The Board Chronicles: Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival 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.

The event was a big idea, and they didn’t want us. At first.

One of my favorite event producers is Pacific Fine Arts; they do about 20 events including the wonderful California Strawberry Festival. This year, we decided to add their Half Moon Bay event, which has a wonderful reputation for great sales and a fun atmosphere.

And then this juried event rejected us.

We applied as a couple, of course … and that confuses juries. Just about every vendor applies as a single idea, and then we come in with a pair of ideas as a married couple. Skin care products and cutting boards in one booth? Why, it’s just not done! So, we were rejected by the jury. Of course, we’re not applying for one booth, but for two booths, side by side, but we still are a very unique case for the jury to, uh, judge.

I talked to the producer, Dana, about why we were rejected and what might be done. Moving forward, we’re going to apply as two vendors that want side by side booths instead as one vendor, and she thinks that will work better. Good to know. But, after our rejection, Dana did volunteer to put us on a waiting list in case a booth opened up.

And a corner double booth did open up. Perfect. We’re in. We’re going to the 47th Annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival!

New Ideas

  • Event # 2 of 13 in our 4th quarter. And when I say we have miles to go before we sleep….
  • At 347 miles one way, this is the farthest we have ever traveled for an event. High travel cost, and a big time cost, as well. We’re traveling up Friday and coming home on Monday, so we’re doing 3 hotel nights as well.
  • The fire marshal requires a 2A fire extinguisher to be lashed to the front pole of the booth … and it either needs to be stamped “2017” or it needs a current inspection sticker. That meant … another $75 in cost for our 2 booths. My “2016” fire extinguisher just wasn’t good enough. I guess. The event directions said that fire inspectors would shut down non-compliant booths.
  • Our expectations were high for this event, which has our highest booth cost ever.
  • Wait, that’s not a new idea. But you know about high expectations:

Expectations will kill you.

Observations

  • It’s a long drive going to San Francisco. For me, anyway. Road trips can be good for the soul, I’ve found, but doing 6+ hours in a car is not my idea of a good time. However, it’s the only way to get there, so off we go.
  • We were getting gas a bit north of Gilroy, and I inspected the trailer. I found that the electrical cable powering the trailer lights had become disconnected somewhere in the last 250 miles, and the connector was now thrashed. We had no trailer lights. No turning signals. No brake lights. It’s 5:30p on a Friday, and we were nearing twilight as we entered the San Francisco freeways. We had to drive to Half Moon Bay at Oh Dark Thirty tomorrow. Did I mention it’s 5:30p on a Friday? Okay, go.
  • I continued to drive north, and, incredibly, Velda eventually found Midnight Automotive in San Martin, just a few minutes away. She dialed and I talked to Luis, who told us he was open and would fix us right up. We were there 15 minutes later, and he had us back on the road 30 minutes after that. The trailer lights were on, and the electrical cable had a new clamp holding it in place. Better than new.
  • Did we write a 5 star review for Luis? You bet. Life. Saver.
  • Got to the hotel in San Mateo without further incidents. We grabbed a quick dinner at the hotel. We talked to our waiter, Victor, about our challenge of getting breakfast in the morning … and we wondered if the Holiday Inn breakfast buffet that we would be missing might have a bagel or 2 that he could pack for us tonight. Victor was very helpful, and he got a big tip. Then, we returned to the room and settled down for an all-too-short night’s sleep.
  • Because we travel heavy in a trailer, and because this event takes place on a narrow city street (Main Street, naturally), we were directed, with all large vehicles, to come to the event early and have our oversized vehicles off the street by 4:30am. That meant we had to arrive at 3:45am … leave the hotel at 3:15am, and get up to shower at 2:15am. So, that’s exactly what we did.
  • Set-up under starlight was great. Our early arrival was perfect, and the trailer was parked, unhitched, and I was back setting up our Caravan pop-ups so quickly that Mrs M didn’t think I had done my job. I remember looking at the time at 5am and being surprised that we still had stars as we set up the booth, but the booth was set by sunrise.
  • Our out-of-control hobby leads us into such an elegant lifestyle. We had walkers at 7am, as promised, and we were a-vendoring far earlier than the official 10am start.
  • Did we see a fire inspector? No. Did all booths have fire extinguishers? No. Did we do the right thing? Yes.
  • Interesting event. There was a smattering of people in costume. There were more masked people than we’ve ever seen at an event. So, it was a bit halloween-y, but not overly so.
  • With the sun, came the wind.
  • Wind. Blows.
  • We were told that the gusty wind is very unusual for this town, but we were windblown all day Saturday. It continued into Sunday … and we had trouble. When Velda first arrived at the booth Sunday morning, this is what she saw:

Each banner lost a tie. Tarps were blown off the product, and Velda lost the top of her wall due to clamp failure. Thankfully, we had no booth damage. No product damage.

