So with great anticipation we took the plunge into the art festival pool this past weekend in Fernandina Beach as part of the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival. Here is our top ten lessons learned.
10. Although it may seem like a good idea to pack your canopy weights in the front of the trailer for weight distribution for traveling, if you are setting up in rain and high winds you do not want to have to unload the whole trailer in the rain to get to the weights, especially when your wife is precariously perched on the canopy to keep it on the ground. If you decide to leave the art fair business you could rent your tent out as a parasail.
9. Overkill on your tent weights is a good idea. I had made two 32-34# for each leg By the second day of your tent staying put, when others are taking flight or collapsing, some people will think you are some kind of tent guru, especially if they were not there to watch you bumbling through the initial set up.
8. If you have a five page list of things you just had to have for your first show, you will spend a lot of time looking for stuff when setting up in a storm. You will get very wet while doing this. It did not take us a minute over five hours to set up our display. (We did receive many compliments regarding the finished product, thanks to much good advice from folks on AFI.)
7. Being a Good Samaritan comes at a price. If you move you vehicle and trailer to help another person leave the show as a result of their canopy actually turning into a parasail prior to the show, you may look for a place to put your truck and trailer for an hour or more. Especially when a few inconsiderate %$%#@&$&! will leave their cars, trucks or RV’s anywhere. (I moved my truck because some idiot had parked in the middle of the street so these poor folks could not pass to leave). I don’t regret the decision, but I did lose an hour.
6. Do not take the connecting pins to your knock-down display panels when you leave for an hour to move the truck. By all means, do not insist to your wife that you do not have the same connectors in your pocket, which may result in her having to look through the same five pages of stuff referred to in lesson 8.
5. You cannot use too much tent sealer. However, you can use too little. Fortunately, we only had a couple of leaks that were manageable.
4. The 12 volt marine battery powered electrical system with 12V LED spotlights and 12V fans worked great. We did not have to use the fans till the sun came out on Sunday, but we had plenty of power from two marine batteries. We only used about 20% of our available power and we did not have to worry about the 12V system in the rain. This proves the old saying that even a blind squirrel finds the acorn sometimes.
3. The ability to understand different dialects is crucial in large festivals. For example I had to translate the interesting language of drunkenese, when the young party-goer slurred to my wife and I that he had been in one of her paintings all day and he just had to hug the artist, which fortunately was not me. If necessary, I would have rescued her once I was able to stop laughing.
2. The artists, the host organization representatives, Island Art Association representatives, the volunteers, and the patrons, were friendly and helpful. We met many nice and interesting people. The lesson is that these are great people to hang out with for a weekend.
1. Although all the oohs and ahhs and compliments as to the quality of the art cannot be deposited in a bank, the positive encouragement was priceless especially when it came from other artists. We only sold one small painting but the experience and confidence we gained learning to deal with difficult weather, how to improve our set up and marketing will pay off in the future. Sherry nearly ran out of business cards. We will be much more confident with our next show in Roanoke, Virginia. We threw ourselves in the pool and we didn’t drown.
We have a bit more experience under our belt five months later, but more on that later.