Thursday, August 26, 2010

On the Road with Dreamweaver: Summer Festivals

It had been my intention to create a blog entry following each festival, but graduation, applying for taking the board exams, and all of life's little crisis have gotten in the way. So I'll do my best to share a few pictures and comments on our experiences. For folks crazy enough to think about vending, these entries will at least give you a feel for what you should expect. I'll probably enlist Hannah's story telling as well. But since she's now fully immersed in sanding and buffing pendants, it seems only appropriate to give her the space to write as well!

We had a fabulous time at the Fabulous Forth in Columbus, NC. Perhaps the greatest grace, besides excellent sales and a lot of fun, was the fact that our art was truly appreciated. Folks there valued the work that goes into creating pendants for our table. It was a wonderfully organized festival - they had trash cans down the middle of the street at regular intervals with boxes for recycling; the only event we've seen that did that. They had virtually no litter at the end of the event!

We did have the privilege of being stuck with a tent on the right hosted by a local Baptist church, and on the left were the Shriners with their fancy little cars. I say "stuck", because the Baptists were blowing up helium balloons for the kids, so on the right we had these sound effects - *FWEEEEEEP* with an occasional *BLAM* when a balloon popped. On the left, the Shriners were letting the kids honk the horns on their show cars - *AHHH-OOOOOOGAH!* So all day long it was *FWEEEEEP-AH-HOOOOOOGAH*, *FWEEEEEP-AH-HOOOOOOGAH*,*FWEEEEEP-AH-HOOOOOOGAH*, with the occasional *BLAM* thrown in. Hannah developed a nasty twitch and may require therapy... The weather was excellent, as it was still early in the season, and not too hot - also we were into the edge of the North Carolina mountains and the elevation also meant it was cooler.

We each bought watermelon for the other on the sly and had a great laugh over that! One sale we remember in particular was to a lovely older woman dressed elegantly in a pink outfit. She spotted one of Cyn's polymer clay necklace creations (priced at $45.00) and it was a perfect match for her beautiful attire. She stood there awhile and tried to talk herself out of the purchase, but she had clearly fallen in love with it at first sight, and it truly fit her as though it had been specifically designed for her. She of course, bought it and went off very happy!

We also saw a magnificent parrot riding around on a man's shoulder that preened at all the attention it gathered. Another wonderful encounter was a group of very talented young people who were in a local theater troupe who were all wearing shirts advertising their latest production - "Aida". When we talked to them about it, it turns out that this was the Elton John/Tim Rice version of the opera (Hannah has seen Verdi's version). We were invited to come see their show later in the week, but our schedules made it impossible, alas! These kids pounced on the earing selection and about bought it out, which was great fun! The Fabulous Fourth ended with - what else? - a fabulous firework display which was glorious! Then, very late at night, we packed up and drove home, happy and exhausted.

Our next event, however, was - um - challenging. We went to the Gaffney SC Peach Festival, a few weeks later with high expectations. Its the largest Peach festival in the state, with festival locations all over the town for 2 days. We were signed up for both Friday and Saturday and discovered that a crucial alteration was to have extreme effect on us. The past years, the Peach Festival had the arts and crafts section located indoors in a building. This year, for some reason, they had moved the Arts and crafts section outside. This proved to be unfortunate.

We arrived to find chaos already there ahead of us, as there had been a mistake in measuring out the 10x10 booth areas. They were hastily rearranging vendor locations to fit and we wound up around a far bend, in the sun, just past the shade trees...darn it! Oh well. We got the tent up, and Hannah ran an errand for extra drinks and lunch supplies, while Cindy set up the tables. When Hannah returned,sales were brisk and things were looking good....until Hannah peered around the back of the tent and saw THE CLOUD.

Hastily, she informed Cyn that we had better batten down the hatches because a bad storm was coming. However, all Cyn could see was a bright sunny day out the front of the tent, so she assured Hannah that it would be OK to continue a little longer. After a couple of repetitions of this, Hannah finally asked Cyn to look around back, because The Cloud was now a green-black wall of thunder and lightening taking up most of the sky behind us, where upon Cyn's eyes bugged out and we began dropping the tent flaps and pulling in the merchandise! We almost didn't make it!

