Craft Fair Stories

Park City, Utah

 

 Park City has an annual show in August put on by the Kimball Society.  The show is on the main street in town, which is a long sloping hill.  It is a lucrative two-day show. In past shows, rowdy college kids rolled kegs down the hill to see how many craft booths they could hit.  Some times they burn cars in front of the main bar in town. 

 I was heading to a show there a few years ago and it was late at night.  I was about 30 miles from Salt Lake City, and sleepy.  I pulled off the highway, found a grassy area without a lot of homes nearby.  I parked my camper van, and went in the back and went to sleep.

 About 5 in the morning I woke up to a torrential rain, pounding against the roof and the side of the van.  My heart sank.  Park City is only a two-day show, and a very good one. If it rained on one of the two days, it would cost me a few thousand dollars. Or the whole show could be canceled and I would return with nothing for all that driving from California. The rain stopped.  I breathed a sigh of relief, started to doze off, and the rain started again.  It was very intense.  Then it stopped again. And started again.  It seemed like it would rain for fifteen seconds, then stop for a minute, and then start again.  Weird weather in Utah. This went on for about a half an hour, and I couldn’t get back to sleep.  I decided to get up, get dressed, and drive to the show.  I crawled into the front seat and started the van.  The rain started and stopped, and the sun was up. The skies were clear and beautiful. Only then did I notice that I had parked by a city park next to a circulating water sprinkler.     

Chicago ACC Show 

The Chicago ACC show is held out on the Navy Pier. ACC stands for American Crafts Council, representing and consisting of theoretically the cream of the craftspeople in the US.  The year that I did the show, 80 famous artists had decorated life-size fiberglass cows. Rodriquez did a cow with blue dogs on it, etc.  There was an arrangement to have the artist’s cows in place with the ACC craft show the night before the craft show began, so the art patrons of Chicago could see the cows and the crafts at the same time, before the cows hit the street corners for summer exhibits and the crafts fair was open to the public.  The art patrons paid $150 for the Thursday night gala, complete with catered gourmet food.

 When the craftspeople, who had paid $1100 or more for a booth, heard about the food that was laid out for the patrons, they went over and helped themselves.  Craftspeople are always hungry. Just like starving artists. When the art patrons showed up, all the food was gone.  They were not happy.  They proceeded to look at all the decorated cows scattered throughout the show (I had a cow covered with pennies next to my booth) and completely ignored the craftspeople. I have never been so rejected by so many wealthy so-called art patrons at one time in all my life. Except maybe at that snobby show in West Springfield, Massachusetts, but that is another story.

 The rest of the show didn’t go so well either.  The public had to come upstairs from the arcade- style pier and pay $8.00 to get in the show.  They didn’t.  Parking was $25.00.  I would never do that show again.

Three Rivers Arts Festival,  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Three Rivers Arts Festival is held the first three weeks in June.  Artists are allowed to sell only two of the three weekends or two of the three weeks.  I think the people in Pittsburgh are the friendliest, at all the shows I do, and Pittsburgh is the most visually interesting city in the United States.  There is one serious drawback to the show, though.  The weather can be really bad.  Locals always know when the art show has started each summer, because the bad weather and rain signals the event.  The worst aspect of the weather is the wind.  It does not blow, it slams.  The wind comes down the two river canyons, and a funnel affect increases the speed up to 80mph. There is usually warning about 30 minutes ahead of the wind, but there is no protection from it.  Every year half a dozen booths are destroyed by it.

 One year I had a booth on the other side of Liberty Street (where they no longer have artists because of the wind).  At that time the show went until 11 pm. The promoter came by just before closing and said there was a storm approaching.  I didn’t pay much attention, because it was such a calm warm evening.  After the show, I went to the concert in the park.  At 12:30, I was walking back to my camper, parked across from the Examiner building.  I decided to give my booth a last minute check up on the way.  That is the reason I happened to be at my booth the minute the 80mph wind struck.  I made it inside and managed to lash it to the 4x4s of the Kentucky hand-built booth next to me.  As I hung on for dear life, I could hear the canopies crashing all around me.  I was the only artist in the area, except for Tom, who was spending the night in his booth.  

After about 30 minutes, the wind abruptly stopped.  About 20 tents were down, including Tom’s, which had collapsed around him. His paintings were in a heap and he was at the bottom of it. Some college kids came by and offered to help, but it was such a tangled mess.  All we could do was stand around and observe it.  Tom was telling us that he had been counting his money and charge slips when it hit, and the wind blew his money all over Liberty Avenue.  The next day he walked around in a daze, apologizing to everyone, believing that his karma for counting money had led to the destruction.

