Set up was, as I have been told, always a bit of a challenge. Half our info said the check-in time was 7:00, half said 6:00. So we got there at 6:00am, and we were lucky we did--the line to get onto the site was already incredibly long, and we would have ended up being quite late on our setup if we hadn't arrived an hour early. We discovered our booth was to be on a sidewalk over a sewage outlet from the building behind us... Which was a bit depressing, but what are you going to do? We unloaded, parked in designated parking nearby, and returned to set up.
3 hours, and 4 people later, we were completely assembled. It was a challenge setting up the booth with people who had never set it up before... It took me a bit of time to figure out how to communicate everything to my partner and my co-exhibitor... My zip ties didn't work as well as they had in my controlled, driveway environment, but they got the job done. Lesson learned: Never ever ever do anything for the first time at an actual show!! I had neighbors that were setting up their tents for the first time, and it was horrible to not be able to help. I had my hands full, and my partner was helping where he could, but I was surprised at how unprepared some of the exhibitors were. Here I was completely new to this, but I learned there were people even greener than I was. And it hurt a bit inside to hear their despair... sigh...
The Ocean Beach Chili Cook-Off draws 70,000 people in, and it was a huge event. I didn't get to see anything but half of Artist's Alley, where my booth was located. I managed to get an $8 Gyro for lunch, but doing anything else was too problematic... I was fortunate that some of my fellow exhibitors wandered over to my booth to check things out, and that I was able to meet them--I wouldn't have been able to otherwise.
Because I was doing a demo most of the day in front of my booth on a card table. My partner Jonathan (Thank Goodness for understanding, empathetic, and supportive loved ones) and my fellow booth partner, Christy Jones, were the salespeople--they seemed to have a way with interacting with the customers that I just couldn't manage that day. I concentrated on painting a blank vest I'd made earlier, and it worked out quite well. I had TONS of people watching. I was out front in a prominent spot, and drew a LOT of people into my booth. And it was fun!!! I got to stay busy with my hands and do something I love doing!! Lesson learned: Always do a demonstration when you can.
And speaking of sales... I knew I wouldn't be selling a lot. First off, most of my garments are winter coats--not good for a southern California summer festival. Second, they're very expensive--again, not good for a southern California street fair in a town known for surfing and laid back partying. Third, I gave my boothmate the prime spot on the outside of the front table. Her stuff REALLY attracted attention (you can see it here on her Etsy shop) and was priced right for the crowd. I think she puts a lot more effort into them than she's charging for, but I don't think they would have sold if they weren't priced as low as they were. She priced them right.
I sold some mobiles and some neck laces--which was what I expected--but not nearly as many as I had hoped. Still, this was my first time and I think I would have been overwhelmed had I been too busy... It was an overwhelming experience as it was... Lesson learned: It's okay to have high expectations, but temper them with realistic goals. It isn't always about monetary "return on investment". It's about having conversations, talking about commissions, and sharing your work. I scored big time on all those counts.
At the end of the day, we packed up our stuff (completely and utterly exhausted and wiped out) and have yet to unload our car. We are going to visit an entirely different venue today--the La Jolla Festival of the Arts, which is considered at Art Festival and not a Street Fair. I am excited to experience the difference.
Many many comments floated my way: we had the best booth at the fair (over and over again!!), we needed to be at a more upscale venue, people couldn't believe it was our first time ever, and we needed to price our display items for sale as well. They were really curious about buying them for their own home display needs.
People didn't say my stuff was too expensive. They understood why it was priced the way it was. But the majority of attendees couldn't afford it at that particular venue. So I'll be exploring more summer attire and lower price points, making more mobiles and a wider variety of neck laces in different sizes if I can find the right laces. And now I'm confident about applying to various juried art shows. It was a good learning experience.
I will be buying a small pull trailer or renting a van for the next time. Enough said about that.
I have more to share, but I think I'll keep that for another time. Wow, I'm glad it's done. And I'm doubly glad I did it in the first place. And next time will be even better!