Archive for May 2017

The Board Chronicles: Arroyo Grande Strawberry Festival 2017   1 comment

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

Just last week, we went to the California Strawberry Festival … this week, we’re moving up the coast & going to perhaps an even bigger celebration of my favorite fruit.

The timing seems right for this event. After all, I spent many Memorial Day weekends when we lived on the farm, helping the family harvest our strawberries from Grandma Mowry’s incredibly large strawberry patch from hell.

But, oh, those strawberries.

There were 6 of us working the patch for hours to do one picking (and I’m certain I did the least of all), and 2 pickings over the holiday weekend were normal.

I did learn an important lesson picking those strawberries all those years ago: Never look back. Because, if I did, I always saw strawberries that were hidden from me when I looked at the vines from a different perspective. So, never look back … unless you want to see what a bad picker you really are.

Flash forward, uh, 50 years, and let’s see what the pickings are like in Arroyo Grande at their 34th Annual Strawberry Festival.

New Ideas

  • We’re situated at the end of the T-shaped vendor area. We’re told we’re near a fire lane so we can’t use our awning for this event. That means our big banners go inside the canopy against the mesh walls … hardly ideal, but the first time we’ve done our signage like that.
  • Our booth was on a sidewalk, which means you had to step up onto the curb to enter the booth. That meant we were not handicap accessible, and that was an issue for two customers in wheelchairs. Luckily, they both had attendants that assisted them (in both cases, before I could get there to assist). First time we’ve ever had this as an issue.
  • This is a big event with 400 vendors. The wacky thing is that the majority of those vendors are located on Branch Street (and I do mean ON Branch Street), and all of those booths must tear down each night so the street can be open, 6p – 6a. Tear downs had to be accomplished in 1 hour, and the motorcycle cops were not shy about telling you how much time you had left to strike your gear … in 5 minute increments. Many booths are on Bridge Street, and a few are on sidewalks (like us) … those booths can stay up overnight. Thank goodness.
  • This is a buy & sell vendor event. If you need cellphone accessories, or a back pillow, or a EuroWhip (whatever that is), these vendors had you covered. For the first time this year, the organizers put together a handmade section and put us there. Thank goodness.

Observations

  • Yes, I’m just about all flung out. This is our 6th event in 6 weeks. After this event, next weekend will complete our 3rd Spring Fling.
  • Arroyo Grande is a 3 hour drive up the coast from us. We took days off and took advantage of the holiday weekend so that we could enjoy the trip. A few years ago we always went camping in the Sequoias on this weekend; will this be our new Memorial Day tradition?
  • Before the event got going, I had a volunteer in my booth telling me they had 1s & 5s they could sell us if we ran short on change. Great … but vendors traditionally do that???
  • We do not.
  • Mrs M successfully added shelf tags to her display with pricing. First time! Her conclusion: when prices were well displayed, people made their selection and handed her money. Putting prices up cut down on customer confusion. Go figure.
  • We are getting better at what we do, at every event!
  • A stranger walked into the booth, told us that we had a really nice display, and walked out. Didn’t buy anything. That’s really OK … if random passers-by are so struck by our display that they have to tell us “good job,” then we’re doing it right.
  • Heard it before: “You’re not Mrs M.” At almost every event, some old wise guy (OWG) looks at the tag on all of my boards, looks at me and says, “You’re not Mrs M.” The OWG then gets to hear my explanation that Mrs M is standing over there, the company started with her and our daughter-in-law, and, finally, that Mr M’s Woodshop is officially a subsidiary of Mrs M’s Handmade. Not sure why the OWGs want to point out that I’m not woman enough to be a Mrs, but, uh, I’m not.
  • A guy saw my Magic Bottle Openers, and saw my demo of the MBO. His comment, “Why can’t my kids ever get me something like this? I have more socks than I’ll ever need.”
  • I could not help him. Unless his kids are reading this….
  • This event promises attendance of 150,000. That is a fantasy, in my estimation. I don’t have a good way to estimate total event attendance based on me being anchored to our booth for the majority of the event, but I believe the number that passed by our booth was a small fraction of the projected attendance. 20,000? I believe that. 50,000? Perhaps. 150,000? Not buying it … nor were our sales commensurate with that kind of exposure. In my opinion.
  • Requests were for a small charcuterie board for two, a wine bottle opener, wine bottle stoppers, a pillbox, a smaller cutting board with a juice groove (2x), a cribbage board, and notepad clipboards (2x).