 One of the craftspeople had four tables in her craft hut, and each table had about 600 lbs of wood bowls on it.  She believed that would be enough weight, and the hut was tightly zippered.  Somehow the wind had gotten under one edge, tipped the hut on its side, then blew it 75 yards across the plaza and up into a tree, scattering the bowls the entire route.  It took us two hours at three in the morning to get all the wet and ruined wood bowls into the her van, so she could go home.

 Every year there is always the wind.  In 2003 the wind came so sudden and strong that one booth shot up three stories with the artist holding on to it. He had to let go at two stories and landed in some bushes, the booth landing much farther away. I wasn’t at the show that week, but I found broken pottery shards in my booth every day for the following two weeks.

 

Rio Grande Art and Craft Festival, Albuquerque, NM

 The Rio Grande Art and Craft Festival is the first two weekends in October, coinciding with the annual Balloon Festival, and about a mile away.  The Albuquerque Balloon Festival is the largest Hot Air Balloon event in the world, with over a thousand balloons launching over 11 days.

 On the last Sunday of the show, I woke up before 5 am and went down to the field to take photos.  840 balloons went up within minutes.  Even my panorama camera could not take it all in.  I noticed a huge Pink Pig balloon about 50 feet tall  with a Wells Fargo on the side, representing a piggy bank.  I love to photograph balloon festivals, and I try to keep the commercial balloons out of the photos, but the pink piggy bank appeared in quite a few of them.  After all the balloons had taken off, I walked the mile back to my van and the show. 

The sun had come up blazing, and as it heated up the air, the balloons started to come down!  The hot air in the balloon is no longer hotter than the air around it, so it descends.  I noticed the pink piggy bank descending directly over my van. As it lightly touched the van, some people grabbed some ropes and dragged it to the side to land, just missing the van with a last ditch effort. Now I have a photo of my van in the New Mexico desert with a giant pink piggy bank on top of it.  What does it mean?  Make more money? Save more money?  Get a pink piggy bank?  

 

 

Fargo, North Dakota

 I don’t remember what this show is called. It doesn’t matter, I don’t plan to do any more shows in North Dakota. No money (the local economy is not very good).  It was a nice enough show, but the weather tore up my booth every night (or maybe it was local kids).

 When I rented a car in Minneapolis to drive to the Fargo show, they asked me what kind of car I wanted.  Just for the heck of it, I said, “Red and fast!”  As luck would have it, they just happened to have a bright red and very fast car. It barely had enough room for my canopy and suitcases.  I put the front passenger seat down to get the canopy in, and drove to Fargo. 

 A couple of nights later, I was pulled over by a motorcycle cop for going 38 in a 25mph school zone at 9:30 at night.  When the officer gave me the ticket to sign, I asked him if I would be able to take care of it by mail from California.  He said, “Sure, just send a check for $43 to the municipal court address within 15 days.  “$43?” I said. My big mouth blurted out “You know, it is $261 in California for a speeding ticket.”  The officer didn’t smile.  “Have a nice night and drive safe,” he said.

 The next day a female police officer came by my booth at the show.  She said that they had apprehended a thief that had stole some handmade jewelry, and he had five of my carvings in his bag.  I hadn’t even noticed they were missing.  I told her that we didn’t get that kind of police service in California.  She looked at my booth sign. “Oh, you are the fellow that got the speeding ticket last night.” As she returned the stolen carvings and I thanked her, she said, “I am sorry we didn’t meet your expectations. Will you be going back soon?” 

New Orleans Jazz Festival

 The Jazz Festival happens in late April, early May each year.  Two weekends of music, one weekend is three days, the next weekend is four days.  12 stages, 5 groups of musicians per stage per day.  60 groups a day, 240 musical entities a weekend, blues, gospel, rock, every kind of music, 800,000 people from all over the world, and about 80 craft booths. 

I have a real bug about loud music at a show.  I don’t want it interfering with my sales.  I don’t want to have to shout over it.  So when I was accepted into the show, I called the promoter. I asked her if there was going to be loud music.  “Honey,” she said, “you all are gonna hear more loud music than you can shake a stick at.”  

Hmmm.  Well, might as well try the show anyhow, so I flew down there on a Wednesday.  I was getting impatient waiting for my rental car, but the women in the dispatch office said in a slow drawl, “Honey, you all just wait, now. Your car will be here by and by.  Don’t you all worry about nothin.”

