. setting up in the rain or tearing down in a downpour. The last few weeks in Florida have been pretty juicy.
When sales are good, however, it makes the whole thing a lot easier. Congratulations on that part of your show.
Comment by Roxie Spell on March 29, 2010 at 9:20pm
My turn. It was my first time in Tarpon Springs show and was glad to be able to drive in and drop off. Way back to the right across the walk from the water. I have ceramics and being a solo artist with no help I could not do a show if I had to carry things too far. (My van is full and no room for a big dolly, yes, I do need a trailer... when I can afford it). I had wonderful neighbors and had a great time. When they closed the show at 1:00 on Sunday I got in my tent with my work and started to eat lunch, I had secured all things that could get damaged and figured I might as well wait until later to pack up. Well I got slammed and sold alot, never finished lunch. Then I slowly began to pack up. Yes I was soaked too. One artist told me that they were not allowing vehicles in and everything had to be carted out by hand, someone got stuck in the mud, well with clay and 12 boxes, it is a bit much and I am not a young chicken. I told them that I would get my vehicle in or I would be sleeping in the park. I found a nice guy on a golf cart and he called the gate and personally escorted me in. I was very pleased with the weekend and only being in the business for less than 2 years, it was my first rain storm and I was prepared. I am blessed. Best sales so far. I did have two people I personally know that did not make it back that far before the rain and left, but I would do it again, if I get the same location and can drive in. It was a mess packing up, but there could have been lightening and rain, we were blessed. Would have loved to meet Nels. Another time.
Comment by Bert Herrera on March 29, 2010 at 10:27pm
Rich, it sounds like it ended up a decent show for you! Last time I did this show, they didn't allow you to put up an awning, and I got tired of seeing the pvc birds going by the booth. I'm glad to hear it has improved.
Comment by William Boyer on March 30, 2010 at 4:28am
I did okay at the Fair on Sat. and Sun just before it rained. I was the one doing Adult Finger Painting.
Comment by Nels Johnson on March 30, 2010 at 8:12am
Excellent report RC. I couldn,t say it better. I wish in some ways I would have stayed, but I stick with my decision, it was the right one.

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