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Recap: The Dan Emmett Music & Arts Festival 2010

August 27, 2010

It’s taken a while to get myself settled back into some kind of routine after our trip to Ohio.  But for those who do follow our show activities, I do want to recap the festival we did while we were there.

This was a three-day festival, located on the streets of downtown Mount Vernon, Ohio.  We set up on Friday morning, the first day of the arts portion of the festival.  We had hoped to be set up the evening before, but there were other events taking place on that Thursday evening.  We admit to some disappointment in not being on the square this year.  The arts section was on South Main Street, but two blocks from the square.  When we arrived in town on Thursday morning, we were surprised to find that the first block was filled with the craft section which actually opened on Thursday.

We found a storefront office which served as festival headquarters, and we were told that artists didn’t want to do four days.  We didn’t remember receiving any questionnaire about this, but for reasons you’ll understand further along, I suspect we would not have wanted to do more than the three days we did.  Mount Vernon is apparently trying to develop the second block, where we were, as a sort of  “arts district”, with a variety of galleries and shops along with a large gallery recently opened by the local college.  We had mixed feelings about all this, but we consider ourselves pros, so we accepted it and moved on.

View up Main Street toward the Square (Our booth is on the right)

Setup on Friday morning went smoothly.  We had hoped to start the day fresh, but ended up starting the show like other shows we’ve done: hot and sweaty.  Much like last year, Friday was a slow day, since most people were working that day.  We expected that.  Saturday was another hot day, with temperatures in the 90’s, and it appeared to really affect the turnout.  I would say that Saturday was pretty uneventful, except for events around 3:00 pm.  Festival staffers came around advising us there was a storm brewing and it appeared to be headed our way.  As a precaution, we started dropping the side curtains on the tent.  We got the two sides dropped, and then a very sudden burst of wind hit the street from out of nowhere.

I was in the process of taking the front awning down, and heard a crash at the same time as the wind hit.   Our neigbors on one side, and others around us, had not started soon enough.  They had a double space filled with jewelry and crafts, which started flying.  A show staffer and some visitors helped them hold onto their tents, while the show director held one pole of their tent and one pole of ours.  Nell was at the back holding onto a tent pole for dear life, with craft items flying at her.  Luckily, nothing hit her.  I found myself suddenly on a footstool in the wind, re-tying the ropes for the weights, and the top of the tent started flapping.  Two corners came loose, fortunately on the downwind side.  I really thought we were going to lose the whole booth.

Note 1:  Use those little loops at the top corners of your tent to attach your weights; not the frame itself.  I had never done that, but can assure you I will from now on.

Note 2: If your tent corners attach with velcro, make sure they are down far enough to engage as much velcro as possible.  I had not checked that, and that, along with the weights being attached to the frame and not the canopy itself, resulted in a loose top.

Note 3: If you use ProPanels, absolutely put up the crossbars every time you set up.  We always have, and they really kept the panels stable.

We were in front of an old screen printing shop. The steel sculpture behind me was a real conversation piece.

The wind lasted several minutes and then died down somewhat.  That’s when the rain started.  Two very nice ladies, mother and daughter, came into our booth after helping next door.  With all the side and front curtains down, zipped, and clamped to the bottoms of the tent poles, the curtains were taking the force of the wind that remained, but the entire booth… tent and panel walls had moved about a foot.  People started breaking down their booths.  I decided we would at least take the precaution of removing the artwork from the walls and getting it into the tubs, in case things got worse.

Our two lady visitors didn’t hesitate.  “What can we do to help?” was their question.  As methodically as possible, with water flowing along the curb at the back of the tent, we took everything down.  Our helpers took paintings down as we pointed them out one at a time, and Nell and I laid them into the tubs.  As the last couple of pieces were being put away, the daughter said she was disappointed because she had hoped to buy one of them.  We told her we would be back open on Sunday, and she said she would be back.  Now I don’t normally give much weight to “be backs”, but for some reason this one sounded very sincere.  They left, and we spent some time evaluating what to do next.