 At the show, all I heard all weekend was throbbing boom boom boom.  I had a blues tent to my left, a gospel tent to my right, and a rock and roll stage behind me. Couldn’t hear anything. But I made a ton of money. I had a long line of waiting customers.  At one point I noticed the promoter sitting in a golf cart watching my hand-over-fist sales.  She didn’t say anything, but I think there were some complaints that I was making too many sales! The next year I was rejected from the show, and I was so angry and disappointed I tore the rejection notice up and mailed it back to the promoter in an envelope with my return address on it.  Note to self—don’t ever do that again.  I never got back into that show. 

On Monday, after the show was over, I went to the New Orleans Aquarium in the morning, killing time waiting for the afternoon flight back to Oakland.  Down the stairs at one end of the aquarium was a big room with a 60 foot curved thick glass wall on one side, and a 30-foot plaster alligator in three feet of water.  There were very few people in the aquarium that day.  I watched the white plaster alligator for a while, wondering why the aquarium didn’t just get a real alligator.  There must be some around somewhere.  A few people came down the stairs, then went back up, just as disappointed as I was.  A woman with a baby in a stroller came down the stairs past me, and was at the other end of the long glass wall when her baby dropped his baby bottle. Suddenly the white plaster alligator came to life, shot across the glass enclosed tank with jaws wide open, and smashed into the 8” thick glass wall inches from the baby.  The woman started screaming.  The alligator looked at the baby for a while, and then slowly turned and smoothly floated back to my end of the tank, inches from my face now, he resumed his plaster alligator mime act!  Not a shred of evidence that he was a real alligator.  More people came down the stairs, commented on the plaster sculpture, and left.  I tried to convince a couple of people that he was alive, but no use. Once in a while the alligator would open one of his huge eyelids to reveal a yellow gleaming eye, and wink at me. 

Back in California a few weeks later, I saw a picture of a white alligator in the newspaper. He was in a Seattle aquarium, and he looked familiar.  It seems that there are 6 white alligators in existence in the world, and some of them travel from aquarium to aquarium around the country. The one in Seattle had just come from a two-month stay in New Orleans.  It was my plaster buddy from New Orleans (Nawlins)! 

 

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

 Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a small town at the eastern base of the Grand Tetons, and about 50 miles south of Yellowstone National Park.  It happens to be one of the prettiest scenic locations in the United States, and frequented by the rich and famous for the rafting and fishing in the summer, and the skiing in the winter. 

The show, put on by the art association is in a small park just off of the main street.  Not the main park with the antler entrances, but the other one a few blocks off the main road.

 The first year I did the show, I noticed a crowd at my booth, exclaiming “Wow!  Look at that!  Fantastic. Really cool!”  Typical comments that I get sometimes when people get excited about my carvings.  No big deal. I didn’t even look up. But when I heard “Pass me the camera,” well, that is where I draw the line.  When I stood up to inform the camera owner about copyright, etc., I noticed that they weren’t even looking at my artwork.  They were looking through my booth at an enormous bull moose, with a big rack, which had slowly strolled down the mountain behind me, checked out the show, and was ambling along back up the mountain.

 Another time when I did the Jackson Hole show, I showed up on Friday night, tired after the long drive from California, and wanting to get set up so I could go to bed.  There was a photographer set up in my booth.  “What are you doing in my space?” I asked. He said “Well, when it was empty this morning, I asked for it and they gave it to me.  You weren’t here.”  “Why were you here in the morning?”  I asked.  He said, “Well, this is a three day show, you know.  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.”  Oops. I was a day late. Actually I hadn’t looked at my paperwork, and thought it was a two day show.  All the spaces had been filled.

 The next morning I asked the promoter if I could set up under a tree between a couple of booths.  She finally said okay, since I had paid the full fee for the show.  So I put a table partially under the spruce tree and put out my wood carvings, which looked like they were coming out of the tree. I spent two days with pine needles stabbing me in the back. 

It was a very successful show.  The next day I got stuck in a buffalo herd in Yellowstone, with a mad female buffalo glaring at my camera inches from her nose, and I had no film…. But that is another story.  

 

Detroit, Michigan

 The Edsel Ford Estate in East Detroit Michigan is the site for a local art show in the middle of June.  I have never gotten into the Ann Arbor or Detroit street Fairs, and wanted to do a Michigan show. Since I was visiting my friend Lin in Oakland County, I decided to this local show.  I didn’t know what to expect, except maybe lots of rich people.  The Edsel Ford Mansion is next to Lake Michigan.  It is open for tours, but I didn’t take one.  A golf cart was used to load the crafters both on and off the lawn, as cars were not allowed on the grass.  I did tour the gardens, and saw the children’s playhouse, which was nearly as large as my own house. 

