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Azalea Trails Show in Tyler ~ Recap

March 21, 2010

Recap?  How can there be a recap already, you may ask.  The show was Saturday and Sunday, and this is Sunday… the second day of the show.  We should be sitting in our booth, smiling, greeting people and selling artwork.

Should be.  But we’re not.  Instead, we are back home, sitting inside, warm and dry, and looking at over 5 1/2 inches of snow outside our door.

This is a long post, but I know there are people who look in occasionally who are thinking about art festivals.  And there are people who follow our art festival adventures.  Folks, this is for you.  My hope is that you will still be reading our posts about shows later in the year that have much happier endings.

We drove to Tyler Friday afternoon, about a 2 1/2 hour drive southeast of us.  It was a partly cloudy day, with temps in the upper 60’s.  We found our booth location, and several city workers with a Mule (a motorized cart) unloaded the trailer at the curb and packed everything over to our booth site.  That was a wonderful convenience, which we greatly appreciated.  For once, we were in no rush, and took our sweet time setting up.  I even started to sweat, took off my shirt, and worked in a t-shirt.  It was a really nice afternoon.  We got the tent up, and the ProPanels, set up the chairs and tables, but decided to leave all the artwork in the tubs and the larger pieces wrapped up and covered inside the booth.  After making sure the tent was staked and weighted well, we zipped it up and headed off to check into the hotel.  The forecast for Saturday was for possible scattered thunderstorms.  As usual on a two day show, I fretted a little over the fact that a large part of our art inventory, along with our entire booth setup, was sitting in a city park all night.  We recently got insurance to cover most of that, but still…

We woke up Saturday morning, had a light breakfast at the hotel, and headed to the park.  There was a little breeze, a bit cool, and it was cloudy.  We unzipped the tent, and started setting up, arranging the artwork on the booth walls just so, worrying about whether we had too much, or the right pieces for this show.  I’ve also learned to put pieces next to each other that might suggest a companion grouping, or at least a multiple purchase.  Showtime was 9am.  We were ready at 8:45.  A light, misty rain had started, a breeze was starting to blow, and the temperature felt like it was falling.  It all went downhill from there really fast.

The rain got heavier, and the first to give up appeared to be crafters who don’t do this very often.  Some were under rented tents, or tents with no side curtains.  By 10:30, by ones and twos, people started pulling their cars up along the curb reserved for visitors, loaded their wares and drove away.  Still, we felt that these were the uncommited, the people who only do one show a year.  We, on the other hand, are professionals.  We had only had a handful of visitors, carrying umbrellas and dressed in winter gear, but we were expecting a break in the weather.  Somebody mentioned that the forecast now included snow flurries.  I walked around the park under an umbrella and saw that in the low-lying areas, water was already starting to pool, and in front of those booths with thin or no grass, the ground was turning to mud.  But we were on high ground, facing the street.  People could see us and get to us easily, if they showed up.

One of the food vendors, out of total boredom and a fear of having a busted weekend, came around taking orders for lunch, including delivering it to our booth.  With the thought in our heads that we only needed to sell a large painting, or a couple of medium sized ones, we could still make a small profit or at least break even, we ordered lunch.  The rain continued, the temperature kept feeling colder, and the time dragged.  There were no throngs of citizens vying for parking spots along the curb, no passing parade of potential buyers.  There was no music playing, no activity in the Activity Area.  Just vendors standing in our respective tents looking out at the rain.  I don’t wear a watch.  I had not really looked at the time for awhile, and at what I thought must be early afternoon, I stood in the entrance to the tent and finally checked my cellphone.  It was 11:30.

We sprung a couple of pinhole leaks in our one year old EZ-Up.  Water was dripping on one section of the panels, and we quickly pulled the artwork from there, and hung it in low spots further back in the booth.  Fortunately nothing was damaged.  So much for the thoughtful arrangement of art in the booth.  We were lucky to have been at the high part of the park, with thick grass, so we got no standing water, and no water running through.  Just dripping from overhead at one corner, and blowing past the front, which we had swagged to the sides so people could at least enter.

I have no photos.  When we set up our booth, there was a small tree maybe eight feet in front of it, and at least one branch drifted toward us, just enough that people would have been hesitant to dodge around it to enter our booth.  There was also the possibility of someone focusing on the booth and running into the limb if they weren’t paying attention.  I’ll admit to some irritation, but when I spoke to the show organizers about it, they quickly dispatched a couple of city employees with a chain saw, and the limb was removed.  I was surprised, but greatly appreciated their response to my dilemma.  Unfortunately, because of the tree there was no clear enough view to take any photos from the outside.  You’ll have to take my word for it: when it was first set up, it was a good looking booth.

