Updated: Oct 13, 2022
I had, most definitely, the worst weekend I have ever experienced since starting up doing craft fairs, many years ago. Some of it was on me, some of it was on the show runners, too.
For those who don't know me or don't know this about me, I got my start doing craft fairs. For many years I had been wanting to try them out, until one day I decided to jump in and just do it. I was still very apprehensive, and ended up sharing a table with a friend.
That first show was... OK. I wasn't making crazy amounts of money, but I enjoyed it all enough that I kept going. I did an occasional one, here and there, and slowly built up my event calendar, along with my inventory. I was always working to improve my display, as well.
I have come a looong way since that first craft fair. I did fairly well at the shows (in that I never lost any money), but I wasn't doing as well as I had hoped. Then, at one event, I got to talking with a nearby vendor, and she actually recommended I try going to comic cons around the area. She thought I would do better, there, and she had just had an amazing weekend at one.
After looking some up in the area, I decided to give it a try. It just so happened that my first con was at the public library, and there was no table fee. I had absolutely nothing to lose! It was a one day convention, and at the end of that one day library con, I had done better than I ever had at the craft fairs. I was in love, and I just knew that I had found my place. Since then, I have been expanding my booth, expanding the number of events, and constantly tweaking my display.
It has been over 3 years since I dropped the craft fairs, but I started to look back. I figured, with as much as I have improved and how well I have been doing at conventions, I might be able to sneak back into the craft fairs and give myself so many more opportunities for events, to keep the calendar as full as possible. I picked one that would be pretty close, and the fee, whilst a little high, seemed reasonable. The main thing I kept an eye out for is that the event is indoors. I had a bad experience at an outdoor event, and didn't want to mess with it anymore. I even went for a double sized booth, this time, too.
I have spent the weeks increasing my inventory, and I even had some larger items to take with me, that a friend had made and wanted to put out there. I get there, check in, and am shown to my spot. That's when I discovered strike #1.
Strike #1: There were no tables.
When selling at conventions, you are automatically provided a table and 2 chairs. If it will be any different, it is specifically stated so. I usually take a fold-able 4' table of my own, to have, as well. I get to my 2 spots, and find nothing there. That's when it hits me.
It has been so long since my last craft fair, that I didn't even think of the fact that tables and chairs are not automatically provided at craft fairs like they are at conventions. I even thought of taking one of my tables so I would have an extra one, but with how I had packed the car, I didn't want to rearrange everything to get it in there. I had to make do with my 4' table, plus my freestanding display boards. I made a tiny display stand with a grid-wire cube zip tied to a collapsible crate on wheels. I covered it with a cloth and put a shelf display on it (pictured).
This strike is on me. It is entirely my fault, as I just wasn't thinking about tables, since I haven't had to the past 3+ years. I was able to make it work, but there were some wide open spaces that I just couldn't do anything with, unfortunately. It wasn't until I was in the middle of setup, that I realized strike #2.
Strike #2: There was no air conditioning.
This event was in an old livestock building as part of the county fairgrounds. There were some very large fans circulating the air. For the first half of the day, it wasn't bad at all. The temperature was manageable.
I was in the middle of setup, realizing that there were large scrolling doors to the outside open. That's when it hit me that there wasn't any air conditioning. It had rained a lot the night before, too, so it was humid, as well.
When I was looking for an indoor event, I mistakenly assumed that indoor = air conditioned. I went back through the advertising, the emails, and through all info I had about this event, and there was no mention of it not being air conditioned. I spoke with some of my fellow vendors, as well, and apparently nobody knew there wasn't any air. This strike is definitely on the show runners.
Strike #2.5: There were no bathrooms in this building, either.
This location, in addition to having no air conditioning, also had no bathrooms. We were told if we needed to use the bathroom, we would need to go to the other building to use it there.
I have no idea why this building was chosen for a craft fair, especially this time of year, but I would not go to an event held here again.
Strike #3: There were no shoppers.
The morning went by suuuuper slow. The first 2 hours, I don't think there were any shoppers there, at all. The only people walking around were other vendors. Later in the day, a few people came sporadically, but nothing near what I was hoping/expecting to see.
This event was unusual, in that it was a 2 day event on Friday and Saturday. All the 2-day events I usually see are Saturday and Sunday, and Friday is added as a 3rd day, if needed. I kept hearing from everyone that it should be better tomorrow! Even if there were 10x the shoppers, that still isn't enough to be worth it.
I know that there were efforts to advertise and get the word out. There were fliers and radio ads. Having this event on a Friday when most people are working, though, may not have been the best idea.
By the afternoon, I was hot, tired, and bored to tears. I only had 2 sales the entire day, and those were to other vendors. The event on Facebook showed it would go to 6pm. When I got there, we were told it would go to 5pm. By the time it got to 3, we were told due to the heat, they were closing the doors at 4pm. At that point, I started packing up. I did NOT want to spend another full day wasting my time in the heat with no sales. I was the last one there, since I was doing a full teardown, but I didn't care.
I definitely got overheated while taking everything down. I kept going simply because there were people waiting on me so they could lock up, even though I was starting to get a little light-headed. I finally got it all into the car, and immediately went to the first place I could find with a bathroom. Luckily, there was a McDonald's on the corner, so I got some blessed air conditioning, a decent bathroom, and an ice cold drink. It was heaven.
Normally I am the person who will stay all the way to closing time. I will stick it out, because I signed a contract to be there, and there is always the potential for sales. It actually annoys me when people close up before time. Let me tell you, though, I do not regret bailing after one day even a little bit. I couldn't have handled another day in that building without losing my sanity. I have learned my lesson, here. Craft fairs are no longer for me. I will stick with my favorite: conventions.
All of it wouldn't have been an issue, except for the air conditioning. If there had been air, I probably would have stayed for the extra day. Instead, I went out for lunch with my husband, and had a relaxing day at home.