My Blog Journal


My Love/Hate Relationship With Outdoor Festivals

Tents set up outdoors at local Farmer's Market

I realized last Saturday that outdoor shows might not be right for me, and yet there is something intoxicating about beautiful sunny weather and scenery that makes me want to give outdoor shows another chance. And another. And just one more.
Maybe next time the shoe will fit.

And when things don’t work out, I blame myself and make excuses… I should have been better prepared for all types of weather, or maybe I didn’t work hard enough to promote myself…

But as someone who has survived a few dysfunctional relationships, I am intimately familiar with this cycle and should recognize the pattern by now.

Of course, it is still early in my romance. I’ve only attended three shows outside so far, two of which were held in the same venue. There is nothing wrong with playing the field before committing myself to one type of show for the rest of my life, right? ;OP

It was infatuation at first sight. After all, we arrived early ~ at a quarter past six in the morning ~ to a lovely view of a lake covered in fog.

Country Home Farm Lake in Westminster MD

We had managed to pack everything inside our small 4-door Chevy the night before, including: 2 folding tables, our tent, PVC-pipe display, greeting card rack, and countless boxes full of cards, prints, frames, tablecloths, plaques, and odd ‘n’ ends.

Unloading the car

All the other vendors had arrived in large farm trucks and mini-vans.  Except for us and the lady advertising a local winery.  And she didn’t have a tent – just a folding table, umbrella, and a few bottles of wine for tasting.

Unpacking the car

We must have looked like a magician and her assistant, pulling rabbits from a hat….

I hadn’t brought my tent to the very first outdoor show… due to a misunderstanding *ahem*…. and after six hours of standing in the full sun, without UV-protection or even adequate amounts to drink (because I didn’t want to leave my booth for repeated restroom breaks! I know ~ stupid, right?!)… I wound up suffering from heat exhaustion.

With nausea, light-headedness, and every muscle aching including my head, I was barely able to pack my little table and racks into the car. Lesson learned the hard, painful way.

This time around, we came prepared with shelter, and the tent lived up to it’s name… being EZ enough for two inexperienced gals to figure out (okay, one of us was ten-years-old).

Hanging side walls onto the tent

The tent came with giant nails ~ they looked like railroad spikes, really ~ but we didn’t bother using them. Although EZ-Up tents have a reputation for blowing over in strong wind, I felt confident that ours would behave itself, as it had on the previous Saturday.
Honestly, I forgot all about them. :OP

The hardest part of setting up was trying to assemble and secure the deceptively simple-looking pipe display to the tent frame. As my husband, the designer/builder/finagler, had decided to stay home with our little beasties, Lydia and I struggled with that contraption of PVC and clothesline for what seemed like an hour. As our neighbors walked by, chuckling, “You’re still messing with that thing?”

It made me almost envious of the actual farmers at this market, just scattering their fruit and veggies onto the table. Nobody ever thought to hang individual string beans on a clothesline?

Dressing the tables

Notice the wind taunting the walls of my tent? (I didn’t)

Another shot of our tent, fully dressed and ready for the crowds of customers…. Hello… Crowds of customers?!

My finished tent, all dressed and ready to go

I forgot the dark brown, circular tablecloth again?!

We were disappointed to learn that the original location we’d been assigned “in the lower parking lot”, which my neighbors and I had enthusiastically mentioned to every customer, had been changed… All the Farmer’s Market vendors were now positioned at the bottom of the hill, nestled among the pine trees. A beautiful, remote spot ~ far from the real crowds drawn to the large tents belonging to the FFA/4-H Fair.

The fair had taken over our regular indoor space, and the large parking lot outside. Our usual customers had difficulty finding their way down to our little encampment by the lake.

Tents on top of the hill

The large tents at the top of the hill were beckoning people… away from us.

Last Saturday, one of my regulars informed me that she’d searched “the top of the hill” for over an hour, looking specifically for me. They were almost ready to give up, when they spotted a few colorful tents behind the trees.