The Golden Strawberry

I blame Velda. Of course.

Velda took this nicely composed picture of me with the Golden Strawberry, and posted it to the event’s Facebook page as well as on Instagram. I posted it on Facebook – made it my profile picture – and our friend, the Happy Texan, captioned it with “And the Golden Strawberry award goes to … Henry Mowry!”

It was a great caption, but it was not true. The ‘net was not to be denied, however, and the congratulations and likes of the photo began flowing in while we were at the event. We were busy vendoring … but the internet was blowing up with well wishes from friends who thought it was great that someone had finally given me inedible fruit.

In reality, the event had decided to create some social media. The organizers got a golden strawberry and asked their fans to take a selfie with it, post it to the event’s Facebook page … and whoever got the most likes would get a free t-shirt. We saw selfies being taken throughout the day. I pointed out to Mrs M that her submission was not a selfie … but she was not to be denied, either.

And I didn’t get the t-shirt. All of my likes & congrats were on my page, not the event’s page.

Velda blames me.

Of course.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Something from Burger King. It was on the way.

Saturday Lunch: Chicken on a stick. It was the daily special, I was told.

Saturday Snack: Strawberry Parfait … not as good as last week’s shortcake, and more expensive @ $7 each.

Saturday Dinner: We ordered BBQ for in-room delivery. This was not a wise decision, but it was easy.

Sunday Breakfast: Holiday Inn Express biscuits & gravy. Yum.

Sunday Lunch: I asked for a hot dog, but got a Navajo Taco. Communication is the hardest thing we humans do.

Sunday Snack: Nope. Too busy.

Sunday Dinner: We walked to the Rooster Creek Tavern for the nicest meal of the trip.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 332
  • Booth cost: $800
  • Food cost: $198
  • Travel cost: $729
  • Total sales: $2,374
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $474
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 5:15a
  • Sunday alarm: 6:15a
  • # transactions: 88
  • # soap & lotion vendors: There were a few. One soapmaker was in our immediate area. There was at least one corporate type selling lotions; one company with organic in their name was making illegal medical claims for their products. The usual, in other words.
  • # woodworking vendors: Several, including one direct competitor offering cutting boards & Lazy Susans.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 25:2
  • Returning next year? Maybe

Boards sold: 27

Magic Bottle Openers: 7

Custom Orders: 4

Cutting Boards: 3

Cheese Boards: 3

Large Cheese & Cracker Servers: 2

Lazy Susans: 2

Bread Boards: 2

Small Board: 1

Medium Surfboard: 1

Domed Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

Chess Board: 1

Red Rocks   1 comment

Enjoy one of my favorite National Parks in Utah: Zion. Then, just down the road, there are more trails to explore at the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area.

Zion National Park

Red Cliffs National Conservation Area

Going Loco   Leave a comment

Purple Locoweed
The milkvetch, locoweed, and crazyweeds can be very difficult to identify. The locoweeds and crazyweeds can cause “loco” (crazy) poisoning in cattle if eaten in enough quantity. These flowers are common in mid to late spring on North Dakota prairies. Photo by Krista Lundgren/USFWS. Posted on Flickr by the US Fish & Wildlife Service 5/25/17.

Posted May 29, 2017 by henrymowry in Photography

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The Bend   Leave a comment

Sacramento River Bend Outstanding Natural Area in California includes expansive rolling hills of blue oak and lush forests surrounding the Sacramento River and its tributaries. The beautiful and diverse habitat – home to bald eagles, osprey, deer and salmon – offers natural beauty and solitude paired with numerous recreation opportunities, sunrise to sunset. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management. Posted on Tumblr by the US Department of the Interior, 4/13/17.

Posted May 28, 2017 by henrymowry in California, Photography

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Lake Manzanita   Leave a comment

Lassen Volcanic National Park in California is home to steaming fumaroles, meadows freckled with wildflowers, clear mountain lakes, and numerous volcanoes. Jagged peaks tell the story of its eruptive past while roaring steam, thumping mud pots and boiling pools continue to shape the land. Photo of a starry night over Lake Manzanita by Kedar Datta. Posted on Tumblr by the US Department of the Interior, 5/25/17.

