We participated in the 31st annual Gig Harbor TideFest event on December 3-4. Gig Harbor is a small town in northwest Washington, just across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and is an affluent community. Having participated in this event for the past 2 years and the Gig Harbor Summer ArtFest for 5 years, we’ve built up a following and several repeat buyers in this community so we went into this show with reasonable expectations. The event is the main funding raising event for the Gig Harbor High School and is very well supported by the students, faculty and the parents. This was the first year with a new director in charge, Brad has worked as the assistant director for a number of years and while the previous director said she was going to retire, she was still very visible and continued to provide her expertise to the festival this year.
One of the highlights of the show was getting to meet Joe Clifton in person. On Sunday morning he spent several minutes reviewing our list of California shows we were interested in for 2012 and giving me his honest and frank feedback. Many thanks Joe!!
When all was said and done, we breathed a huge sigh of relief, our last show of the year was over and for the first time since July we were up from last year’s sales on a show that was a repeat show for us. While several of our spring shows were up from 2010, summer and fall shows were all down with the exception of our show in late July, so it was a nice way to end the year. That being said, this isn’t a huge show for us and I don’t think it’s one where many artists had huge sales. Sales were okay, this was our 3rd year doing this show and our sales were slightly above our first year, way above last year, but overall not as good as I expect for a show in this community with a $220 booth fee.
The student support at this show is awesome. I don’t think our truck has ever been unloaded so quickly, we happened to arrive when there were 20 kids standing around waiting for work and the assistant director sent them all over to our truck. My husband just kept handing things out of the truck, I went into the gym with the first load and never came back out for a second load, everything just appeared right in the booth space so quickly it was amazing. Load out we also had a lot of help, the students were more than willing to help break down, pack, etc. There were plenty of volunteers available for booth sitting, food was available and the students were willing to deliver it right to the booth for lunches. An artist breakfast was provided on Sunday morning that was great, real food, not just coffee and donuts! During the show they had carts with snacks, beverages, coffee, etc that were coming around constantly, if we had partaken in all that was offered they would have been rolling us out the door at the end of the show! Beware – this is a show where it’s really easy to overload on caffeine and Christmas cookies!
Some of the noticeable changes for 2011 included less booths for the show, which might have helped our sales since there seemed to be less jewelry than past years. The aisles were wider, booths did not extend all the way into the corners of the gym and the smaller, wrestling gym which probably had 10-12 artists in prior years was closed off this year. There were also several empty booths due to “no shows” so I’m guessing there were at least 30 less booths than last year. Communication to the artists was not very efficient, it was all done via the website, this year they had more issues than normal with the website, it was up and down several times and down for most of November until the Monday before the show. There was not a list of participating artists or booth assignments on the site this year like there had been in the past. No emails are sent to notify artists of acceptance or booth fee deadlines, we actually missed the deadline by a couple of days but that turned out to be a non-issue.
I don’t have the attendance numbers to validate this but the show seems to steadily be decreasing in attendance. Artists who have participated in this show for 10 years or more all commented on the same trend at the artist breakfast. Instead of advertising it in the paper, they sent out brochures to the local community. I did see at least one reader board with info right off the highway, but issues with the website and reduced marketing seemed to have impacted attendance. There was never a very large crowd and the buying energy that we saw during our first TideFest event never materialized.
Overall, it’s a very easy show for us to do, 20 miles from home and more help from the students than we could utilize. Hoping that for next year they rethink some of their marketing and start getting the attendance numbers back up. If it truly is going to remain the largest fund raiser of the year for the school, they need to focus on making sure enough people attend to keep the artists coming back.
Ruth, you are oh too kind. Also, spot on on your analysis of this show.
I was pleased with the show as they have a great demographic that attends, but there is some additional advertising opportunities they can employ to assist with bringing more people in like: Add additional signage in town at two key freeway offramp locations - there was one small one about 18" square and is not very noticeable unless one is really looking for it; put the newspaper ad back in - I believe that was a mistake to drop it for the direct mail.
Thanks for the review Ruth. It sounds like there were some highlights and some not-so-good parts! I'm glad you at least did better this year. Hopefully they'll get their act together with communication and advertising next year.