Until now, I had never done a show the size of a food court.
I had heard good things — especially that’s it’s been going on for 40+ years. This show definitely has potential, it’s in good proximity to Stillwater, the city involves stories of old oil money. And since OCCC closed up shop, I needed a show to take its place.
Concerns from the start
June, 2016: I couldn’t find the application. I didn’t even know whether the application deadline had passed. I thought I was on the right track when a Google search for “Ponca city art festival” returned a bunch of hits. I went into robot mode: download the application, print it, fill it all out, double-check that I filled it out correctly …and just as I’m getting out a stamp to mail it, I discover that the application was for 2015 instead of 2016. I went back to Google, and sure enough it’s “2015” all over the place. I eventually found their Facebook page, which had the current application.
Early July, 2016: I still didn’t know whether I got in.
Late July, 2016 — first clue: They deposited the check for my booth fee!
August, 2016: nothing.
First week of September: Every other art festival is good about communicating what’s going on: how to apply, notification that they received your application, whether you got accepted, and then the “where’s and how’s” of setting up before the show. I didn’t get jack, and it started to worry me. So, I called them. They said I got in, assigned me a booth number, and read me the setup details over the phone.
So far, the experience wasn’t matching the rumors that had preceded this show. With this show claiming that it is one of the oldest art festivals in the state implies that “we’ve been around a long time, so you can trust us that we know what we’re doing.”
Since their website was the only thing I had to go on (there was no “welcome” mailing), I just drove to the address listed on their contact page, hoping that the show would be nearby. Sure enough, the show took place in the front yard of the Soldani Mansion.
When I pulled up, a handful of booths were already there. (Maybe the bulk of the show was going to set up the next morning. We were expecting nasty weather that night.)
As I walk up to the building, I see a couple posters in the window: my booth number and a map. I’m booth 19.. out of 32.
32 booths? Only? This epic festival which is taking place in the yard of a mansion has been reduced to a paltry 32 booths? What is happening?
I go inside to check in. For an old building, it’s in very good condition. The assistants seemed organized and hand me a welcome packet. The packet says I’m “booth 20″… That’s when Lance interviened. (I was booth 19, ignore the 20.)
The explanation was revealed: this is a transitional year
Lance is their new Director, and he just started in late June. That timeframe is when all of the behind the scenes stuff for the show would have been finalized. But as soon as he told me that the Ponca City Art Center is under new management , I had flashbacks to when I was with the Multi Arts Center in Stillwater. From that point forward, all of my concerns dissolved. It caused me to accept the situation and switch from the concerned mindset of “What the hell would a 40+ year-old art festival be doing making rookie mistakes?!” to helpfulness “New management makes it seem like a new art center! Welcome, Lance! I’m here to enjoy what’s great about this show, and help out where I can!”
The show must go on!
I finished setting up, and helped out my neighbor (and fellow photographer) Vernon Hatley. He and his wife Beth invited me to dinner, and we went to a place called the “Rusty Barrel.”
Given that the directions to this place involve the phrase, “go down the dark alley and take your first left”, I would have likely avoided it if I were on my own. I’m glad I didn’t. It was pretty good. I wasn’t exactly enamored with their steak marinade (I’m of the “salt, pepper, grill until it stops mooing” mentality), but the overall vibe was great. Very smooth place.
A couple raindrops were hitting just as we left the parking lot. Here comes the front.
The wind immediately spiked to 40mph and I went to check on the booths:
Day 1 – The next morning
The turnout was the expected response based on the limited nature of the marketing & advertising push for the show.
And somehow out of the blue, I got this:
Lance, I look forward to a refined organization for next year’s show!
Quotes overheard at the show:
- “Did you do these with optics?”
- “All of these can’t be photographs??”
- I was standing at the side entrance of my booth chatting with a potential customer, when suddenly a woman nudged me, working up just enough energy to mumble ‘scuse me’ as she pushed around me, stopped in the booth, looked around and belted out, “WHERE’S THE LADY WHO TOOK ALL THESE??!”