The wealthy patrons did not stop at my booth, except for one gangster’s wife, who bought a lot of carvings.  It rained.  After the show, I was resting in my van when I saw giant mosquito on the inside of my windshield.  They were everywhere.  I swatted one with my notebook.  Unfortunately, I had a heavy pen in the book, and the metal cap of the pen hit my windshield and put a 4-inch crack in it.  It turned out that the mosquitoes were actually harmless mayflies from the lake.  As I drove back to California, the crack crawled along my windshield until it reached the other end, and I had to replace it. Cost-$150.

 

Fremont, California

Fremont has an art and wine festival at the end of July, located in and around a shopping center.  There are four music stages, 700 spaces, and 300,000 plus people. 

At a previous show in Sunnyvale in June, I was next to a booth with Thai barbeque.  The smoke from the burning meat got on everything.  It really messed up nearby crafts booths that had clothing or silks.  People with glass hangings had to wipe the grease from every glass item every hour.  I decided to alert the promoter to the fact that food booths should be located away from the craftspeople.  This particular promoter does not like suggestions, so I typed the letter, did not sign it, and drove 75 miles to mail it so she wouldn’t know where the letter came from or who wrote it. 

At the following show in Fremont, I showed up at 6 am to get my space.  The promoter (the same one as Sunnyvale) had put all the food booths together, a little ways from the crafts, just like I had suggested in my anonymous letter. I finally found my space assignment.  It was in the middle of the food booths!  Barbeque on one side, Burgers on the other, sausage, Chinese…. you name it, if it was a greasy food booth, it was there.  When I found out I was the only craft booth in the middle of the food, I furiously stormed up to the promoter, but a little voice stopped me (Actually it was Vicki, who said that if I complained I would never do the show again. Thanks, Vicki) before I got there.  I grumbled, went back to my space and set up, expecting a lousy weekend.

 It turned out to be an excellent show.  Best show ever up to that date.  People walked by and said, “Wow, something smells really good around here.”  Then they bought a burger and a couple of carvings., I will never know how the promoter connected that letter to me.  I will never ask, either.  I could end up with a booth in the middle of the porta-potties. 

Novato, California

 Some 50,000 young men and women whose sole mission for the weekend is to get as drunk as possible attend this little show on the main street in Novato in June. 

I was selling across from the old Famous bar on Main Street, just down from the public restrooms.  It was the kind of affluent crowd that when people asked if they could cut through my booth to get to the bar and I said “Yes, but you have to buy a quill,” they bought one. 

Later in the afternoon I went to use the restroom.  There was a line of about thirty women in front of the ladies room, and one woman standing in front of the men’s room with her arms folded.  When I went to push the door open, she pushed me back and told me I couldn’t go in there.  “Why not?” I said.  “Because we have taken it over.”  I pushed her aside and went into the men’s room.  There were about 8 women in there, and I could hear female voices.  “What are you doing in here? Get out” they all said.  “This is the men’s room,” I said, “and I have to use the urinal.”   “So use it,” someone said, and they moved away from the urinal.  As I stepped up and unzipped, they all gathered around me, arms folded, watching. No pressure. I finally just left, mission unaccomplished.  What I should have done is _________

Cleveland, Ohio

 Produced by the Ohio Designer Craftsmen, ODC, the Columbus show is held in the convention center the week after Thanksgiving.  I didn’t do well. The year I did the show, there was a sniper on highway 70 and people were staying home.  After the show was over, I did have a wonderful visit to the Cincinnati History museum.  I think it is the best museum in the country, and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Ohio. 

My space at the show was facing an open area that was a craft showcase.  The theory being that people would walk through the showcase, then when they saw something they liked they would visit that craftsperson’s booth.

 In front of my booth was a rocking chair that was 12 feet tall, with a sign on it that said, “Don’t sit in this chair.”  Which was not really necessary, since the seat was about 5 feet high.  The chair for giants was very well constructed, cost as much as a used Porsche, and was quite an attention getter.  The problem was that with the chair being directly in front of my booth, people were looking at it instead of my carvings.  I tried moving the chair away a few inches at a time when no one was looking.  Someone kept moving it back. I finally found the craftsperson that made it.  I noticed he didn’t want it in his own booth either. I explained what the problem was, but he didn’t seem to care.  That night I moved the chair to the other side of the area when no one was looking.  The promoter moved it back, and it stayed there. Cross that show off the to-do list

West Palm Beach, Florida

 The Artigras show happens in February each year in West Palm Beach Gardens, just north of West Palm Beach.  It is the only show that I know of that provides Lobster Bisque dinner for the artists. 

When I learned that I was in the show, I searched google for bed and breakfasts in the area.  I found one for $89 a night, and the owner assured me that it was close to the show, and that he would pick me up at the airport, so I wouldn’t need to rent a car. 

