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Peach Festival Recap, July 2010

July 11, 2010

I find it fascinating that an event can be both very enjoyable and extremely disappointing, all at the same time.

If it hadn’t been for Will Jacobs, the Parker County Peach Festival would have been just a long exercise in people-watching for us, interspersed with visits from a lot of very nice people with lots of great things to say about the artwork.  I’ll get back to Will Jacobs, The Piano Player, in a bit.  But for those who follow our adventures on the road, I’ll recap the festival first.

We started with rain during setup on Friday evening, and ended with the threat of a severe storm at the end of the day Saturday.

Our setup time was 6:30pm Friday.  We made the two-hour drive from McKinney to Weatherford under increasingly overcast skies, and checked into a hotel around 4pm.  As we killed a little time, we watched the sky grow dark outside the hotel window, and finally a driving rain pounding against the glass.  It cleared somewhat around 5pm and we went to find a quick fast-food dinner, allowing ourselves enough time to find our venue in a town we’d never been to.

This is how we travel to shows and festivals these days, so we like to scout the territory and know where we’re going.  There’s nothing like getting boxed in somewhere with a trailer attached to you.

There was a steady, drizzling rain as we found our spot (or so we thought), and once again we were thankful that we had the trailer, with everything organized and in its place.  We donned some plastic ponchos and went to work.  The tent came out first, along with the side curtains, giving us shelter for the rest of the stuff.  A word of caution: always make sure you know exactly where your booth space is.  After we got the tent and part of the sides curtains up, a festival staffer came along and advised us we had to move about six feet to one side.  Not a biggie, but in the rain it was a pain.  Next, came the ProPanels, only a couple at a time.  We didn’t want to lay them down on wet pavement, so we set up the booth display walls a piece at a time, stepping over to the trailer to pull them out as we needed them.  Once the booth structure was up, then came the tubs with artwork, the large paintings in their new fleece sleeves and inside plastic leaf bags.  The tables and other tubs with various items were unloaded as well.  When we finished, we had everything stacked, tubbed, and wrapped in the middle of the booth.  I took that usual deep breath of trepidation as we zipped the front of the tent, and walked away from a large financial investment and the artwork that reprented a huge piece of my heart and soul.

We got back to the hotel around 8pm, changed into dry clothes, snacked, watched a little TV, and turned out the lights around 10:30 after watching a not too favorable weather report for Saturday.

The alarm went off at 5am, and we got up and moving.  We checked out of the hotel and did a McDonald’s drive-thru, then drove downtown.  We had to park the car and trailer about three blocks away on a residential street, and hoofed it to our booth.  The artwork was hung, the tablecloths were laid out, and everything was well in place before the 8am start time.

Here’s the setup, with my wonderful, hardworking Nell, my spouse, business partner and muse.  We like this arrangement for an in-line booth, because it allows us to be at the back, out of the way, and at eye level with visitors.  The back wall of the tent was left open simply because we needed the air flow through the booth.  We have changed from the light colored table drapes to a black material that won’t show wrinkles as bad, and that work better with the gray panel walls.  I tried not to overload the booth with art, but wanted enough to appeal to a wide range of customers and pocketbooks.  Here are a couple more shots of the art:

The weather started off gray and overcast, and stayed that way most of the day.  The positive thing was the temperature in the 70s.  Festival staff members said it was a far cry from the 100-plus temperature last year.  I walked across the street to visit with Will Jacobs, the piano player for a few minutes, and when the foot traffic started to pick up, settled into the booth with Nell.

The festival was set up along the streets surrounding the courthouse in the center of Weatherford.  You can see it peeking above the building on the left in the picture above.  This shot was taken at the intersection with the street where we were set up.  The next shot is the street in front of our booth.

I have no idea how many people attended the festival.  A man who lived across the street said they generally get 15,000 to 20,000 on their street alone.  It could have been that many this time.  Once they started, there was a constant stream like this all day long.

There was a bandstand down the street with a variety of bands playing throughout the day.  But directly across the street from us was Will Jacobs, the piano player, who set up under a tent in his own front yard, and played and sang the whole day.  I’ve devoted an entire blog post to Will, which I’ll post in a day or two.  For now, suffice it to say that this man kept us entertained and made the day very, very enjoyable.

I should note that there is a big difference between a festival and an art festival.  This was a festival, put on by the City of Weatherford annually, and is apparently the biggest thing in the area every year.  It was huge.  And since it was so busy, neither Nell nor I strayed much further than the portapotties up the street, so we only got to see a couple of blocks of it.

The weather stayed overcast most of the day, but very humid.  We got a lot of visitors into the booth.  There were only rare stretches of a few minutes when there wasn’t someone either inside the booth or standing at the entrance looking in.

Nell (far left) is basically a quiet, somewhat shy person, but she’s used to dealing with people in her regular job, and at shows, she can meet, greet, and step up and talk about the artwork, and since she’s used it herself, she can talk about gouache.  Many, many times throughout the day, she was sharing and answering questions from visitors.

Unfortunately, the sales just weren’t there.  We sold a couple of very small pieces, but definitely went in the hole at this event.  We got a constant stream of people who loved the work, pointed at things, said “Honey, come look at this…”, but we also heard the common theme of being out of work or not having the money to spend.  We knew this was a festival, not an art festival.  But we thought we’d at least play the percentages with such a large crowd.

We were delighted to have some friends we haven’t seen in several years, who live in the area, make their first visit to the festival in years, just to find us and say hello.

I was also very flattered that artist Tim Taylor made a 1 1/2 hour one-way drive from Forney, Texas, east of Dallas, to say hello.  Tim apparently had seen my work on wetcanvas.com (Old Tex), and has communicated a few times on the blog here.  He said he wanted to see the actual work itself, and I sincerely hope he wasn’t disappointed that he made the trip.

I also met Bob McCormick, an artist who, I believe, lives in the Possum Kingdom area, west of Weatherford, who talked about the possibility of getting me involved in some of the club shows in his area.

Sometime around 3pm, festival staffers started coming by, telling us there was a huge storm building up west of us, with possible wind gusts up to 45 mph and heavy rain.  We were encouraged to button up as best we could, in order to protect our work.  We couldn’t actually leave before 5pm the official end of the festival, to allow pedestrian traffic to be clear before we brought vehicles into the area.  But we could close up, even break down if we felt it necessary.  Around 4pm, Will Jacobs, the piano player, looked across the street at us, said “this is for the starving artists out there”, and broke into a rendition of “The Party’s Over”.  We waited until others were breaking down, and some even starting to leave, and finally started breaking down the booth.  At 5pm, I backed the trailer up to the space, we loaded everything up, and made the 2 hour trip home.  Again, a reminder to future festival artists: never put things away wet.  We’d learned our lesson, and opened the tent partially in the garage, and draped the side curtains and awning over the car.  By the next morning, everything was dry.

When we started this last year, we knew we weren’t likely to make much money.  Naturally, it wasn’t our intention to just spend money and get no return at all, but we also knew it was important to get the work out in front of people, gain some exposure, meet some folks, and see what happens.  We love the festival atmosphere… the passing parade of people… and being in different places.  Will we do the Peach Festival next year?  Maybe not.  But we do intend to go back next year if possible – even if it’s as visitors.  We’d like to see what the rest of the festival looks like.  And we want to see – and hear – Will Jacobs again.  Be sure to read my blog post in the next couple of days about Will Jacobs, The Piano Player.

Now we start preparing for August… and the Dan Emmett Music & Arts Festival in Mount Vernon, Ohio.  We did really well there last year.  Let’s hope we can do it again.

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