When we stepped out into what was now becoming  just a light rain, we saw our neighbors packing up, obviously with the intent of leaving completely.  Some were buttoning up with the obvious intention of coming back the next day.  Our show hours ended at 6pm, so there were only a couple of hours left for the day.  Someone said the forecast for overnight was wind, rain and the possibility of hail.  We evaluated some more.  We’ve never shut down early at a show.  The wind had unnerved me, and all I could think of was lying awake all night listening to wind and rain, and coming back to a tent either blown away or shredded by hail, and water-soaked panels.  We decided to tear the whole thing down, check the weather early Sunday morning, and then make a decision about returning.  I went to get the trailer, while Nell continued boxing up everything else.  An hour later, we drove to Nell’s sister’s house, cleaned up and put on dry clothes.

My neice took this shot of part of the booth. The painting at top left sold.

The weather report on Sunday morning indicated it had been a relatively quiet night, and there was only the possibility of a thunderstorm Sunday evening.  We drove back downtown, unloaded the trailer, and set the booth back up.  Like Saturday, the crowd on Sunday was smaller than last year’s.  We sold several of Nell’s little minis over the three days, but had not sold a single painting.  Until sometime after noon on Sunday… when the lady who had helped us the day before came back and bought one of the larger paintings.  Again, around 3pm, the festival director came around and said there was a storm approaching, and that we had about 45 minutes until it arrived.  He and I both looked at our watches, agreed that the show was over for us, and for the second time that weekend, I stepped into the booth and said “Let’s pack it up.”

Fortunately, five of Nell’s relatives were sitting back on the sidewalk visiting with us, and every one of them jumped into action.  “Just tell us what to do”, they said.  We normally don’t encourage help, because we know exactly what we’re doing, have a routine, and we work well as a two-person team.  This time, we took the help.  The entire booth was torn down and packed away in the trailer neatly in 30 minutes… an unbeatable record.  We were soon backing the trailer into my brother-in-law’s driveway.  The show was over for us.

Nell's family visited with us during slow times. And our daughter (not pictured) was up from Austin. That's our youngest grandchild (number 8) Nell is holding.

Staffers were much more attentive this year.  In fact, the entire festival staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome and important to them.  They had a breakfast at one of the downtown churches for all the vendors on Saturday morning.  Their children brought water, juice and snacks around in a wagon throught the entire festival.  They walked the street and checked on us.  They brought us weather reports.  They even helped us hold our tents down while we all expected to go airborne like Mary Poppins.  I can’t say enough good things about the staff.

Once again, we had a not so great turnout, and people weren’t spending money.  We gauge that by watching the passing crowd to see how many people are carrying things they’ve bought.  We didn’t see a lot.  We know that, even at our prices, we are generally overpriced for this kind of festival.  But we had hoped to do better.

Will we return?  Sure.  We’re going there anyway to visit Nell’s family.  Our sales paid for our booth fee and part of our gas.  And, we’ve already been told that, if we go back, we don’t have to jury in next year.  But I will buy heavier tent weights, and take a closer look from now on at how we put up the booth.

After all, it’s just another one of life’s little adventures.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2010 9:54 pm

    This is so awesome, Ralph. You are such a hard worker, and your awesome art shows your work ethic.

  2. August 30, 2010 12:13 pm

    Hey Gina, thank you so much.

  3. Bev Vance permalink
    December 7, 2010 1:20 pm

    Your entire blog is outstanding, Have you considered writing as your next adventure. You have a way with words. Hope all is well. Today is my little sisters Birthday so I hope you folks have a special time.

    Take Care– Bev

    • December 7, 2010 2:50 pm

      Thanks, Bev. There has been some writing in my past, actually. These days I satisfy the writing bug with my blog articles. Glad you think they read well. Nell’s working today, but taking tomorrow off. I’ll give her your best wishes.

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