Last year was the first year I tried this show, but now I think I’ve grown accustomed to its peculiar layout. You set up your booth in one of four huge circus tents, park about a quarter mile away and wait (sometimes in vain) for someone with a little golf cart to shuttle you and all your stuff back and forth; and then you have to deal with the weather.. Oklahoma weather.
I entered the city limits right at 5:00pm, just in time to see I-44 turn itself into a slow rolling parking lot for the next hour. I imagine that such a scene would be no surprise for anybody who has been living in Oklahoma City for any amount of time, but it made me wonder why we (as arguably the most advanced civilization this world has ever seen) don’t stagger our work shifts.. Why does everybody have to work from 8:00am to 5:00pm? Couldn’t we break up rush hour if more people worked (say) 7 to 4, and 9 to 6? I’ve been on these very stretches of road at midnight, and if it weren’t for the sneaking suspicion that there was a cop hiding in the bushes around every corner, there’s very little stopping me from doing 100mph. These massive highway structures practically go unused during large swaths of the day, and they seem to exist for the sole purpose of making everybody stop and ponder that exact train of thought.
Once I arrived, set-up was fairly straightforward — check-in, find the booth spot, grab random stuff out of the van, take it to the booth spot, get into “back-and-forth robot mode” and keep doing it until the van is empty and there’s a big pile of stuff where the booth is supposed to be.
Due to the heat from last year, I chose a booth spot that was outside of the huge circus tents, hoping it would allow for more of a breeze. (..I’ll get to that)
The first day was Saturday, which was actually “Friday.” Most three-day shows go Friday to Sunday, and Friday tends to have the lowest sales — most people are at work (and stuck in traffic), and use Friday evening to go do something else. This show however is scheduled alongside both OU’s and OSU’s first football games, so the first day crowd consisted mostly of other artists wandering around looking for the crowd.
The proper crowd showed up by Sunday (which made it “Saturday”). And then the wind picked up.
Since we were all on grass — wait.. sure, this is an art festival, and these things are full of people about which it’s impossible to calculate the cubic tons of pot smoke that might have graced their lungs over the years, but I’m talking about the stuff that grows in the ground.. (Okay, it all grows in the ground! fine then..)
Since we were all out in the yard (ha!), we could use tent stakes instead of relying on PVC pipes of concrete to hold our tents to the earth. I even redesigned my booth to let the air blow through it instead of at it:
By the third and final day, it became pretty obvious that someone to the south of us was relentlessly adamant about testing the aerodynamic drag coefficient of the entire city. My booth was staked down six different ways, and it still creaked and moaned in the 40mph “breeze”.
Sometime around 3:pm, only two hours before the show was scheduled to end, I was finishing up a sale.. I looked across the food court, and saw six ambulances pull up. Food poisoning? Car accident? I thanked my new customer and curiously went to find out what happened.
One of the huge tents went down. It wasn’t one of the artist tents (one of the “sweatboxes”), it was the hospitality tent at the front of the show.
Here’s what it looked like a couple days previous:
I didn’t get an interior shot, but here’s one of the artist tents, which were constructed in a similar fashion:
Here’s the aftermath:
I didn’t hear it or see it go down, but at the time, there was a magic show going on — around 75 people were in there, about half of which were children. Six people were injured, none seriously. It could have been a LOT worse.
Now here’s a little something that you probably won’t see on the news.. A couple minutes later, I went back over to the scene. This time with my camera. By this time, it was about 15 minutes after the tent went down, and the injured had already been picked up, so it didn’t feel wrong to shoot a little video. Here’s a good a time as any to mention that this art festival featured live music. The stage was on the other side of that large tent, and about every half hour, we had a different live band playing. Music always helps at art shows like this — It helps the vibe, and puts people in a good mood. Anyway, I got over there to see the collapsed tent, and my brain couldn’t quite comprehend the scene.. It wasn’t just because of the condition of the tent — it was because THE BAND WAS STILL PLAYING:
Charlie Daniels Band? What? I’ve seen creepy David Lynch movies with less-odd audio/video pairing. My god, that was surreal.
Anyway, at 3:30pm, a big booming voice came from the heavens (or the P.A. system on top of one of the neighboring buildings) and announced that the show was closing early. Roger that.
After a few minutes, I got about half my images packaged up, and suddenly a couple women come jogging up to my booth..
“Where’s the big Monument Valley photo? I think you just put it up! If you don’t mind, we’d like to see it again!”
I find a 12″ print for them, but they agree it doesn’t quite have the same ‘sense of presence’ as the 24″ framed copy. The framed one is about halfway down the stack of boxes.. So I fish it out for them and go through my routine. “The image contains sunbeams through the mist which are shadows of other rock formations outside the image. The right mitten contains the shadow of the left mitten. There’s a faint second rainbow coming from the top of the left mitten. And all of this was only visible during the eight-minute window of daylight we had that entire day.”
“We’ll take it!”
Here I was thinking the show went down with that huge tent, and I make a sale 15 minutes after the show is over! That’s what it’s all about!
Overall, it was a pretty well-run show. The little parking lot shuttles were hard to find on Saturday morning, but they finally figured a routine by that afternoon. There were lots of volunteers offering water to us nearly every hour. Sales were slow going at first, but they picked up — along with the wind. I hope the accident won’t adversely affect it for next year. I’ll definitely give it another go! (..even if I have to pay $50 more for a booth fee, thanks to Paseo.)
One of the highlights of the entire festival was on Sunday night when the Oklahoma City Philharmonic came by. Hearing a professional orchestra play the theme from Star Trek made the 14-year-old geek in me really happy!
Next show, and final show of the year: Utica Square in Tulsa, October 2.