Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Des Moines--where Mother Nature will kick you til you are down!

Just got home from the Des Moines Arts Festival. For those of you unfamiliar with the art show world, it is a very nice show, with high quality art, artists, patrons and staff. (And Des Moines is a pretty cool town!) But what they don't have going for it is the WEATHER!!!!!

I check the 10 day weather forecast before we leave for any show and when I first looked the temp was supposed to be in the 80s and 90s with 10% chance of rain each of the 3 days. No sweat. Easy. Only, the forecast changed. Big time.

Set up Friday morning was fine, although my booth did not back up to a building--which is how it looked on the original map--but an open parking lot (read wind tunnel!) Then, a quick lunch at a nearby and highly touted Vietnamese restaurant--A Doung--that failed to live up to its accolades, a shower and a return for the preview party at 2. The show continued until 10 that night. Exhausted by the long day, we returned to our very nearby hotel--Hotel Ft Des Moines, had a beer and another shower and fell into bed. At 1:15 my cell rang and in my sleep haze I took too long to find it...but I retrieved the message from another artist who said that while my booth was still standing it was very precariously tipped and I should come down and see what I could salvage--he did say that so far, nothing appeared damaged. We hurried out--spent the next 2 hours removing art from the tent and trying to right the tent--luckily, no bent or broken structural pieces! My neighbor, Gillian, was not so lucky. Her tent was in one big pile (by the next day we figured that she'd lost frames and mats but not much of the real art!) But middle of the night perusal of the show didn't reveal all the damage. Many other artists lost pieces, booth display parts, and tents. A big heartfelt thanks goes out to Chris & Kyle Dahlquist, Jim Brown and Lisa Burge, who contacted me and helped me (and others) get their situations worked out! Thanks too, to Stephen King and his staff who worked through the night to help salvage art, fix booths, contact artists, etc.

So, day 2. The show opened at 10 so we had to get there early to rehang the booth. This day the weather guys had it right: hot & humid--heat index of 102 on blacktop in the sun. The crowds were merely slogging around. Really, it was too hot to be looking at, let alone, buying art! We survived the day by hiding in the shade, taking longer than necessary bathroom breaks in the airconditioned show headquarters (and I even slipped back to the hotel for a cool shower about 3 that afternoon.) Evening rolled around and the show put out a weather warning that more storms were due that night. So, after a grueling 13 hours in the heat, we spent another hour and half putting most of the art in the van. This time, with permission of the show, we pulled our van through that parking lot and parked it next to my tent. We tied 2 legs of the tent to van and went off to shower and sleep. And hope for no calls in the middle of the night.

Sunday. Got there early since we had to re hang the booth--so now it feels like 3 shows instead of one, with all the extra work of rehanging art. There was more damage. My booth had scooted just a bit but others were 6 to 8 feet away from where they had been. And these are good strong tents with at least 200 to 300 lbs of weight attached! Thank goodness we had tied to the van. Gillian's booth would have blown away except it ran into a light pole a few feet behind her.

So, while I appreciate the invitation to participate--185 artists were accepted out of a pool of over 1300--I think I'll look closer to home next year--maybe New Mexico Arts & Crafts will have me back! (My damage was minimal: spent yesterday revarnishing and touching up the few pieces that were...)


  1. That is crazy! It also sounds exhausting! Life on the road is hard living sometimes.

  2. Let's just say that my Tuesday (first day back) was not as productive as I would have liked!

  3. Just got to this blog, Jennifer. How horrid! The wind and weather is one of the reasons I have not reapplied to the New Mexico Arts and Crafts fair. Even though I was inside the damage done to booths outside hurt attendance and my tender heart. (I do understand they have now opted to be totally inside in future shows.)

    Yes, it is wise to look for fairs with better weather or inside set ups. It is awful to go through this exhausting battle and worse to worry about ruining of your art and your display equipment.

  4. Sorry to hear about your trials. At least you guys are safe. I decided to stay at home this summer except for Old Town which was just barely OK. Looking into alternate ways to market. I really believe the show life is coming to an end...over promoted, weather patterns changing, economy, apathy,you name it.
    Safe journeys to you two.
    Be careful and keep your chins up.

  5. Vern--you may have the right idea. Hope our paths cross anyway sometime in the near future, anyway!!!! Even if it is just closer to home! Be safe and have some fun!!!! (Thought your booth looked really great at Old Town!!)


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