Too Much Craziness! (What I learned at the latest festival)

"Crazy Dog" 4.5 x 6in. Pastel on Paper
Click here to buy print (postcard just under $2, greeting card just under $2.50):

Haven't painted anything new in a couple weeks, so I thought I would start small to warm back up-- this is a quick portrait of my sister's very energetic little dog. It kind of sums up how I've been feeling these last couple weeks, with so many shows happening at once.

The final car on the crazy train was last Sunday's Avocado festival. This was my first time participating, and it was in a brand new section called "Avenue of the Arts." My sister (the lone organizer in the family) helped me through the whole process, and if she hadn't been there I would have left in tears at 7:30 in the morning. Actually, I don't think I would have even been able to pack up the car on my own. Here are a few things I learned from Sunday's experience:

1) Be early. We were there exactly on time, and still had to negotiate space. One guy literally pulled up right after us and parked his car on our booth space. Had we already had the tent up, he might have been discouraged.

2) Bring a trusted person to help you. It's important to take breaks, and my sister and I noticed that people were more comfortable approaching us when just one of us was sitting alone in the booth.

3) Get some sleep! I made the mistake of getting up at midnight to finish some preparations, intending to go back to bed in a couple hours. Midnight quickly stretched into two, three, four o'clock, and before I knew it I was jumping in the shower to get ready to leave. Needless to say, I was less than personable by 2:00 in the afternoon.

4) Provide incentive to enter your booth. My sister (who has a reputation for thinking of everything and being well-prepared) set up an attractive water station, complete with ice and lemons. This drew in quite a few people thanks to the hot weather, and gave them a chance to look around. Music is also a good conversation piece, as long as it adds to a friendly atmosphere in your booth.

5) 10 feet by 10 feet is a small space! Just a few people in the booth can make it crowded, which discourages passersby from coming in to look. It's fun to get visits from family and friends, just make sure you leave room for your potential customers to feel comfortable entering the booth.

The text from my sister the next morning said it all: "I feel like I got hit by a truck." Running a booth at a festival is hard, physical work. The breakdown and setup require strength and patience (and a sense of humor). It's also rough on the ego-- people walking by will say all kinds of things, both nice and nasty. I enjoyed the times people ran in to look at a particular piece (maybe not excited enough to make an instant purchase, but it was still flattering). I also enjoyed making some new contacts, and feel much more prepared for future festivals.

This brings me to my last, most important tip: take a little time to enjoy the festival itself. I've gone to the avocado festival for years, and always love the avocado ice cream. I took a break toward the end of the day to walk with my daughter all the way through the festival just to find the avocado gelato cart, and enjoyed watching her smear it all over her face and dance around the booth with glee. This was the high point of a long tiring day, and the memory I'll treasure most.


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