  • I quickly determined we were best off just taking down the banners, so we ran with naked booths on Sunday. We had the back walls up, and the swirling, gusty wind – when it came from the East – was lifting our center canopy legs up 6″.
  • We have 180 pounds of concrete weighing down our double 10×10 canopies, and we needed every pound.
  • The booth was not going anywhere, but holding down the booth legs while hearing the creaking of the metal structure as the wind howled down the driveway between 2 houses that our booth faced … not fun.
  • The crowd, though, took it all in stride. Sunday sales were strong. Saturday had been a bit disappointing … we did well, but we didn’t hit $2k in sales. This would not be a spectacular event.
  • But, it did keep coming.
  • My first sale each day was a cutting board. Love it!
  • Event directions warned that traffic would be horrible. They weren’t kidding. It was gridlock getting out of town on Saturday and Sunday. It took 45 extra minutes on Saturday to get out of town. Sunday was better, but only marginally so.
  • This event is a party. One customer told me she only drinks before noon at the Pumpkin Festival … and in New Orleans. Well, OK, then. Very common to see people walking with a beer, a glass of wine, or a mimosa. People were enjoying their Pumpkin Festival, and they all came to shop, complete with their own shopping bags.
  • Love. That.
  • A customer looked at the cribbage boards, and asked, “Is that an incense holder?” These cribbage boards have 250+ holes in them. How much incense did they want to burn?
  • A pirate walked by the booth, accompanied by his … uh, pirate. I did not talk to them. I’ve learned my lesson.
  • Mrs M went walkabout, leaving me to fend for myself in the booth. A young lady asked if we had a soap that would be good to remove THC resin from her fingers when she was, uh, processing. Couldn’t help her with this first-ever request. I don’t think Mrs M is going to develop a soap line to remove THC resin, either.
  • Requests were for a bigger Hard Maple end grain board (they always sell poorly when I make them!), a larger cheese dome, cribbage boards with pegs (it never ends), and my # 1 request, by far … chess boards.
  • I need more shop time. A. Lot.
  • There are 300 vendors at this event, and everything is handmade. I love the event producers; they do a great job selecting all handmade vendors!
  • Load out was a bit chaotic, as expected. We just did our thing, though, and took everything down before I went to get the trailer. Traffic was a problem just getting back to the booth, but in the end, I locked the loaded trailer at 7:15pm. 2 hours and 15 minutes total for the load out isn’t bad when the trailer is parked blocks away and you’re fighting 300 vendors for space.
  • I sold 18 different sizes/items at this event. The key to my success is variety. Maintaining that variety is the hardest thing I do in the shop.
  • Our high expectations killed us; we were initially disappointed. However, in the end, this was our 6th best event EVER. Our 2nd best first-time event EVER. We did have high costs, though, and we had hoped to do better. This event is not easy to do: a very long day for Saturday with a crazy load-in time, a long commute and traffic issues means this event is not for the faint of heart. But, we hope to come back. We had a good getaway weekend, and, in this case, that’s the most important thing.
  • We went away. Way away. We cleared our heads. All good.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Bagels in the go boxes from the Holiday Inn. And energy bars. It was a long time until lunch when you start at 2:15am.

Saturday Lunch: Tamales from one of the community groups that sell food here as a fund raiser. This is totally a community event. Love it.

Saturday Snack: Mrs M had more coffee. This was a long day.

Saturday Dinner: Velda used the google machine, and found Sole in San Mateo. Reviews were great, and we wanted a good meal after our very, very long day. Unfortunately, this was a tiny restaurant that told us we would have to wait 20 minutes. And then they told us that again. The food, though, was spectacular, with the best gnocchi that Mrs M has had. The sun-dried tomato appetizer/bread dip was amazing as well.

Sunday Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the Holiday Inn. And an Indian stole my toast.

Sunday Lunch: Clam chowder bread bowls from another community group. A worse choice, unfortunately. It was clammy, but not chowdery enough.

Sunday Snack: Pumpkin Pie, with whipped cream.

Sunday Dinner: A late night burger after load out, back at the Holiday Inn.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 855
  • Booth cost: $1,065
  • Food cost: $332
  • Travel cost: $711
  • Total sales: $3,698
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $1,590
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 2:15am (yes, 2:15am)
  • Sunday alarm: 6am
  • # transactions: 142
  • # soap & lotion vendors: 7. Lots of competition for Mrs M … which may have been one reason the jury rejected us, honestly. There were 6 soapers. All had different stuff, but how much soap can one town buy?
  • # woodworking vendors: 5. There were 2 direct competitors. I didn’t have a chance to introduce myself, though I have seen one of them before at Southern California events. The other guy seemed to be a newbie with limited inventory, but had some interesting stuff.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 31:2
  • Returning next year? hopefully

Boards sold: 33

Magic Bottle Openers: 6

Cutting Boards: 4

Cheese Boards: 4

Pig Cutting Boards: 2

Small Boards: 2

Trivets: 2

Lazy Susans: 2

Large Cutting Board: 1

Large Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

Serving Tray: 1 (I’m now out)

Notepad Clipboard: 1

Letter Clipboard: 1

Small Surfboard: 1 (I’m now out)

Soap Deck: 1

Bread Board: 1

Small Sous Chef Board: 1

Custom Order: 1

Domed Cheese & Cracker Server: 1 (I’m now out)

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