Ann Arbor, 2011

Posted by Melissa Banks on July 25, 2011

As I sit exhausted from the events of the past week, I thought it might be a good time to record my experience this year at the Ann Arbor Art Fair.  This fair consists of 4 individually run shows that sprawl out on the University of Michigan campus and downtown Ann Arbor.  It's one of the largest in the country.  When I was just starting out, the show was something to aspire to, and very daunting...and it truly is!  Not typical, this show is 4 days with long hours, smack in the middle of July.

This year, we had to prepare for record heat as well as finding the stamina to be on our feet for over 12 hours a day for 4 days in a row.  Here is my schedule this past week:

Tuesday :  Packed the car and belongings, got the house in order, got the keys to the cat sitter, drove 4 hours to Ann Arbor.  Arrived around 6pm (lost an hour with the time change), drove straight to the show site, unloaded the car amongst the chaos, and set up the tent and displays in the already extreme heat.  Around 8pm headed over to the artist party (our section of the show, State Street, has an amazing party for us!)  Loaded up our plates at the buffet, got a glass of wine, and collapsed at a table to rest and eat.  Headed to hotel to check in sometime between 9-10pm.  Took a dip in the hotel pool to cool off and went to bed around midnight.

Wednesday:  Got up at 7am, got dressed, headed to show to set up around 9am.  Show opens at 10am.  Feeling hopeful, but wondering how we'll survive the next 4 days with the forecasted dangerous temps.  Crowds are thinner than usual.  Mike and I take turns going into the Michigan Theater for air conditioning breaks.  We have a few small fans set up in the booth (lucky to have electricity), and also lucky we have a breeze going through our tent, even if it's just blowing hot air.  First day closes with slower than normal sales at 9pm.  Pack up the jewelry and head back to hotel with dinner around 10pm.  Scarf down food, crash by 11:30pm.

Thursday:  Got up at 7am, same schedule.  Temps are highest this day, so I'm thinking it will be the worst for sales.  The morning news tells everyone to stay inside all day.  I just want to get through this day and hope for the crowds to pick up Friday and Saturday.  Sometimes you just have to be pragmatic.  Lasted the day drinking a ton of water and being one with the heat.  Got the same dinner and back to the hotel around 10pm to eat and sleep.

Friday:  Same schedule, up at 7am, outside by 9am. The third day is the hardest in the morning because the exhaustion catches up to you.  Crowds were up a bit, so I was again hopeful.  Sales were still not great, still slower than normal.  Still very, very hot, but a 15-minute downpour will bring some relief.  Show done, eat, sleep.

Saturday:  A little easier getting up (maybe?) knowing it's the last day.  Crossing fingers that by some miracle everyone waited until Saturday to come out to shop since the temps are the lowest this day (89 degrees!)  After 3 days, my sales are what I did after 2 days last year.  Sales on Saturday end up OK considering it's a shorter day.  To add insult to injury, it decides to rain on us an hour before we're supposed to break the tent down and pack up.  This means packing up a wet tent, which means potential mold if it's not addressed asap, and having to smell wet tent in the car until we get home the next day.  Threat of rain continues during breakdown, so we're trying to keep everything under the tent and organized while packing (not an ideal situation).  Oh, and Mike's back goes out for the first time.  So I, with a bad back and chronic issues, had to carefully pack up the car myself.  Thank goodness it didn't rain again.  After packing up the car, we head to the theater for the artist after-party.  Sat down with pizza and beer to reflect on the week and how we survived.  Headed back to hotel between 8-9pm.  Mike relaxes for a bit in the spa.  Crashed out by 11pm.

Sunday:  We never attempt to drive 4 hours home on Saturday after being extremely worn out, so we slept in on Sunday (9am) and packed up.  We headed over to Zingerman's Delicatessen, our Sunday morning ritual in Ann Arbor.  They have the most amazing, quality food and cutest establishment.  Mike and I split a "Helen's Have Another," a lox and cream cheese sandwich on pumpernickel bread.  They also have other food for sale; olive oils, coffees, chocolates, etc.  We picked up a few extras.  Ran into a couple more artists who have the same ritual before leaving town.  Then we headed over to the outdoor artisan market and mall and had fun doing a little shopping.  Finally, it was time to leave Ann Arbor.  We started for the highway around 3pm (Chicago time) and were home by 7pm.  I had to unpack the car (role reversal for Mike and I!), then we ordered thai food and watched our DVR'ed shows!  Home at last!

The show ended up 30-35% less for me than last year.  This had nothing to do with the great town of Ann Arbor, but Miss Mother Nature herself.  This is an artist's life.  A simple thing like weather can affect our livelihood, it's the risk we take.  This year was unusually cold for spring and early summer, and now, record heat.  Mother Nature's really handing it to me in 2011.  But we venture on and do the best we can to stay positive, even when it can get really hard to do so....packing up for Minneapolis in a week and a half, and hoping the weather will treat us well this time around.  Is it too early to get a forecast?

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