There weren’t many vendors participating in the outdoor shows, which was disappointing to the customers who did manage to find us. Twenty vendors were scheduled, and I’d guess maybe ten of us actually showed up last Saturday.

Farmer's Market Tents nestled in the pine trees

One of the major conveniences of indoor booths is the proximity to restrooms… Most customers wouldn’t wonder “Where and when do vendors use the potty?”… but it’s a real concern for anyone who drinks a pot of coffee at 4:00AM and must now sit (or stand) inside a tent for six hours…

It was a loooong hike up the hill, and across the gravel parking lot, to the building with public facilities. A long time to be away from my tent, leaving a 10-year-old girl in charge of handling customer inquiries. But she proved capable of raising a tent, right? I assured myself that Lydia was old enough to handle money and count change correctly….

I didn’t expect to arrive back, to find my tent had moved a few inches to the left… and an excited daughter running up to greet me with tales of near-disaster averted.
The wind had intensified in the afternoon, and one large gust caught the side walls of my tent like a ship’s sails. It literally picked my tent up, straight off the ground, and started to carry it away! The trees overhead, and my car parked directly behind us, kept it from going very far.

Fortunately no one was injured, and it didn’t damage anyone else’s booth. (I guess that is why we pay insurance, LOL!)    Our neighbors selling produce & baked goods rushed over to Lydia’s aid ~ she apparently was clinging to one tent leg, trying desperately to hold it down! It might’ve carried her away, too, like Dorothy’s surprise trip to Oz!

They helped her to drag the tent back into place, hanging their weighted anchor around one leg.
When I returned, we quickly dug out those railroad spikes from the tent bag, borrowing our neighbor Mark’s massive hammer.

Securing the tent into the ground wasn’t the end to our weather dilemma: my poor greeting card display was blown over, and a nice family I had been chatting with helped to gather up all my cards from the dusty ground. (Thankfully they were individually packaged!)
The cupcake lady across from us went chasing after one of my laminated signs, as it spiritedly skipped across the grass, towards the lake.

Shortly after that, her neighbor’s tent blew over, nearly falling onto her as she stood under an umbrella. Everyone around us began packing up and calling “quits”.

TaraFly painting in art booth

I paint while waiting for the tent to collapse on my head.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single booth in possession of a fair amount of merchandise, must be ten-times more troublesome to take apart, than it was to set up.” ~ TaraFly

Every weekend, we are one of the last vendors to leave… and last Saturday was no exception.
In fact, Lydia and I were the very last to finish packing.
Even poor Mark, still recovering from knee surgery and attending the market all by himself, managed to take down his tent, fold up his tables, and secure all his displays, unsold candles, and gift items into his large truck…. before the two of us could shake a PVC pipe.

Attaching the back wall of the EZ Up tent
Like ten circus clowns trying to stuff themselves into a tiny Volkswagen, we wondered how we ever crammed all of this junk into the car the night before… Why do the tables suddenly seem 2-feet longer, and 20 lbs. heavier? Did the picture frames multiply when we weren’t watching?

As we slowly and steadily built a solid wall of boxes, tent, pipe, and metal racks… nearly forgetting to carve out two holes up front for us to squeeze into our seats…. our cat show was finally on the road again. Going home to bath, and bed, and Netflix on demand.

And while we shared our horror stories and disappointments on the drive home, after a restful night, our recollections had taken a rosier glow. Wasn’t it beautiful weather we had on Saturday? Do you remember that couple with their little boy? The man who couldn’t decide which picture he liked best, and wanted to buy everything in the tent?

Our memories of past shows, and former relationships, tend to dissipate into fuzzy feelings. But this blog post will serve as my reminder: Do I really want to take my chances on the “bad boy”?

I must be prepared to have my heart broken, my tent stolen, and likely be deserted in the middle of the woods.

Then again, I might just get lucky and find a Prince at the Farmer’s Market. :)

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