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Monday, May 31

gimme shelter

We took a big step in our art show world yesterday and upgraded to a heavy duty artist canopy.

When you visit festivals, most likely all you notice is that the tents are white. Before I got into the game, I wouldn't have remembered anything about the many tents I ducked into as a customer except that: they were white. But there is a big difference.

Most of us start out with a "pop-up" canopy that opens sort of like an umbrella. You can get them now at discount stores for $200 or so. The sides hook on with velcro or ties, the sides zip up, you attach as much weight as you can to the legs to keep them from sailing and you are good to go. Well, not "good" so much as "OK".

We rented canopies our first year and we were seduced by how easy they were to pop up, not realizing that the rental places used industrial grade materials that we would never see again. Over the past dozen years we've bought about 3 of them, replacing the ones that were damaged by wind or rain.

A few events last year made me start thinking seriously about upgrading. There were storms last year, big ones, scary ones. The little pop-up held its own for the most part but I worried every time. And then, at the Waterfront Festival, I saw what so many art carnies speak of, The dreaded flying canopy.

But our pop up was still sturdy and brave and then came that tricky wind and the need to weld and an uneasiness inside our shelter. Even on that beautiful, sunny day last weekend, a few stray wind gusts threatened to dance our tent sideways and Russell went schmoozing with owners of the "pro" tents and came back convinced. I found a used one advertised on an artist forum by a photographer I "knew" from the business and off we went to Pittsburgh.

My fear about the pro canopy was that it would be a pain to put up. There are poles to attach and patterns to remember. So, when Larry offered to put the thing up in the driveway with us, we jumped at the opportunity. He showed Russell all the parts and I got dizzy just trying to imagine how it worked.

We are going to be here for hours, I thought, and went to get Q out of the car. When I turned around, it was already started!

Well, OK, then. I'll get Q some water and put it in his dish and....

OK, seriously, how can this be so easy? I asked Russell if he was understanding what Larry was showing him and he responded with a big grin about how simple and logical it was. Russell loves logic. OK then.

I walked the dog over to the back yard, cleaned up after him, brought him back and Larry was explaining the awnings

Yes, we get awnings. I always wanted awnings....

We sealed the deal and started to pack things up and then Larry asked Russell if he could use one of these

which probably doesn't send tingles up your spine unless you do art shows. It's a hand truck that folds out to a flat bed that you can pile almost your whole set up on. Yes!, Russell shouted.

So, off we went back home, our van piled high with poles and vinyl, Quincy snuggled up on a mountain of walls

Our next step will be to lay the parts out on the lawn, scrub them up, let them breathe, maybe get some wrinkles out. Separate the extras from the basics and then set it up again, without Larry's help. Just to be sure.

A friend of ours told us that once you have the pro tent, you set it up and then forget about it. You can focus on your show. Not worry about wind or rain or leaks. That will be nice. Next time you see me, I should be looking pretty relaxed. And so very professional :-)

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