The howling maelstrom struck moments later and we tell you folks, given that there was some cloud rotation, 60 mile per hour winds, hail and continues lightening, thunder and a solid wall of water out there, it was as close as we EVER want to come to sitting out a tornado in a tent! We had discovered moments before that the zipper on the front tent flaps had broken, so Hannah valiantly grabbed the two front flaps and held them together, and was swiftly soaked through from head to toe. Cyn's was inside the tent hanging on to the frame, that despite being pegged firmly into the ground, kept lifting off. Without Cyn hanging on for all she was worth, the tent would have flipped.

At one point a large crash heralded the large double tent two spaces down from us being hurled across the road, smashing and scattering merchandise everywhere - several other vendors suffered the same fate. But the worst was yet to come...the water began to rise. With appalling lack of foresight, the festival planers had placed us in a field with no drainage...and we were at the low point. Helplessly, we watched the water flow into the tent and steadily rise until we were standing in a foot of water that would not drain away! So there stood Cyn, knee deep in water, clinging to the shaking tent frame, and she finally yelled at the raging storm "You can't have it, its MY tent!!!" Several vendors sheltering desperately under another tent near by heard her and broke up in sympathetic laughter.

The storm finally past, but the flood did not. Hannah hiked down to the entry gate to find help and discovered that the woman in charge of the festival had run home briefly on an unavoidable errand, and was not there. She arrived moments later, horrified at the damage and havoc, for there had been no storm when she had left. Upon hearing of our plight, she immediately followed Hannah back over and froze in appalled shock at our tent and area which was now mired in a foot deep lake of muddy water.

She immediately let us choose another spot across the road on higher ground and sent down four enthusiastic strong teenagers to help us move across the way. We are very grateful for the assistance we were so promptly given! (Hannah had a traumatic moment when it was discovered we were once again next to the Shriners! AH-OOOOOGAH!) We got everything moved, locked it down and went home (we were only a little over an hour from where we lived) and changed out of our soaking wet clothing - Hannah literally looked like she had been submerged - showered, got a warm meal in our bellies and came back.

In our absence, another storm rolled through, but our tent weathered it all right, thank God! At this point, there were no customers, as they had fled the storms, and it was growing dark. We have a generator - many thanks to Hannah's electrical engineer of a brother who procured it for us! - so we had lights set up to vend at night. However, that was when we spotted our second serious draw back. The huge field we were set up in had the rides, the music stage and the barbecue area all at one end....and the arts and crafts at the far end away from everything.

Separated as we were from the rest of the event, there was no pedestrian traffic flow our way, and no lighting, so our end of the field was dark. We had lighting - but we were isolated and did not have another customer that night.

The next morning we returned and discovered a new problem...there had been conflicting times given for the opening and closing of the festival. The vendors had been told one time frame, but the public had been told another - if we had known the officially listed times were 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM, only four hours - we would probably not have anted up to go to this event. So we sat there with virtually no customers yet again for 2 - 3 hours, before the crowd finally began to trickle by.

At this point, thouragly alarmed by non-existent sales, we began running our sales pitch with a vengeance, It paid off to some extent. We made the (rather higher) cost of the festival plus expenses back, with some small profit. Most of the other vendors were not as woman only made $80.00 dollars combined total for the two days of the festival, which as she was from Tennessee, was a severe loss.

Most vendors there either took a loss, or barely broke even...we were very lucky! At this point, unless we hear that the Peach Festival has moved the Arts and Crafts back into an indoor venue, we will not be returning to this festival!

And then this last weekend, we were in Little Mountain SC for the Reunion Festival and it was fantastic! We had fairly good sales, we met many wonderful new friends, both other vendors and customers, heard great music, and even got some beer - Hannah immediately became the designated driver, but we truly didn't drink that much...and in that heat, it sweated out again immediately anyway!