 I was indeed picked up at the airport, the owner holding up a little sign with my name on it, and it was a very nice little mansion with 5 or six furnished bedrooms, and a very complete breakfast.  The catch is that the mansion was a $30 cab ride each way from the art show.

 On Monday, as the plane lifted away from the airport, a woman seated next to me pointed out Donald Trump’s mansion directly below.  She said that Mr. Trump had asked the airport to change the flight path of their planes so they wouldn’t fly over his mansion and disturb his guests.  They refused and he threatened to sue.  So they gave him 200 acres south of the airport to build a life sized miniature golf course on.  The course is said to have a full size castle, windmills imported from Amsterdam, giant waterfalls, etc. 

Salem, Oregon

 The Salem outdoor art show is in mid June, usually the week before the Seattle shows, so an artist can get two shows for one trip.  A very pleasant show to do.  The show is $60 and 20% of your sales.  If you have a $5,000 show, it ends up costing cost you $1060 for your booth. 

The show promoters wants to make sure they get the money.  They have a spotter on each row watching the artists. They require you to make a duplicate receipt for every sale, and give the copies to them after the show.  No other show makes you do this. They tally up the copies, you pay them 20%, and off you go.  

For starters, 20% commission is way too much.  The last time I did the show, I asked them what they did with the money.  They said they used the money to support the arts.  “Well, we are artists,” I said. "No, we meant real art," they said.  They told me that for example they had a program to teach art to people in the penitentiary.  “What kind of art’” I asked.  “Well, we teach them how to make wood carvings like yours!” 

There is an interesting biker bar, about a half-mile south of the show.  Interesting because they seem to be merely acting like what they though biker bar patrons should act like.  One night at the bar I had a beer, played pool, narrowly avoided a fight over racism, and went back to the rv park to sleep in my camper van.  The next morning I was wakened by a car alarm somewhere in the park.  I pressed the button on my alarm and it didn’t stop, so I knew it wasn’t mine.  I tried to get back to sleep, but the @#$%! alarm went on for hours.  Finally I got up, got dressed, went out to give the alarm owner a piece of my mind.  When I stepped out of my van, I noticed about 30 older retired people staring at my van. They had their hands on their hips and they were not smiling. It was my alarm!  

It turned out that the biker bar beer had caused me to leave the lights on, which ran down the battery, causing the alarm to think the door lights were on and causing it to go off.  Since the battery was so low, my alarm button didn’t work to turn it off earlier that night. My alarm button still wasn’t working, so I raised the hood and took out the fuse. 

I hooked up my jumper cables and waited for one to the out-of-sorts rv retirees to offer me a jump start, but no one moved a muscle to help.  I don’t know what they were so angry about. 

Oxnard, CA Strawberry festival

 If you like strawberries, the Oxnard strawberry festival will fill all your fantasies.  It is held in April in the strawberry fields of Ventura County.  There are two music stages and around 70,000 people, and all the strawberries you could ever want to see. I have done the show for about 10 years.  There is free camping in a pasture behind the show for the artists. 

I always wanted to win one of the awards at that show, until a couple of years ago. My photographer friend Bo won the award for best of show.  It is called the Schmucker’s award (after the Jam people, I guess).  When he proudly showed me the award that said he was an excellent Schmucker, I didn’t want the award that much anymore.

 A few years ago a radio station parked one of those giant boom box trucks behind my booth, set it to a Spanish radio station, turned up the volume, locked the doors, and left for the weekend.  We tried everything to turn it down, but all the doors and windows were locked tight.  We couldn’t turn off the power because it had an internal generator.  It played loud music the whole weekend. I know how to sing in Spanish now.  There aren't really all that many different words in Spanish songs.

Santa Monica, California

 The Contemporary Craft Marketplace, held in June and November at the Civic Center, is probably the highest quality show in southern California, if not the entire southwest.  It is mostly indoors, but they erect a circus tent outside for 50 semi-outdoors spaces.  The promoters live in Hawaii and always bring fresh orchids and leis from their home state.

 There is one artist, along the back wall, who always sells out the first hour of the show.  Some kind of fairy dolls.  People rush in to see his latest creations, he marks them sold, and then sits there the rest of the show with a sold-out sign in his booth.  One would think that he would make a few more each year. I suggested it once, but he wasn't interested. I think he likes the attention.

