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A little show in Austin

March 12, 2009

After months of procrastination, we finally loaded up the booth equipment and a bunch of paintings and headed down to Austin last weekend for a little show.  It was a one-day arts & crafts show put on by a local FFA Booster Club, their first ever.  The show was really cheap, and we have kids in Austin, so we could combine the show with a visit, and justify the cost.  Besides, we needed a trial run to see what we’d forgotten about doing shows, and to put up the new booth for the first time.  We learned our first valuable lesson as soon as we put the tent up.

We were on an asphalt parking lot, and the wind was blowing pretty hard, gusting at times around 40 mph.  We got the tent up, with weights at the bottom, and started assembling the ProPanels.  Got the first corner assembled, and while we reached for the next panel, the corner kept blowing back and forth.  We probably spent 45 minutes doing what should have taken 20, but finally got the booth assembled.  Kept adjusting weights every few minutes, and finally tied the top of the panels to the tent structure.  The genius of that was to make the whole structure stronger.

Meanwhile, the lady next to us got her tent up, and just as I was I was hanging the first two paintings, we got hit by an especially heavy gust of wind.  Her tent lifted and tipped over, and ours started doing the same.  A young couple on the other side of us grabbed our tent and held it in place while I quickly took the two paintings down, and then we all stood there holding everything down until that gust slowed.  Standing there with the wind blowing, with four of us just holding things down, the decision was easy.  “Let’s take it down”, I said, and while the young couple kept holding the tent, Nell and I disassembled the panels and stacked them in the middle of the booth.  Next, we brought the tent down and folded it up.  My view was that we had too much invested to have the tent, panels and paintings damaged the first time out.

We got the lady next to us back into position, and stood for a couple of minutes, watching as other tents periodically became airborne, and people with jewelry displays shouted in dismay as their wares hit the ground.  We knew if we were going to stay, we needed to go to Plan B, whatever it was.  We thought about it for a bit, then decided to emulate the fence artists in New Orleans’ Jackson Square.  Fortunately, when I ordered the panels last year, I had bought the half panels rather than full panels.  We reassembled the lower panels into a u-shape to fit the booth area, weighted them down and used the crossbar across the top of the side that faced the wind.  So now we had a fence height display that stayed in place.

We hung the artwork on this low “fence”, bagged the tent, and stacked the leftover panels behind the booth.  We tagged all the paintings with their price cards, set up the chairs and were in business… if there had been any business.

Since almost all of the tents had come down, we could see the entire show area, about 40 or so exhibitors, all rearranging their displays and making adjustments.  We were able to watch as the customers wandered in, in ones and twos, throughout the day… all 30 to 40 of them.  And that could be stretching it.  We got about three nibbles, but no bites.  Although we really didn’t expect to sell anything, one always hopes for at least that one customer who will pay for the trip.  No such luck this time.

We learned a very valuable lesson, which was what this trip was about anyway:  We need a LOT more weight to hold things down.  We’re not sure if any amount of weight would have helped at this one, but we obviously need more for the future.  We also discovered that everything did fit into the Trailblazer, although the dog had to ride in a lap during the 3 hour drive down and back.  Next time, we may rent a U-Haul.  It would have made things a lot easier.  No photos, unfortunately.  We were both too busy watching the paintings flop around on their hooks.

Discouraged?  Not for a second.  We’ve done this before, years ago, and know the drill.  We’re already looking ahead to the next one.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2009 7:24 am

    We will all be tested for the near future, your getting some good practice. Major Galleries or Closing, 50 in Los Angeles this year. I lost three myself. Like your wind, this will pass. Thanks for the great little story.

    • March 13, 2009 7:13 pm

      Thanks for stopping in, Bill. And thanks for all the critiques and mentoring you’ve provided me.


  1. A little show in Austin « Ralph Parker, Artist

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