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Monday, July 27

Sunday in the park with chaos-part 2 of the Canandaigua mini drama

Sunday morning, early, back to the park we go. We have to set up the rig from scratch again, so we needed time. Beautiful morning, sunshine, light breeze, not too hot, the lake sparkled, a sailboat was already out, enjoying the peacefulness. I was filled with good vibes.

What could go wrong?

The man who had secured his tent with boulders from the shore, brought boxes of coffee and dozens of doughnuts to thank his neighbors for saving his butt the night before. It doesn't take much to energize a crew of art carnies. A box of doughnuts is usually enough. Add fresh coffee and this guy was a hero.

There was a lot of swapping of stories about the night before and stories of other shows and other storms and soon there was a lot of laughter and somehow a cheer broke out, a rah-rah moment extolling the art show gods for people and sales. We were having fun again and I thought that this day would save the weekend.

Sometimes I crack myself up.

The first indicator that this might not be the great day we hoped for was the quiet. The quiet brought on by no people. At one point I checked my packet again to see if I got the start time wrong. Nope. 10 AM.

Once the people did start to come it was an exercise in patience. I've seen this behavior before but not so many times in one day. I call it fantasy shopping. A customer comes in and asks about, say, the mirrors. I explain the technique. Then she starts to debate colors. She asks her companion if that one would fit in the den. Or maybe she should get 2 since she can't decide between them. They measure the width. Yes, that would fit. Maybe combine a large and small, for effect. Do I have any other colors? No? That's OK, this should work. We engage in chatter about decorating with organic items. They decide on a color. On and on and on and then...they walk out. Huh? I had a couple examine each and every collage frame, make a pile of them (one for Grammy, that is perfect for Sissy, this for Henry) then leave the pile and walk out. Another woman read every quote in every journal, picking and choosing, walking the booth over and over with a pile of books in her arms, only to put them down and go. This happened so often that when someone actually did buy something it startled me.

But that was nothing compared to the gathering storm. Russell was on the second leg of his trip to bring the correct vehicle back. I was sitting behind the booth eating lunch. And a wind gust hit. I waited. Sometimes these are little dustups that rattle your shelves and move on. But it just got stronger. My chicken went flying. My tent was rattling and dancing. I grabbed a leg of it but that was going to do nothing. I jumped up and grabbed the center of the workings and held on. I figured if the wind could pick up the tent, the displays that are tethered to it, the weights on the legs and a pudgy old woman, it could have it all. Even the expensive tents were rattling. Everyone was hanging on. I turned my back to the show because the wind kept lifting my shirt and nobody should have to see that. Minutes went by, minutes that seemed like hours, but finally it seemed the wind was slowing. I turned around and saw people pointing, hands over their mouths. I checked to see if my shirt was down. I followed the crowd out into the opening and saw this

That tent used to be sheltering this artist and her work

The wind picked it up and carried it over 3 rows of booths before it got snagged. But not before it did some serious damage.

I couldn't imagine what else could go wrong. Silly me. There are many circles of hell.

Shortly after the "event", people actually started to come out. And shop. Well, what do ya know? Maybe we could salvage this weekend after all. I tidied the shelves and was having fun with the customers and then Lynne, the director, hustled into the booth and said that a storm was coming. It was in Rochester. It would be here in 27 minutes. I could button down or pack it up. My choice. I started to strip my shelves before she was gone. I called Russell. He was 10 minutes away. I told him to hurry.

By the time he got to me, I had everything down and packed except the booth itself. The skies were getting dark. We got stuff to the van, broke down the tent and displays. We asked our neighbors if they needed help, but most were doing OK. (We all tend to have a carefully choreographed routine and a well-meaning helper often just disrupts the rhythm.)

As we closed the doors of the van, the first fat drops fell. By the time we were on the road it was a blinding rainstorm.

I had made enough to cover expenses and pay for Quincy's Vet appointment on Monday.

But I learned a lot. If you have doubts about the organizers of a show, listen to your instincts. If the show's website is still not updated from the year before, that's a clue. If they come out and tell you the show still isn't full, but they're working on it. That's a clue. If you tell show buddies that you're doing the show and they roll their eyes...big clue. If the organizer says she's not putting a link to your website on the show website so you don't get spammed? Run.

I'm not blaming the organizers for the weather, obviously. I sincerely appreciated the effort they made to alert us all to the coming storm and get us safe. The Security Guards were on task and helpful both days.

But you have to advertise a show. You have to keep the quality of work up. If you can't "fill a show", just make it a little smaller. You need to have a website that is up to date and full of information about the show and the artists that will be there.

I remember when I was eighteen and I tried Peppermint Schnapps with a beer chaser. Never gonna do that again. I always wanted to try this show. I've tried it. Sometimes you try new things and they bring you joy. Sometimes you throw up into your shoes.


Terry said...

You have made a poor situation very funny. We were to do Canadaigua last year and we had a bit of apprehension about it and skipped.
Thanks for an entertaining piece.. Terry

Daisy Soap Girl said...

wow! What a day you had! The one thing I worry about is storms when I'm at my farmers market

Rurality said...

Wow you have had a lot of show weather woes lately.

About the fantasy shoppers - I've had a LOT of those in the past year. In the past, if someone picked something up (for more than just a closer look), chances were 95% that they would buy it. Not any more. They'll walk around with armloads of stuff, then put it down and walk away. Unreal. I think the economy just has everyone second-guessing themselves.