It started with a squeak
I nearly bailed on this show… again.
Timeline of the run-up to Lawton:
Sunday: After my parents helped me dismantle my booth at the Edmond Art Festival, I took them out to eat. (It’s what we do!) The mostly-empty Mazzio’s parking lot gave me ample space drive around while my parents listened for the intermittent squeak coming from the back-right wheel. It didn’t take long for us to settle on the conclusion that the brakes sprouted their own back up band to play along with the symphonic resonance of the rest of my van. (I’ll take it in tomorrow.)
Monday: Hello, I have a 2004 Toyota Sienna with an accelerating squeak coming from the back right. “Today is booked, but we’ll be ready to see it tomorrow.”
Tuesday (Lunch): Here it is in all its squeaky glory! “We’ll let you know what we find out.”
Tuesday (2:30pm, phone call interrupting a meeting at work): “Jason, we got your squeak fixed, but you need to come here and see something else we found.”
Tuesday (5:30pm): Hrm. This might just be what seven years of art festivals will do to a minivan:
…notice how the wheel shifts forward and back? The whole front end assembly is trying to separate from the rest of the chassis. Without much effort, it could result in the front end of the van collapsing in on itself. At speed, that could be deadly.
- Technician: “We don’t recommend you driving it. And as a trade-in, we would take the blue book value and deduct the cost of repair.”
- Me: What cost are we looking at?
- “Around $1,600.”
- “If we order the part today, it won’t be here until Thursday morning. We should have it finished Thursday afternoon.”
- (briefly imagining a van-load of art stuff flipping and rolling sideways down I-44 on the way to Lawton…) Let’s do it.
Thursday (9:30am): “Jason, we apologize for the delay, but due to the tornadoes between here and Dallas, the part for your repair will not arrive until mid-Friday.” (I was considering leaving for Lawton on Thursday afternoon, but without a van until Friday afternoon, I would end up missing the first day of the show — again.) Do you guys have a loaner van? “Sorry, we only loan cars and small SUVs. No vans or trucks.”
Thursday (noon): They loan me a car. It’s a snazzy little Rav4, but it’s nowhere near big enough for my booth.
Thursday (5:30pm): The weather forecast for the weekend: severe thunderstorms 80% Friday, 80% Saturday, 60% Sunday.
Thursday (5:35pm): Pace around the living room hemming and hawing about the pros and cons of doing the show. Even in perfect weather, my sales figures have been substandard every year I’ve done this (since 2009.) As of 5:45pm, it’s about to start pouring ran for a solid hour. Either I pack up now, or stay home all weekend.
- I call John Kennington to see if he’s doing the show. He was already outside, packed up ready to go!
- I call Kris Gill, the Festival Chairperson. She said 9 people have already canceled because of the weather. We unfortunately don’t have an indoor location, but we are still enthusiastic about it! The show must go on! (That’s wonderful, her attitude really helped my decision.)
Between John’s and Kris’ enthusiasm, I decide to go for it.
- Load up art and booth in my parents’ van, offering them the loaner.
- Leave this at home: lights and batteries. If the place will be a mud pit, there’s no need to risk bringing anything electric.
- Bring the tarp!
(rewind back to February when I filled out the application.)
The application for this show has always had this question: “Would you be interested in staying with a host family?”
For every year that I’ve done this show, my brain has resorted to excuses like, “What’s this all about? Just show up to a total stranger’s house, sleep in one of their rooms, hope they’re interested in art, hope they’re night people and can tolerate me coming back from the show at 9:30pm, and hope they’re not standoffish and are actually interested in this total stranger coming to their house?”
I finally got curious. (..and it looked like a great opportunity to save the $200 that I would otherwise spend on a hotel. At this show, that could mean the difference between making or losing money.)
Two weeks before the show, I get a call from one of the volunteers. She gives me the name and contact info for Nancy and Terry Anderson — long time friends of Kris, and “all around great people!” And yes, I could write an entire blog post devoted to them. They are fantastic, even if I’m not there to do a show!
Set up – day 1 – think “rain”
Before I could even unload a single box, I chatted with fellow photographer Randy Napier — the tenth artist to cancel. (But even though he canceled, he spent the entire weekend walking the show chatting with everybody!) He canceled because he didn’t want to risk losing his booth before he could get to the much bigger show next week: Tulsa Mayfest.
From the ground up: tarp, tent stakes, ratchet straps, tent, clamps, roof.. and artwork somewhere inbetween.
3:55pm — Done!
The show – day 1.5
On Friday, this show goes from 4pm to 8pm. Kinda wonky hours, but it makes sense — wain until everyone gets out of work.
That was the plan at least. A big scary cloud brought intense rain, and the show was closed by 6:30pm (caution: loud video) —
I took all my artwork down and stored it in the van. If the tent got blown to Chickasha, then I’d call ACT Insurance and say, “hey y’all, time to help me get a new tent, k thanks bye@!” Insurance is cool like that.
Anyway, off to Nancy and Terry’s place for dinner and wine. We hit it off immediately: Nancy used to be the director of the Leslie Powell art gallery, and Terry works for the local NPR station. He also has experience with Ellucian Banner, which I am being trained on at my day job. (…Gah, I go all this way, and I still can’t escape Banner!)
Sleep: about 1:00am, after we chat about art, get blitzed on wine, and microwave a bar of ivory soap just for the hell of it.
Wake up around 7:30 — I have a light breakfast, make coffee with a Jar of Nothing (splenda), and head off to the show.
Day 2 – Wash, rinse, repeat
The ground is a well-soaked sponge covered in a smattering of new waterways and bales of hay. Yes, they brought in hay (straw, or grass, or something.. I dunno, I’m just a photographer) to help with the muddy mess.
The weather was nuts: It was sunny for two hours, and rain to beat all hell for 30 minutes. Then sunny for two hours, and torrential rain for 30 more minutes.
But the dynamics of the crowd was even more interesting: every time it rained, the crowd utterly disappeared. But when it stopped raining, the crowd re-appeared within seconds! Where the hell did they go?? They could have ducked into the booths, but with all the missing artists, I don’t think we had that many places for them to hide. ’tis a mystery.
..then it rained again. and again.
Back to Nancy and Terry’s place, just in time to see the storm lift and grant us a gift from the heavens!
..stayed up until 1:00am again chatting about.. something, I forget :)
Day 3 – LEEEEET THE SUNSHINE IN!
The previous two days were like a pressure cooker with the lid mashed down. It finally blew off, and the crowd was like beans sticking to a popcorn ceiling. The crowd came out in droves, and the last time I made bank like that at this show was back in 2009!
(..which ain’t saying much. I made more at Stillwater this year.) But still! Finally! I exceeded my expenses at this show for the first time in six years!
This is the Lawton way!
Quotes from the show
- “Did you take these yourself?” (Only if you don’t count the team of professionals that I paid to hold up the end of my massive lens.)
- “You painted all these?” (..nah, some of them painted themselves.)
- “How much are these?” Prices are posted next to most of them. I apologize for the ones that don’t have price labels.
“…So these are just photographs printed onto canvas?” Yes.
“And you’re charging $300 for this one?” Yes.
<poof and gone>