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Tempe Spring Festival of the Arts 2012

Show Organizer/Promoter: Downtown Tempe Foundation, Inc., http://tempefestivalofthearts.com

Booth Fee: $35 Jury Fee on Zapp, $535 Booth Fee, $75 of the booth fee pre-pays the Tempe Business License and taxes, an Arizona License euphuistically referred to as the Transaction Privilege Tax (TPT)/License is also required. I checked on the City of Tempe Business web site and a special events license is only $25 which suggests that the other $50 is pre-collected taxes! If your sales don't meet or exceed that amount will they refund the difference? Inquiring minds want to know and I intend to check into that!

Logistics: Artists are not allowed into the festival area until 9 pm on Thursday the night before, although you can load-in early in the morning on Friday, the first day of the show. The festival does a really good job of organizing times for different "zones" to load-in. They are staggered on a half-hour basis and they make sure east-west and north-south artists go in the right direction on the street. Mill AVenue, which runs N/S is more narrow and load-in/out seems to be a little tight. Even so by 11:30 pm we were ready to sleep after driving 7+ hours to get there. Given the day light hours are longer now there was still light when we loaded up Sunday night, not so in December!

Show Hours: The show runs from 10-6 Friday-Sunday. It could have easily closed an hour earlier on Sunday without any loss.

Amenities: Tempe festival does a nice job of offering water, coffee, hot chocolate, sweets, treats and other stuff for the artists at their hospitality booth. At check in on Thursday they had water and what was left of the cookies (I should'a been there earlier!) Friday was fairly warm and the temperature reached close to 90 on Saturday and they were running around in the golf carts making sure all the artists had plenty of water! They have always been very friendly and hospitable. Booth sitters were available if needed by calling a number on the daily info sheet and they even offered a service to help people carry heavy art to their vehicles.

Demographics: Unlike ALL of the other shows that I have done in Arizona this winter season this show actually had a wide cross-section of age groups! The winter show had a LOT of baby strollers whereas this show had all age groups reasonably represented. Who was buying? People with money to spend of course! That seemed to be more of the middle age bracket with the high end age group buying more popcorn and the low end age group inexpensive art reprints.

Food: I know that there were some food booths on one of the streets but I didn't make it there this go round. I saw some people eating chocolate covered bananas and apples along with boxes of Asian noodles as-well-as the usual lemonade and popcorn stands. Given that the show takes place in downtown Tempe there are LOTS of restaurants around. We went for the Fatburger one day and the philly cheese steak another day at one of the local establishments. Dinner was a variety of salads, hummus and pita at a mid-eastern style restaurant Friday night.

Reflections: The booth fee seems a might high given the return at this show. Statistics provided by the show reveal that sponsorship pays for 23% of the expenses of the overall show which saves artists $200 on their booth fee. Artists and other vendor fees pay for 63% of the show ($330,000 total show cost). I had heard from artists last year that their results at the spring show were much better than what they experienced at the December show which is why I thought I'd try it. The show proudly boasts: "The Tempe Festival of the Arts consistently ranks among the Top 200 art festivals in the nation by Sunshine Artist and has received the Pinnacle Award from the International Festival and Events Association. The spring and fall events each attract nearly 225,000 visitors to the Mill Avenue District over the course of a 3-day weekend." I don't dispute the number of visitors as the show was pretty crowded each midday but how does Sunshine Artist come up with their rankings? Even the jewelers weren't doing so hot at the show this go round!

The festival has a "featured artist" for each of their shows which is a nice aspect. I have no idea how the artist is chosen for that honor but they get a double wide booth in the middle of the show. I first saw this shows featured artist work at a Costco in the Denver area with a representative manning the display. Subsequently his booth has been seen in many (most) of the shows in the southwest that I have attended, again with a representative, but never, prior to this, have I seen him. In fact I didn't see him in his booth last Dec at this show! He was there for this show though. Okay, enough sniping.

As mentioned the crowds were fairly large, even Friday there was a good herd marching through the streets. I like the TV show "Walking Dead" and minus the rotting flesh, biting of throats and moaning it seemed like the crowd moved through the show in a manner similar to the herd of dead on the show. The weather was so hot on Friday and Saturday that the lemonade stands were doing a brisk business but the popcorn wasn't going as fast! He reported that his numbers were pretty far off.  Very little buying was taking place on either of the first two days for anyone except the hat people. I didn't even see a lot of dogs wearing the dog hats like I usually do. We held out hope that with the cooler temperatures on Sunday the buyers would come out. Sunday was much cooler, pleasantly so, although much breezier. I was encouraged about sales when I made my first early in the day but it slowed through the rest of the day. My neighbor Rick and his wife Linda were selling their very clever wood work items on a more regular basis like they did at the Dec show but the jeweler next to them was lamenting the lack of buying enthusiasm for her wares even though they seemed well priced. The hat people had brisk action throughout the weekend with items under $40. On Sunday as well it seemed like the majority of people just breezed past the booths without much interest. Is that just my perception? Is it germane to a big show? At the smaller shows that I have been doing it seems most everyone looks at most every booth.

Did I mention Buy/Sell (aka B/S)? The show makes a strong point in their daily newsletter that should an artist feel that they suspect B/S they can make an anonymous call and the staff will investigate it. I didn't get a chance to walk the show this time but the hat people seemed suspicious to me. Somehow their wares just didn't seem to have that hand-made quality. Who am I to judge, I didn't make any calls to anyone though.

The show went till 6 pm and although the weather wasn't as much of a factor by that time, the crowds thinned considerably by 5. In my comments to the organizers I know I will suggest ending the show at 5 on Sunday for sure. They came, they talked with the artists but they didn't buy much! This is definitely a show where a variety of price points in your booth will help get sales. I did see some very large items with legs but that was the exception. I saw a variety of yard art go by and the guy that paints very bright and clever images on old windows seemed to do well. So it seemed that "fun" things did well.

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Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on April 6, 2012 at 4:29pm

Great review, thanks for writing up a western show.  We always like to get reviews for shows from the other side of the country.    I liked the B/S, that is a good way to refer to buy/sell junk.  I also liked your zombie like description of the shoppers.  However, I do think I have been in that mode grocery shopping more than I like to admit.

Comment by Annette Piper on April 5, 2012 at 5:02pm

Thanks for the review Brian.

Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on April 4, 2012 at 12:48pm

Very comprehensive review.

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