 The first time I did the show , someone who was holding 5 of my wood carvings looked like Stephen Spielberg.  “You look just like Steven Spielberg.” I said.  He put down the carvings and walked out in a huff.  It turned out he really was Steven Spielberg.  This made me aware of where I was, near Beverly Hills.  I start paying attention.  Then I noticed Bernadette Peters, Karen Black, Brian Wilson, Goldie Hawn, Jerry Chan, and  Valerie Perrine came into my booth.  I didn’t tell any of them who they looked like.  The next year Steven Spielberg came back, I didn’t say anything, and he bought 5 carvings.  This time he put them down, walked away, and a woman with a clipboard walked up and said "How much do we owe you for those?"

Sun Valley, Idaho

 This show is on the grass near the Sun Valley lodge in Sun Valley, Idaho. This is where the rich people of the world stay to get away from the crowds.  In the hall of the lodge are signed photos of the Shah of Iran, John Wayne, Buffalo Bill, all the Presidents.  It is still an area where the well known go to relax and get away from it all.  It is not an especially lucrative show, but the nearby fishing and camping are great.  

I did the show with my family in the late nineties.  They had just gone for a walk, and I was rummaging around under the table looking for more stock, when I head someone say “Madria, look at deese!”  I knew that voice, it was the Terminator.  I stood up to find Arnold Swartzenegger and his wife standing a few feet away, examining my carvings.  Arnold bought a couple, then his wife said she wanted 10.  I told her that I had just ran out of gift boxes, which I shouldn’t have even brought up.  She said she didn’t want them without gift boxes.  I said “I’ll be back”, no one smiled, and I ran around the show asking the other artists for gift boxes. I returned empty handed.  Maria said she would call me later to order them, but of course she never did.  She is a very busy woman.

Lincoln Center, New York

 There are two shows in June and two shows the first two weekends in September.  They are put on by the ACAC, in two areas in Lincoln Center. One is in front of the band shell, and the other by the fountain in the plaza.  Craftspeople who sell in front of the fountain have to pack up on Saturday night by 7pm, and set up again on Sunday morning.  I like the fountain location, even though it is a hassle, because one meets and greets the crowd for the opening of the symphony and opening of the ballet. I can’t think of a better place to sell small carvings. 

In 2001, I had just finished the first weekend show in September, on September 8th and 9th, and was waiting around for the second show.  I had sprained my back packing up Sunday night, so I bought a yoga book on the way back to my room.  It recommended fasting and stretching, so I spent Monday in my room at the Y on 61st street, not eating, but doing lots of stretching and exercise.  Early Tuesday morning on the 11th, I went down to the cafeteria for breakfast, then went back to my room to dress to go downtown to Warren street to a store that my customers had recommended.  But when I got back to my room, I discovered that I was still tired from the show and the fasting, so I fell back into bed and went to sleep. At 11 am, I got up and to go downtown.  On the way down the hall, I saw some TV sets in rooms that the maids were cleaning, showing buildings falling. That was the first I heard about the World Trade Center attack. 

I spend the next couple of days wondering around the city in a daze, watching the big screen TV’s, hoping, like everyone else,  to hear that it was just some kind of bad dream and every thing be all right.  Ambulances raced up Broadway every 3 minutes.  I finally got in touch with home and learned that the following weekend show at Lincoln Center had been canceled. All the flights had been suspended, and I was trying to figure out how to get back to California. My efforts became more focused when I watch a newscast with Mayor Giuliani declaring that there was absolutely no truth to the news that there was asbestos in the World Trade Center.  It was then that I realized what the strange smell in the air was.  (The first 70 stories of the WTC had asbestos, and then it was outlawed, and only the top 30 stories didn’t.)  I wanted to get out of town fast. I saw an ad for a Volvo in Brooklyn for $6,000, called and got directions. I will never forget taking that subway over the Brooklyn bridge and seeing the smoke from the burning WTC. 

When I got to the dealer in Brooklyn, he told me I could have the ‘91 Volvo for $3,000.  I hesitated because the paper had said $6,000, he then said $2,500, I was shocked, then he said $2,000, final offer, and I said, well, ok, I guess.  The car was a donation/tax write off for the Tree of Life, with money for the sale of cars going to freedom fighters in Israel. I asked for a smog certificate with the car and no one knew what it was, since NY doesn’t require one.  

I spent the afternoon in a Hasidic neighborhood Motor Vehicle office, trying to get the car registered and insured.  I scrambled with faxes to get the 6 pieces of identification required in NY to register a car.  The people with long beards in the office seemed to be in a good mood. I asked them why.  They said that now the US would finally see what they had been going through in Israel. 

That night I drove around Manhattan to the west side, since Lincoln Tunnel was the only way in or out of New York City.  I went back to the Y, got my stuff, and headed west on 80. I was glad to be out of there, going home to Sonoma county (with a 10 story height limit on buildings).