More

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Snow!

My 15 Minutes, Uh, 8 Seconds Of Fame   1 comment

Yes, I got camera time on KTLA’s Morning Show last Friday before the California Strawberry Festival. Wanna see how I was really just eye candy?

My interview (one question) is in the 2nd video featured on the page:

http://ktla.com/2017/05/19/california-strawberry-festival/

Posted May 26, 2017 by henrymowry in Craft Fairs, Media

Winter   Leave a comment

Posted May 25, 2017 by henrymowry in National Parks

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Electric Peak   Leave a comment

Yellowstone National Park boasts 4 mountain ranges and at least 70 peaks over 8,000 feet tall. At almost 11,000 feet tall, Electric Peak is the third tallest mountain in Yellowstone. With its snow-covered face catching the day’s last sun rays, it’s a majestic sight to behold. Photo by Neal Herbert, National Park Service. Posted on Tumblr by the US Department of the Interior, 4/8/17.

Posted May 24, 2017 by henrymowry in National Parks

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The Board Chronicles: California Strawberry Festival 2017   1 comment

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

“Do you do a lot of food events?” we were asked. The answer is no (though we’re scheduled for 4 food-based events this year!).

This year, we’re doing 2 strawberry festivals, an avocado festival and a lemon festival. We very much regret that we’re not doing Gilroy’s Garlic Festival … but that’s a story for another day.

Oxnard is about an hour west of us, and it hosts the California Strawberry Festival to celebrate my favorite fruit. This is the 31st annual event, and the organizers proudly trumpet that this Festival has raised over $5,000,000 for local charities during this event’s run.

Did I mention they sell Strawberry ale?

Did I mention they sell strawberry shortcake, strawberry parfait and chocolate-covered strawberries? You bet we love this event!

New Ideas

  • I was selected to appear on KTLA Channel 5’s morning news show to represent. Friday’s alarm was at 3:15am.
  • This is the first time that I set up our new 10×20 canopy solo … and I did it after the TV appearance. True celebrity is elusive.
  • Even though this is our 3rd annual entry into this event, it’s the first time that the elder Mrs M (she hates it when I write that) got to work the event, on Saturday.
  • On Sunday, the younger Mrs M worked this event, which is the first event that she’s gone a-vendoring in over a year. Important side note: Camdyn, Granddaughter # 2, turned 1 last month.
  • Our juggling reached a new level of chaos with an extremely important, simultaneous event: MrsMowry got her MA in Secondary English Education from Cal State Northridge this weekend … so we had to do things a bit differently. For the first time ever, a non-Mowry helped us work the booth during the 2 hours that I was absent due to the 8am Sunday (!) Commencement ceremony.

