2010 Tulsa Blue Dome Festival (review)

What were those rumors again? If you heard from anybody that the show was disappearing or moving across town, you can disregard them altogether. The rumors of the death of the Tulsa Blue Dome Festival are (thankfully) greatly exaggerated!

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Growing Pains, However

About six months ago, they didn’t have a website, there wasn’t any official news, and all we had to go on were rumors passed around the art show circuit from one artist to the next. Most of those rumors weren’t pretty… Was the Blue Dome Festival dead? Was it moving? Did Mayfest fight it off? I thought they got along? And what’s this new show a few blocks to the north?

Eventually an official email made it around. A new team was running the show, and it was the only sign that Blue Dome was alive. Lots of people responded and signed up (including myself) trusting that this wasn’t some 419 scam.

A couple weeks before the start of the show, we received another message with a list of artists and booth numbers. This was highly encouraging, but instead of a map, we got cryptic descriptions of the layout of the show:

Sections
Section A- On 2nd Street between Detroit and the alley next to the Blue Dome Diner, numbers ending in 1 are located on the North side of the street, booth numbers ending in 2 are located in the middle and numbers ending in 3 are located on the south side.

Section B-  On 2nd street between the alley next to Blue Dome Diner and Elgin Ave, booth numbers ending in 1 are located on the North side of the street, numbers ending in 2 are located in the middle and numbers ending in 3 are located on the south side.

Section C- On Elgin Between 1st and 2ns Street, booths ending in 1 are located on the west side of the street, booths ending in 2 are located in the middle of the street and booths ending in 3 are located on the east side of the street.

Section D-  On 2nd Street in front of Dilly Deli,  booth numbers ending in 2 are located in the middle and numbers ending in 3 are located on the south side

Booth Number – Artist Name
Booth C161 – …
Booth C162 – Jason Wallace Photography
Booth C163 – …

I was excited to hear that this was official, but those instructions were definitely from somebody who wasn’t quite accustomed to running an art festival. (Map, please?)

me: “Okay, there are four sections, three columns to each section, and after decoding my booth number, I guess I’m in Section C and in the middle of the street. (I didn’t ask to be in the middle, but I’ll manage.) The highest booth number that I could find in the artist list was C293 — but it wasn’t sorted by booth number, I had to export it to Excel and re-sort it. So that means there are 29 rows, which puts me about halfway down the block… Now without reading back, how many times did the bus stop?”

Upon arrival that morning, the check-in process took an eternity compared to pretty much every other show I’ve ever done. There’s definitely room for improvement here. Instead of walking up to the information booth, saying my name, receiving a manila envelope with my name on it (containing forms, a name tag, a map, and possibly a cookie), and heading back to my booth within 30 seconds; I instead had to sign an indemnity clause, completely fill out the tax form, wait for someone to cut my name tag out of a larger sheet of paper, and then get sent to another table where somebody else tried their best to explain where my booth spot was — but before I could do that, I had to wait for everybody in front of me to go through the exact same thing. (and there were no cookies.)

We then went outside to try to set up, and pure distilled pandemonium fell from the sky and ran through the streets naked. For the next two hours, we were playing a game of Battleship the size of a city block:

“C162!”
“B71!”
“A123! Your van is where my booth is supposed to be!”

Everybody was confused, and the torrential rain didn’t make it any better.

They blamed the rain for not being able to mark the booth locations in the street, but we still had markings from last year’s booth spots. (I’m guessing the previous management team took their industrial strength spray paint with them.) The unrelenting rain caused about two-thirds of the artists to stay home Friday, and let me tell you, the sight of a sparsely-laid-out show combined with the chaos of a confused management team did not instill confidence.

But god bless Sarah, one of the event organizers — she took the initiative and headed out in the pouring rain with a laminated copy of the map and a measuring wheel, and did her best to make sure we were all in the right spots! All was not lost! She was taking charge, and things were finally making sense!

That is, until we had to deal with…

Dick Neighbors

There was one business in the neighborhood who apparently didn’t like the show being so close to their precious parking lot and decided to go out of their way to be right pricks to everybody in the vicinity. Some of us tried to park in their lot to unload (like we did last year) because it was right next to our booths — but the bosses came storming out and threatened to tow every one of us and melt our cars down to slag if we didn’t move in the next 30 seconds. Thanks to this, we all had to cram into the street and unload between the booths, squeeze our vehicles through the aisles between the tents on the way out, and then park a half a block away for the rest of the day. Most of the show took place on the weekends when they weren’t even in the office, but that didn’t stop them from slapping me with a parking ticket while setting up Sunday morning. (I was able to get out of it by talking to the parking authority folks monitoring the lot — it turns out that they don’t get along with that business either — but for heaven’s sake, Sunday?! Go to church or something and learn to be nice to your neighbors.)

Businesses like that don’t really fit in a neighborhood like Blue Dome. I understand how attached they are to such material goods as their section of the parking lot, but there are plenty of other pothole-laden slabs of pavement all over town; and countless stuffy, cold, uppercrust neighborhoods which would be much more appropriate for them. The thing about neighborhoods like Blue Dome is that everybody works together to make it the vibrant and friendly community that it is. When one (albeit huge and powerful) entity starts slinging its weight around and swatting at visitors like flies, it tends to mess things up. (..but I don’t live there, so it’s not my job to tell them to straighten up.)

By Saturday, the weather cleared, and the show came to life!

My booth doesn't really have a chimney, but that'd be nice, wouldn't it?

( live music playing in the distance )

YES! It may have been gray and overcast, but as long as it wasn’t raining, the crowd came out to play! I was right: people who came to see Mayfest also came to see Blue Dome! I saw tons of people with Mayfest shirts, Mayfest pins on their hats, and some people were still carrying little cups of dip-n-dots which were only available at Mayfest. (Blue Dome has no food court.)

The weather was exactly the opposite from the Stillwater show.. Instead of raining for the entire show as the forecast said it would, the storm from the west kept dying out before it hit us! I’m not sure how that works, but we took credit for it! :)

And yes, instead of competitors, people consider Blue Dome and Mayfest to be two sides of this coin that is the local art market. It’s this beautiful synergy where we both live in peace, love and harmony! Mayfest has corporate sponsorship and attracts artists from all over the country. It has a strict judging process which only accepts the finest professional artists. Meanwhile, Blue Dome has no jury, and whoever has $85 and some artwork can get in. No matter what kind of artist you are, you have a venue. And no matter what kind of art you’re looking for as a customer, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something.

Either way, it’s a lovely place to be, and I look forward to it next year!

Oh, and if you’re ever in the neighborhood, stop by Joe Momma’s Pizza. It was right across from my booth, and it’s seriously good. (I went there every single day of the show!) Between Joe Momma’s and all the other diners around, I never noticed that Blue Dome didn’t have a food court!

For reference, here’s how to get in contact with the Blue Dome festival for next year:

Conclusion

Sales were good.. but that brings me to my final point: For most of my shows I make roughly the same amount, and once I reach that amount, people just stop buying. How do they know?!

Anyway, this next weekend is empty, so I’m going to use it to sit on my ass. (These shows are exhausting, by the way.) And then Memorial Day weekend is the Paseo Arts Festival in Oklahoma City. That was my highest-grossing show last year; let’s see if I can top it!

..My cold has settled down to a series of rumbling coughing fits, but it still doesn’t want to go away.. Maybe I’ll have to get it looked at after all.

This entry was posted in Art Festival Reviews.