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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Confessions of an Arts Festival Newbie

I have so many thoughts on the College Park Arts Festival I don’t even know where to begin. But as they say in the Wizard of Oz, it’s always best to begin at the beginning. We arrived right on the dot of 8:30, which was supposedly check in time. However, lots of people were already there setting up. Lesson number one – check in time doesn’t always mean check in time. We could have come earlier and been less rushed.

We were given our space number (supposedly) and went looking for our space. We were sent the wrong way to find our spot, and told the wrong number. That was especially disconcerting because someone was setting up their stuff in the spot we were told was ours. Minor panic! The volunteers got it straightened out quickly though, so we found our actual spot. We had a good location. We were right across from the entrance to the parking lot. We immediately set to work unloading the truck. Tables, crates, an étagère, and Calliope, our trusty mannequin.

We had an inexpensive canopy tent (more on that later) with a zillion poles. Luckily, the local Boy Scout troop was there to help out and two of the guys helped us get the tent up quickly.  Our space sat on a slight slope. We got busy setting out our wares. I had an emotional moment in the middle of it all. This was my dream coming true. Very exciting! Ellie and I looked at each other as we have several times in the last few days and said, “We have a shop!” 

Grady, my grandson, came along with us. I don’t know what we would have done without him. He helped with loading and unloading, setting up, and he was the chief dispenser of business cards. He had a great time and was a huge help.

Setting up was lots of fun. We had both worried that we hadn’t had time to make enough things for our shop to look full, but as we began to set them out it was looking pretty good. We had little placard signs to sit on the tables and shelves to show prices, etc. Ah, all set. Now we just waited for customers.

Ellie and I were both anxious to see what people thought about our things, things we had poured our heart and soul into. It’s always a little nerve-wracking when you think you’re being judged. People began to come in and made very nice comments. Whew, that felt good. Then we made a sale. Yippee!!  So far so good.

Then it happened. All I can say is choose your tent carefully.  We could tell that our tent was not the standard tent at the festival. People were putting up their pop up tents, which looked much sturdier than ours, and way easier to put up. Do these people know something we don’t?  Hmmmm . . . It was a breezy day. The slight slope and the breeze were not working in our favor. In the early afternoon a puff of wind came along and blew our tent almost completely over! We scurried around like crazy people trying to think of a solution. Luckily, my sister, Kathy, was there to help hold things up while we looked for a way to deal with the problem. Thankfully, we remembered the bungee cords, ropes, and stakes in the truck. We were next to the curb, which had an area of grass, so we put a stake in the ground and tied a rope to pull the tent back in the direction it was supposed to go. We used a bungee cord to lash the tent pole to the table leg to give it more stability (something which I had suggested earlier to my family, and my sister had a good laugh about – who’s laughing now?) and pushed the other table up against one of the front poles so it was kind of propped up. Catastrophe averted! Note to self: Get a better canopy tent before the next event.

We learned a lot from this experience. We learned to get a better tent (big eye roll here). We learned that even a small breeze will blow all your placards down, and we learned better ways to display our wares, and which things needed a price adjustment.

People came and went, looked at our goods, some bought, some didn’t. The day went by quickly. I thought I would enjoy doing a festival but had no idea just how much fun it would really be. It was a blast, even in view of our tent fiasco, and I can’t wait for the next one.

We had a few newbie mistakes, but not too terribly many. All in all, it was a good day.

~Bonnie, Diva of the Needle


  1. Wow, that looks great! Good job, you guys! -Matilda

  2. Your setup looks great! My sister and I just survived Comic Con as venders and it was our first year too :) Totally know how you guys felt.


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