Omaha, Nebraska

 This show in downtown Omaha has one of the nicest breakfasts for the artists of any show.  It also always has a nearby tornado, every single year. 

 Every year that I did the show, I secured my canopy during the high winds, and went around helping other craftspeople survive the wind and rain.  I usually camp nearby in my RV, so I was always nearby and knew when the tornado wind would hit. 

 A few years go I was traveling from NYC to a show in Omaha; I had my wife send some carvings to Omaha.  For some reason she got the wrong zip code.  It was for Bellevue, ten miles south of Omaha, near the SAC base.  When I went down, there to pick my package I saw an attractive room rate, and decided to stay there for the show.  I completely forgot about tornados.  Sunday morning when I arrived at the show, I parked in a nearby lot.  The first that I had hard about the destruction was when Mark yelled out “How did you do?”  Well, I didn’t.  My booth was in a shambles. I had tied my tables to the canopy, and when the canopy lifted, it tipped my tables and my glass case was dumped into the street. The contents had blown in every direction. I had my carvings with me in the room overnight, of course, but my booth was nearly destroyed.  

 

Williams, Arizona

 On route 66 in Arizona is a small town where the train to the Grand Canyon departs from.  That is the town’s sole claim to fame, that and all the bow makers who make weapons for the local war on deer.  There is a small show on the main street that I accidentally picked up on the way from Nebraska to San Diego.  

My booth was directly across from an old time Route 66 Indian Trading Post.  The owner wanted to trade for some of my carvings, after watching people line up to buy them. I saw a Turquoise bracelet in his store that was selling for $160 that I liked.  So the logical trade would be 4 $40 carvings for one $160 bracelet.  

He told me that my carvings wholesale price would be $20, so he would need 8 carvings for his bracelet.  I asked him how he thought that his part of the trade would be retail, and mine wholesale.  He told me it was because he had a store, and that was how he and all the other stores did business.  He said that his family had the store for over 100 years, and that is how they always did business with (exploited) the Indians.  As I am not a poor Indian, it just didn’t work for me. It was my first awareness of the matter-of-fact constant mistreatment of Indians in Arizona, which continues to this day. 

Fountain Hills, Arizona

 Fountain Hills is a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona, in the nearby hills to the north.  They have two shows a year, one in November and one February.  It is just way too hot for shows the rest of the year.  It is a wonderful crowd of corporate executives, retired developers, and tourists from the frozen north Midwest states (snowbirds). At the spring show, there is a launching of 45 hot-air balloons in front of the 150-foot fountain, right behind my booth. I love to watch them fill up and take off early in the morning before the sun gets too hot. 

The first year I did the show, my booth was away from the fountain, with a grassy area behind me.  Dogs are allowed at the show; in fact Fountain Hills dwellers are very fond of their dogs. A young man, his eight-year old son, and a very large Great Dane with spots were visiting my booth.  The man was going to buy a quill, and while his attention was on my booth, his dog left a very large deposit on the street behind him.  I should have jumped out and put a chair to block people from walking in it, but I was busy trying to sell the carving, and I really thought people looked where they were going a little better than they did. 

People waded right through the deposit, and soon there was a trail, and quite a bit of the deposit was being smeared in front of the booth belonging to the lady painter to my right.  She started screaming at the man to clean up the mess.  He told the boy to take the dog into the park, and he went to get some towels to clean after his dog, the woman yelling at him at the top of her voice.  All the yelling did was cause more people to step in the mess, and more of the mess was tracked in front of her booth.  Meanwhile the dog pulled the kid through the park, walked up behind the painter’s booth and promptly urinated all over her paintings.  I pointed it out to her, and then she completely lost her mind.

I was still trying to sell the carvings, and the man was trying to buy one, but with all that screaming, we finally gave up. She was so upset. It took her a couple of hours to settle down

Gilroy, California

Gilroy is the garlic capital of the world.  Ask anybody in that little farm town.  Every July they hold the Gilroy Garlic Festival.  There are two stages, 180 food booths, mostly garlic, 120 artists, 120,000 people, and a huge tent where there is a Garlic Cook-off.   It is a good show for me. After everyone eats until they are stuffed, there is nothing left to do but buy crafts. 

I usually camp in the parking lot at the show, but a few years ago I decided to book a Motel 6 at the edge of Gilroy.   It was a pretty new hotel, and I was looking forward to a shower after the hot show.  The power was out when I got to my room in the evening, and there was just enough light to see to take a shower.  When I was done, I went into the hall and it was completely dark.  My room was dark, no TV, no lights.  I asked some people in the hall and they said the whole place was dark.  