Lunch arrived.  We had just ordered a couple of burgers and fries with drinks, and it was nothing wonderful, but it was satisfactory.  We joked about eating in front of “all of our customers”.  After eating, we stuck our heads out and looked around again.  More cars being loaded.  More booths being abandoned.  The forecast called for rain the rest of the day, and snow on Sunday, with temperatures in the low 40’s.  I should mention that Nell had been sick for two weeks, but wasn’t about to pass this show up.  Now, as I watched her in the booth, cold and damp but obviously keeping her game face on, I began to have serious doubts about where this thing was going.

More vendors left.  A couple parked at the curb, got out, wandered around for a few minutes under umbrellas, then returned to their cars and drove away.  The rain slowed to a light mist, and we chatted with two of our neighbors who were still holding out with us.  One of them had just taken a tour of the grounds and said there MIGHT be a half dozen vendors left.  The day had started with somewhere between 60 and 80, I think.  It got colder and wetter, and I agonized.  We have never torn down at a show even 15 minutes early.  This show had only been going on for about five hours, with another full day to follow.  Finally, at around 2pm, I decided it was foolish to stay under these conditions just for a principle.  We are professionals at this now, but there is a time when one simply has to say “enough”.

I walked back into the booth and said “Let’s pack it up”, and got no argument from Nell.  We worked in an organized manner, packing the artwork carefully, putting all the miscellaneous stuff away, and kept everything inside the booth.  Large paintings were slipped into those huge plastic leaf bags that we keep in our inventory.  The car was a block or so away, and I went to get it and drove around the park to our pickup point.  Once I had a spot as close as possible, we carried everything to the trailer.  By having the trailer, and a designated loading plan with a place for everything, loading was easy.  Once the booth was empty, we took down the ProPanels and carried them to the trailer.  Nothing had to be stacked against the car or laid on the ground, but instead went straight into the trailer.  Fortunately, the rain had slowed to a misty sprinkle as we took the tent down.  It was windy, but we managed by taking an organized approach.  A reporter, presumably from a local publication, showed up, asked if he could take some shots of us taking the tent down, got our names.  I tried to look as professional as possible while on a stepstool reaching up to untie the side curtains.  Finally, our booth area was clean, everything was packed, and we headed for the hotel.

That could be the end of the story, but we very briefly debated our next move.  It was after 3:00, and we had booked the hotel room for two nights.  We were tired, cold, damp and very dissapointed, and Nell was sick.  We decided to sacrifice the cost of the second night at the hotel, and opted for waking up this morning in our own bed.  We checked out of the hotel and headed for home.  After a rainy and very windy drive, we arrived home right around 6pm.  Note to new festival people (again): never leave a wet tent folded up.  This time, once the trailer was in the garage, we stood the tent up in front of it and opened it slightly.  We took all the side panels and draped them over the trailer, the car, a big box, etc. in the garage.  Nell started the coffee pot while we brought in our clothes from the car.  Once unpacked, we crashed.

Around 9pm, I looked out the window, and found that there was about an inch of snow on the ground.  This morning, we woke up to 5 1/2 inches.  A Facebook Friend who lives in Tyler and is part of the art scene there said this morning that she and her husband went over this morning and took their panels down.  They were the only people in the park.  Also this morning, we got an email from the City of Tyler organizer.  This was a “rain or shine” event, but the email said this was such a disappointment that they are considering trying to reschedule the show in April or May.  Her email serves as validation that I made the right decision.  We are comfortable in the knowledge that when we drove away from the park, there were no more than a half dozen people left.  We didn’t bolt and run.  She doesn’t mention the booth fee, and I suppose that could have a bearing on what we do, although we understand that no one can control the weather.  We’ve lost money on this show twice now, but we really think, under good conditions, this could be a good one for us.  We’ll just have to see.

The photo below was what our little back patio looked like this morning.  And this is why we are so glad we decided to come home yesterday afternoon.

The good news?  Even though we checked out late, the hotel didn’t charge us for the second night.

There’s always a silver lining.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 24, 2010 4:08 am

    Oh man….sometimes it’s just a bad day out there Ralph. I’m happy you were’nt charged that extra day for the hotel. One of these times you are going to get a good show down there in Tyler….hopefully it will make up for the last two. One thing this show gave you were the details for a great read on your blog!
    Hang in there Buddy!

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