Observations

  • Our 3rd Annual Spring Fling is purring right along, and it’s time for the big events. This is event # 5 of 7.
  • Nap needed. Definitely.
  • At the TV shoot Friday morning, the PR person’s husband fell in love with the pig I had on display, so he bought it on the spot.
  • I’m out of the pig business. All my pigs have found new homes.
  • Love this event! Troy & Dana, the promoters, do a great and professional job. One huge perk: they keep private bathrooms (well, bathrooms may be overselling here) just for their 174 vendors. Much appreciated!
  • “I saw you on TV!” I heard it several times, both days. Attributable sales = $0.
  • The cutest little girl had Mom buy her a duck from ZooSoapia. That little slip of a girl approached Mrs M and solemnly announced, “I promise not to break it.”
  • Well done, Mom, well done.
  • A guy announced “It smells better in this booth than anywhere here!”
  • Our new motto: We Don’t Stink.
  • A 30-something got all excited about my small sous chef boards on display … until I explained, no, they were not pizza stones, and no, you couldn’t put them in the oven to hold the pizza as you warmed it. She genuinely thought it would be good to bake pizza on wood – in an oven with high temperatures.
  • One guy walked into the booth and got upset I wouldn’t embrace his use of pure tung oil to finish cutting boards. Other than potentially hurting people with nut allergies and the possibility that this oil imported from China can eventually turn rancid in the board … great idea. In my (sarcastic) opinion.
  • Sunday we needed help to run the booth, since Velda & I were attending MrsMowry’s commencement. Pam Leighton and her daughter Chelsea wanted to go to the festival (attending this festival several years ago, Chelsea was discovered & began a modeling career!). A BIG THANK YOU for Pam & Chelsea for the assist. We could not have done it without you! When Pam goes a-vendoring, she sells sterling silver jewelry & scarves as Dazzle Me Designs. See some of her stuff, and her upcoming events, here.
  • A lady walked into the booth, and got all excited that I was willing to make her a pig cutting board. She then bounced out of the booth to talk to her husband:
    • She said, “I got a pig cutting board!”
    • From the side of his mouth, he said, “Figures.”
  • I’m back in the pig business. It was demanded of me. I anticipate a substantial celebration among Petunia’s pals … I predict a big litter.
  • By the way, this sale was accomplished using my smartphone. I showed the lady a picture of pigs gone by, and she bought one, sight unseen, from the next litter.
  • Note to self: deduct the smartphone.
  • A lady was discussing a special order with me when my engraver, Teri Diamond of Lavene & Company, walked into the booth. Fun to introduce her to a client!
  • The new canopy definitely got noticed at the event. 2 vendors talked to me about buying one. I blogged about our purchase, here.
  • My inventory is shrinking … and that’s  a good thing? I’m below 200 pieces again. I’m out of notepad clipboards, letter clipboards, blanks for engraved boards, pigs, bears, hearts, pizza servers and large sous chef boards. I need shop time … which I don’t get any, in any meaningful way, until July.
  • Sunday was a full day of fun. Up early to go to Commencement, then on to work the event that lasted until 6:30pm. We began taking it all down then, but the younger Mrs M had never packed product with this new display. She’d never touched ZooSoapia before. For my part, the new canopy had to be taken down; it’s my 3rd time doing that … and we were down at 8:30pm. Then, I had to go get the Jeep, go to the trailer storage area, hook up, return to the event area, and commence loading. That took another hour or so. I got home shortly after 11pm.
  • Requests were for cutting board stands (The elder Mrs M applauded. Again.), a reading stand (nope), e-cig holders (double nope), a backgammon board (still nope), a knife to go with the cutting boards, a travel-sized chess board (now I’m expected to have different kinds of chess boards???), and a Lazy Susan made from Black Walnut (patience!).
  • Chess board sales = $0.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Bagels & cream cheese, on the run

Saturday Lunch: Velda’s cheese & crackers = no waiting in the famously long food lines at the event (which were not so bad this year. Perhaps they brought in more food vendors? That is good!)

Saturday Snack: Strawberry Ale, before 12noon. We didn’t buy it soon enough.

Saturday Dinner: Marston’s Linguine with chicken … for when you don’t want to count the calories in its creamy goodness.

Sunday Breakfast: Bagels & cream cheese, on the run

Sunday Lunch: The younger Mrs M brought me a PBJ from home. Bless her.

Sunday Snack: Strawberry shortcake. It was perfect.

Sunday Dinner: .3 miles north of the event, I stopped the newly loaded trailer, got gas at the Arco & dinner from the adjacent Jack in the Box. Back on the road, munching as I went … at 10pm.

The Facts

  • The Board Chronicles: California Strawberry Festival (2015)
  • The Board Chronicles: California Strawberry Festival 2016
  • Total miles driven: 496
  • Booth cost: $765
  • Food cost: $59
  • Travel cost: $0
  • Total sales: $3,617
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $2,793
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 5:15a
  • Sunday alarm: 5:15a
  • # transactions: 151 … tied for our record number of transactions in a 2-day event, and exactly the same number of transactions done at this event last year!
  • # soap & lotion vendors: there were a couple of others; both had been bitten by the “all natural” kind of presentation, it seemed.
  • # woodworking vendors: several, including one direct competitor. There was also a cutting board maker selling relatively inexpensive, shaped plastic boards.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 25:3
  • Returning next year? Yup.

Boards sold: 28

MBOs: 6

Small Boards: 4

Cheese Boards: 4

Domed Cheese & Cracker Servers: 3

Custom Orders: 3

Cutting Boards: 2

Large Sous Chef Board: 1

Large Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Large Cutting Board: 1

Small Clipboard: 1

Pig Cutting Board: 1

Watched   Leave a comment

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