What Makes an Art Festival Good, or Not

This weekend is our last art festival of the year, at Chastain Park. Even though I do find them stressful, I usually enjoy the art festivals (at least when I don’t have four in a row!). Of course, some are better than others. So what makes the good ones good?

  • Easy load-in and load-out. Load-in sets the tone for the whole festival. By load-out I’m worn out and cranky and just want to get done and go HOME. Let me get as close as possible to my space, when I need to get there. Don’t let idiots block the roadway longer than absolutely necessary while they load in or out! Unload everything, move the vehicle, THEN come back and set up. Reverse at take-down.
  • LOTS of publicity. Get the word out, and people will come. If they come, unless we’ve totally misread the demographic, some of them will buy.
  • Vendor amenities. If you bring me water & a snack a couple of times a day, I love you. If you bring me coffee in the morning, my gratitude is boundless.
  • Good neighbor artists. There is very little worse than being next to a cranky sourpuss all weekend. Yes, it happens — the first bead show that Andrea & I did together taught us the importance of attitude! Good neighbors give you someone to chat with to pass the time, to share tips & ideas with, to watch your stuff when you can’t wait another minute for, well, you know.
  • FOOD. The vast majority of festivals have crap food — you know the kind, corn dogs, funnel cakes, cotton candy, and nary a non-potato vegetable in sight. It’s not always feasible to bring your own food, and the usual crap food is really not what you need to get you through the day.
  • Well-behaved canine visitors always brighten the day with their tail wags and slobber :-).

Then there are the customers. Oh, the customers. Good customers, whether they actually purchase anything or not, make our weekend. We love big spenders, of course, but we also appreciate people that may just buy one small piece that they love. The kids that pick out one special key or vessel for themselves are totally precious. Sometimes the Right Piece isn’t there today for one of these people, but you know they will be back next time. The folks that look admiringly at our work but don’t have the discretionary funds today, well, that will change someday and hopefully they will remember and return. I love seeing my pieces go home with this kind of person.

At any show, we hope for plenty of those customers and not The Other Kind. You know them. They rearrange your display by picking up  and then just carelessly plopping items down wherever. They comment to their friends “oh, I could do that” (ah, but WILL you?). They look at your carefully crafted product and make remarks like, “Oh. That’s so…different.” Most annoying of all to me are the folks that start bargaining like you are at a flea market, making it clear that they have no concept that an artist’s time and skill are worth something. Those are the people that will not get a price break from me no matter what!

As for the weather, I take the outlook that I can’t do anything about it so I don’t let it bother me. I’ve been hot, I’ve been cold, I’ve been wet (not all at the same time, thank goodness), and I just try to take them all in stride.

There are festivals that I will return to whether I sell lots or not; there are festivals I won’t apply to again because they were a pain in the rear. Now you know why.