The Board Chronicles: 4th of July Street Fair 2017   Leave a 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.

Happy Independence Day!

We’ve “celebrated” for the last 2 years by going a-vendoring at Ventura’s 4th of July Street Fair, held each year on Main Street just down the hill from city hall. This is a very well attended one-day event. It’s a party. It’s a Street Fair.

And you know how much I love going to the Street Fair.

We’ve had consistently good results at this event over the last couple of years (you can read those blog posts – 2015 and 2016). However, this is a one day event with a good deal of stress put on the vendors to Get. Out. after the event is over. Event volunteers are also stressed: they allow vendors to set up for 6 hours, but tear down must happen in 90 minutes or there’ll be hell to pay.

Apparently.

I’ve written about this in previous years. The event goal is to close the event at 5pm and re-open the street to vehicular traffic at 6:45pm. At 5pm, every year, the street is still filled with customers and the vendors are given Hobson’s choice of doing tear down NOW, or doing what they came to do.

Why don’t they keep the event open until 6pm, and then open the street at 9? No clue. I guess a $385 booth fee only gets you so much….

No matter; we’re in. Time to see what Ventura’s 42nd annual 4th of July Street Fair has in store for us.

New Ideas

  • This is the only one day event that we will do as a double booth this year. I’m going to do a couple of one day events solo, but this is the only “full set up” one day event we’re doing in 2017. I promise.
  • After a month off from events, including a week-long excursion to the midwest to see family, it feels like we’ve totally lost our vendor rhythm. I forgot to bring our weights for the canopy. We were unweighted.
  • Yes, we were those people.
  • Mrs M provided holiday decor to liven up the booth. We had red, white & blue accents, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Observations

  • This city-sponsored event requires a city of Ventura business license, and applications are not processed until that license is in hand, which takes some time. I also made an error on the application – claiming a $25 booth fee discount as a resident of the city. Ooops. We got the paperwork straightened out in April … I had asked for the same booth position in the 400 block, but they gave me a new booth at the end of the 500 block. We were in 501/503, which was right by the information booth and shuttle stop. It was an upgrade. I think.
  • Last year, we left before 5am and had the booth set up by 8:30a. This year, we left about 45 minutes later … and set up was finished much later. We didn’t bring our “A” game to set up, I’m afraid.
  • Booths are set up in the middle of Main Street. Vendors are assigned side streets to enter from, and then it’s one-way traffic to get to your booth, park at the curb (blocking other vendors from driving through), unload your gear, and then find a parking space. The rules are very clear: unload, drive away & park, then set up.
  • The vendor blocking the street when we drove in at 6:30a was not doing it that way. Her booth was set up. Her display pieces were set up. Table cloths were on the tables. Her inventory was organized in front of those tables. And she was still unloading, blocking traffic.
  • Event organizers began to counsel her on what they required of her (which, apparently, had not been done until I pointed out the problem). I soon had an uncharacteristic and direct conversation with the lady about my expectations as well. After about a 5 minute delay, she moved her van.
  • I did not make a friend.
  • We had our trailer unloaded in perhaps 10 minutes, and then I drove away to park. By the time I got back, our vendor friend Craig had helped Velda set up the pop-ups, and the booth was already taking shape.
  • The official 10a start of this event is meaningless. We had walkers at 8:30a, and a full street of customers at 9a. It felt like a very big day was coming.
  • Saw several customers at the event, and really felt the power of doing events for several years and growing the brand over time. It’s good to have people tell you how much they love your stuff after they’ve used it for a year or two. Mrs M heard it; I heard it. This is fabulous.
  • Two women walked into the booth:
    • Lady 1: My sister loves her cutting board I bought from you.
    • Me: Great!
    • Lady 2: I bought my sister a clipboard from you, and she loves it.
    • Me: Great!
    • Lady 2: I only have one sister, though, so I don’t need another.
    • Me: I understand what it’s like to have one sister. I have one, and I wouldn’t want another.
    • Lady 1: He’s funny!
  • We were ‘whelmed at 11a. Totally lost control. One lady bought a board from Velda: I never talked to the lady, and I never saw which board she bought. I missed the whole transaction, talking to other customers.
  • Several customers bought boards without talking to me at this event. That’s very unusual … but speaks to the quality of the work itself. I hope.
  • Who wants to talk to the sales guy, anyway?
  • I disappointed one loyal prospect who returned to the booth … and was again disappointed that the long-promised cribbage boards had still not made it out of the shop. I promised him I would have a selection for him at an event in September.
  • What have I done?
  • We stayed busy all day. The traffic seemed much greater this year, and there were no long pauses between conversations. I never got a minute to go walk about. After set up, I saw a total of 6 booths: our neighbors. That’s it.
  • Requests were for a breakfast tray, an in-counter board, an in-sink board for an RV and salad tongs.
  • The rules are clear: stop selling at 5pm. Pack everything. Go get your car, and load out. Be off the street for the road opening at 6:45p. And, we had volunteers encouraging us to begin tear down early (and therefore stop selling!) so we could drive our cars onto the street at 5pm to load out.
  • Why is it that civic-sponsored events always have misinformation and always have stress for volunteers and vendors, alike? Why is it that almost every downtown event has event organizers freaking out about opening the road back up to traffic … and it’s never done safely?
  • There were cars on the street at 5p. And pedestrians. And baby strollers. It was, unfortunately, crazy time as we packed up our stuff. We were efficient, though. We started taking down our 4th of July decorations at 4:40p, and began serious packing – as required – at 5p. When everything was packed except for the pop-ups, I talked to the traffic director about bringing in the trailer, and he told me where he wanted me to park. Communication is a wonderful thing. We were in the Jeep, driving home, at 6:20p.
  • Finally got to the numbers after dinner. Found a couple of errors, of course, from when we were ‘whelmed. Luckily, cash doesn’t lie:

Best. Single. Day. Event. Ever.

The Food

July 4 Breakfast: Bagels & cream cheese.

July 4 Lunch: The world’s worst Polish hotdog. Fair food is for the birds.

July 4 Snack: Our neighbor makes amazing caramel apples, and she sampled them all day. The paying customers got the good slices; we got the cores. Fabulous!

July 4 Dinner: Being Independence Day & all, we wanted to eat American. After determining that all of the Mexican restaurants were closed, we ate at Kabuki, a Japanese restaurant. Yes, I ate tolerated sushi, and really enjoyed the shrimp tempura and BBQ beef.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 104
  • Booth cost: $385
  • Food cost: $24
  • Travel cost: $54
  • Total sales: $2,592
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $2,129
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: none
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 2
  • Tuesday alarm: 4:30a
  • # transactions: 71
  • # soap & lotion vendors: No clue … several, I’m sure
  • # woodworking vendors: No clue … several, I’m sure
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 20:3
  • Returning next year? Yes

Boards sold: 23

Cutting Boards: 5

Magic Bottle Openers: 5

Small Boards: 3

Large Sous Chef Boards: 2

Cheese & Cracker Server, AKA Large Surfboard: 2

Cheeseboards: 2

Bread Board: 1

Custom Order: 1

Medium Surfboard: 1

Legal-sized Clipboard: 1

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