Englewood, FL's unofficial nickname might as well be: "The town that Time--and US 41--Forgot." It's a sleepy, Old Florida-style hamlet nearly 20 miles west of the highway that serves, from Tampa to downtown Naples--as Southwest Florida's main retail drag. But as far as the locals are concerned, that 20 mile stretch might as well be 20 years. For this is a show like art shows used to be, run by Rotarians know how to put on a community event.
Easy setup, starting at 5 PM Friday. Two-minute check in--tops. Pull up to your booth, unload and set up. Pull behind your booth on a grassy lot if you can. Otherwise, unload next to your space, park when you can, and we'll trust you to make things easy for the next van pulling in.
Dearborn Street--along which this show stretches for maybe five casual blocks--is chock-full of small businesses and a few mom n' pop eateries with live music. It stays closed all weekend so the visitors, who come from the surrounding towns, including the moneyed but laid back Gasparilla and Rotunda, can browse the show (beer in hand if they want). What makes it a happy occurrence from the artists' perspective is: they come to buy.
They're far enough from the glut of shows in Sarasota and points south that this event doesn't represent just another jaded, same ol' art show weekend for them. It's a community event, run by local Rotarians with a commitment to keep it that way. So they look forward to the show and they hit it early. Despite a threatening weather forecast for rain all day Saturday, the rains held off until 2 PM or so, and the crowds were decent until skies darkened after lunch. A little rain was tolerated, and tent flaps stayed open until the first crack of lightning around 2:15 sent everyone scurrying for shelter. A few artists stayed around and attended the Rotary's artist dinner and award presentation, but most headed home, hoping that at least the forecast for sunny skies on Sunday would be accurate.
It was. Crowds again browsed the show before the opening bell (in contrast to so many shows I've done this winter, where no one shows up until noontime, and maybe not even then...after all, there's another next week). And although Saturday's sales were decent considering the weather, Sunday's were just off the charts: I sold six or seven canvases, including my biggest pieces, making this easily my best show of the season. Nearly everyone I spoke with in the 2-D arena had at least a decent show, regardless of price point, though a high-end potter near me lamented at check-in that there were a dozen other potters in the show. His fears proved to be well-founded; he nearly zeroed, but he was a real gentleman as he discussed it at load-out. He and his work were both classy, and he deserved better.
Several patrons mentioned to me that the quality work seemed to be concentrated on the east end of the show, and that the other end was primarily manufactured work or very cheaply made. I'd like to hear others' take on this; I don't know if the Rotarians do that intentionally or not. Other than that, though, no complaints. This was a relaxing and very profitable show, with low booth fee and stress level, and a 4 PM close time that made the commute back to Fort Myers a snap.