I decided it was not safe and went down to get my money back, and go get a room somewhere else.  The manager asked me why I needed lights for anyway.  I said it was unsafe.  He refused to give my money back, said there was no way I could find another motel.  There were 10 other unhappy campers, and he wouldn’t give anyone their money back.  Finally he asked security to remove us, and I was escorted to the edge of the property.  I still didn’t get my money back.  I boycotted Motel 6 for many years after that. 

Ask any craft person and they will have a horror story to tell about Motel 6. One of the problems with the motel is that rooms are used for noisy purposes at all hours of the night, and it is hard to sleep.  Another problem is that they refuse to use No Vacancy signs, so you  waste a lot of time trying to find out if they have a room or not. 

Anchorage Alaska

 In my simple-minded desire to do a show in every state before I quit, I signed up for the Saturday market in Anchorage, having been assured that most of the sellers sold things they made.  This turned out to be true, and I made enough at the show to cover the flight and a week of driving a rented car around the lower half of the state, photographing nature.  

I had heard, before I went, that you can catch 50 pound salmon two blocks from the Hilton, and that the daylight goes for 23 hours.  Both are true.  People line up to pull huge Salmon out of the Cook Inlet with large lures.  Everyone is allowed only one fish a day, so everyone shows up, puts a hook in, gets a huge fish, then leaves. 

I wanted to take some bear photos, so I booked a trip to Cook National Park to view the bears.  The plane left from Katmai, and landed on the sandy beach at the Park.  Then we hiked into the woods and climbed up on a platform to view the grizzly bears in their natural state, which is mostly eating grass and waiting for the seagulls to tell them the salmon are coming.  Not being content with watching them from a platform, I asked the guide to take us somewhere where we could observe them closer.  He didn’t seem too happy with the idea, but assumed that with all my cameras I was writing an article for a magazine.  So finally we marched off to see the Grizzlies, guides in the front and back with shotguns with flare shells and real ammo as well.  I got to take a bunch of pics of the bears from as close as I actually ever want to get to a Grizzly, which is about as far as they can run in 15 seconds.  The whole experience cost about 8 carvings. 

 

Tulsa Oklahoma

The Mayfair in Tulsa is held in May every year.  I didn’t have any shows that month so I decided to check it out.  There were supposed to be 250,000 people. 

At the airport I asked a man with a broom to help me get my bags to an airport shuttle.  He put them on a cart, pushed it about a quarter of a mile, and said to wait there for the shuttle.  I tipped him $10. After about a half of an hour, I noticed a few shuttles had passed me, but none had stopped.  I seemed to be some distance from the airport.  Eventually I started jumping madly up and down when they passed, and finally one stopped.  I had been waiting for over an hour.  The shuttle driver asked me what I was doing there. He was surprised. He said that I was far between stops, and definitely in a place where no buses would stop.  I had been a victim of a Okie janitors twisted sense of humor. 

A couple of days later at the show, I had a central booth in the little park between the office buildings.  About 20 secretaries had come into the park and sat on the benches to eat their lunch break.  After eating their fast food, they threw all of the paper on the sidewalk, as well as the uneaten food. There were trashcans around but they didn’t use them.  All of them did it. It was the strangest thing I have ever seen in Oklahoma or anywhere else, for that matter. The promised 250,000 people showed up, all right, but all they wanted to do was drink beer and listen to music.  Nothing wrong with that, but I wouldn’t fly 2000 miles to do that show again.. 

Stories to come…….

 Scottsdale—Monument Valley, broken van transmission on sacred land

 Sedona—caviar and violin music

 Las Vegas—FX Show at the MGM, best seats in the house

West Springfield--Niagara falls, the Canadian police think I am going to jump.

Columbus-- best show ever, watercolor vs. photos

 Asparagus Festival, Stockton-- asparagus omelet, diesel in the gas tank

 Madison, WI--The painter who made $30,000 while asleep behind my booth.

 Redondo Beach--Cowboy Dancing from the waist up

 Boulder City--Ribbon colors, ski-doos

 Tucson—Drag Queens, camper toilet, Indian no pay tax, Snoopy

 Tempe—50 foot Cigar, Snowy Christmas

 Salt Lake City--Wind, shoplifting, lights

 Sugarloaf--Wrist band

 Philadelphia-- dim lights and band aids

 Berkeley—lost stock

San Francisco—The IRS

 Sunnyvale—Promoter with the whip, port-a-johns       

 San Jose--the oil slick, the ribbon   

 Lancaster Poppy festival--no poppies.

 Nashville—The grand old opry, sprained back, booth went to Atlanta

 

 

Send me your craft fair stories. Email them to craftmaster@aol.com.