Carbondale Mountain Fair – Review 2022
51st Carbondale Mountain Fair, Carbondale, CO, July 23-25, 2022
Fees: Jury $30, Booth $400, pick your space $425, corner +$100
Medium: Leather: plain and hand carved equestrian, K-9,
personal leather goods and gun leathers.
Price Range: $4 cast iron skillet pad to $9,800 silver mounted
The 51st Carbondale Mountain Fair was held in Sopris Park, a grassy city-block park with large old shade trees. Additional booths are on main street and in Maker’s Park NE diagonally from Sopris Park. The big draw for the event is the live music. The stage is at the NW corner of the park, and 107 artist booths are along the north, west and south perimeters of Sopris Park. Thirty-six booths are in the other areas. The booths are far enough away from the music, whose volume was well controlled, so artists could converse with clients. All mediums were represented, the quality was high, and there was no buy/sell.
Carbondale is a small town with a population of about 6,500. It is in the northern end of the Roaring Fork Valley which extends from Glenwood Springs at the north on I-70 to the ski areas of Aspen and Snowmass to the south in the mountains. It is a bedroom community for workers in Aspen. Forty-four percent of Carbondale is Hispanic. The Roaring Fork Valley is one of the most affluent areas of Colorado and the US. The Aspen/Snowmass skiing complex and summer recreation drive the economy of the region. Carbondale is about 3 hours from Denver and about 1 3/4 hours from Grand Junction, CO by way of I-70 and Colorado 82. Travel thru Glenwood Canon is still subject to brief or total closure due to flash flooding. Debris from burn areas has closed I-70 when it rains in the canyon.
Mountain Fair is a BIG COMMUNITY DEAL! Besides the live music there is: 4 mi and 14 mi runs, bicycle race, raffle, yoga, police-firefighter tug-o-war, salsa lessons, aerialists, and a creative art canopy for making headpieces and grass skirts. Then there are competitions for: singers/songwriters, pie and cake baking, garden mint, fly casting, hula hoop, horseshoes, limbo, pottery throwdown, and wood splitting by men and women. There is always something going on that draws crowds who then disperse to the artists’ booths.
The event is ecofriendly. Besides the usual “trash” and “recycle” containers, there were “compost” containers. No bottled water is sold. Utensils and plates from the food vendors were also compostable. This year single use plastic bags were banned. Besides the artists, there were booths for massage, Gay for Good LGBTQ organization, Hemp/CBD products, and silent auction. Beer was sold and there was an alcohol-free zone. Crowd estimates are over 20,000. Besides locals I made sales to people from all over the US and I chatted with a woman from Argentina about horse gear used in the Pampas
Locals refer to Carbondale and area as ”a bubble” different from everywhere else. The crowd was a mix of 30 somethings Aspen chic; scruffy ski bums and snowboarders waiting for the first snow; a few bikers and ranchers; lots of ink, dreadlocks, wealthy retirees, young families, and everything in between and on the ends. Fashions, jewelry and bearing spoke of lots of money. Many arrived on very expensive bicycles and large bike corrals are provided. Overall, I was thinking 1960’s hippies fast forwarded to 2022. There were young girls, teens, young women and the older generation with flower crowns. Saturday the police wore “oil slick” as they described it. There were themes for each day and a woman wearing wings told me she was a firefly, and her tutu would light up after dark. I felt right at home with my “COVID locks” and headbands. It was not the usual western saddle maker image.
SET UP AND TAKE DOWN. Check-in was at 3:00pm Thursday and extended until noon on Friday when the fair opened. When we arrived at 3:00, about half of the artists were already well along in setting up. Unloading on the south and east side of the park was pretty much a free for all but we lucked out with a vacant space directly behind our booth. “The Rules” say you have 30 minutes to unload before beginning your setup. Take down began at 5:00pm Sunday and artists were supposed to have everything down and ready to load before parking on the perimeter of the park. This wasn’t totally observed or enforced, Musicians played after 5:00pm during take down. Professional security is provided Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. During the day Carbondale and Aspen police were doing walk abouts.
Show hours are noon until “dark” Friday, 9:00am until “dark” Saturday and 9:00am until 5:00pm Sunday, but once the live music starts around 7:30pm there are few buyers wandering around. Electricity is not available.
WEATHER. The temperature was in the mid-70’s to low 80’s. There were intermittent brief light sprinkles Saturday and Sunday. It has been very dry in Colorado.
THE SHOW. This is a well-organized and managed show run by Carbondale Arts, a volunteer organization. This was the third year I have done this show. Sales tax of 8.4% is collected at the end of the show. This saves you from reporting it to the state. They request that you have a FEIN or SS when paying your sales tax. Booth sitters were available.
THE NUMBERS. Sales got off to a good start Friday and by end of the show they were $2K higher than 2019 sales (2-year COVID break from all shows) making it one of the top two shows historically. There were sales of belts, holsters, spur straps, canteens, check books, suspenders, billfolds, and small cases. Belts with sterling silver buckles and multiple item sales kicked up the gross. Yup, I even sold a pair of slobber straps. Sales ranged from $4 for a cast iron skillet pad to a multi-item $300 sale. The average sale was $51. I will apply to this show in 2023.
SHOW PROBLEMS. For the most part you could not ask for a better managed show but there is always room for improvement.
- The no plastic bag rule was not observed by the popcorn vendor and some artists. I specifically bought Kraft bags for this show after I was told not to use my plastic bags imprinted with my logo.
- The published 3:00pm check in rule is lax when a large number of artists are already setting up and filling parking spaces at that time. If it’s 2:00pm say so.
- The 30-minute unload rule was not enforced while I set up. I would suggest extending unload time to 45 minutes because it takes some artist more time to hump their stuff to an interior site. My entry pass was only checked early Saturday and Sunday morning.