The Board Chronicles: Harvest Festival San Mateo 2018   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.

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A note about my absence. After a few months of getting more and more behind … I still haven’t caught up.

I will, just not today. In the interim, here’s the latest installment of The Board Chronicles for all of you that have been missing my missives.

Enjoy, and thank you for your patience!

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In California, the “professional” vendors that do handmade goods exhibit at the Harvest Festivals. There are 8 or 9 of them (depending on the year), with one in Las Vegas, and then the remainder split about evenly between northern and southern California.

Everyone says it: the Harvest Festivals are great. But be ready: you sell a lot of stuff. Biggest events of the year. Be ready.

I was ready.

In our 5th year of vending, I committed to 2 of the Harvest Festivals: San Mateo and Sacramento. Neither are close to us, of course, but they fit on the calendar.

I was ready.

Then, we had the Camp Fire: the deadliest, most destructive wild fire in California history.

Paradise got most of the press on how bad things were, and Paradise is 200 miles from San Mateo. I thought we’d be OK … not knowing the wind patterns in the bay area took the smoke right to my destination. While we were having our event, there were warnings to stay indoors.

That’s no way to have a good event that requires patrons to drive at least some distance to come to the event, y’know?

New Ideas

  • Harvest Festivals require Thursday set ups, and the events run Friday – Sunday. I drove up Wednesday for an early Thursday set up. I stayed in the least expensive motel I could find in or near San Mateo … and you can use your imagination. I can assure you while in my room I was doing my best to NOT imagine what was around me.
  • This is the most expensive event I have ever done: $1,490 for my double booth.
  • Bright yellow signs were available to me: NEW VENDOR. I appreciated that.
  • The event has prominent entertainment: there’s a Santa on stilts. There are cowboys riding horses … well, there are guys in cowboy costumes walking around with a horse costume around their waist like they are “riding.” Definitely a lot to see here.


  • This is a professional operation. 200+ vendors. Some pay for cartage to have their display pieces and inventory delivered to the aisle in front of their booth, event to event. Some are newbies like me … but the bar is very high here.
  • Some of the requirements for these events:
    • no handwritten signs
    • cover all metal poles
    • all handmade
    • focused booth lighting is required: they turn down the general illumination in the hall
  • One of the veterans introduced himself to me … and said, “you know the new guy brings coffee, right?” The promoter provides the coffee, incidentally!
  • A neighbor said she’d been vending her whole life … “my Mom was selling tie dye shirts at Dead shows.” Welcome to San Francisco.
  • Heard from a young Miss walking by: “Who’s Julia Child?” That’s not my audience!
  • I had requests for spatulas, collapsible wooden baskets (I HATE those imports, and they all are!), a checkerboard cutting board (no thanks), more boards with “crumb catchers,” small Lazy Susans, bowl-shaped Lazy Susans, tea towel holders, round cutting boards … lots of requests from a crowd that didn’t buy that much!
  • In the end, this event was destroyed by the fire. Attendance was down, I was told. This was never one of the larger Harvest Festivals, but with the fire, the event was just devastated.
  • Final analysis: with the high booth fee, high hotel and travel costs … I actually lost money doing this event.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Nope. I went out; fast food & burgers.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 727
  • Booth cost: $1,490
  • Food cost: $128
  • Travel cost: $780
  • Total sales:  $2,708
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • # transactions: not enough, but I did stay busy
  • # soap & lotion vendors: several. Not many have it going on like Mrs M does with her cold process soap, but pricing was *very* competitive
  • # woodworking vendors: Several, doing all manner of work. The craft is well represented.
  • Returning next year? No … regardless of the fire, I lost money. I won’t return quickly.

Boards sold: 41

  • Cutting Boards: 3
  • Cheese Boards: 7
  • Small Boards: 2
  • Large Serving Piece: 5
  • Trivet: 1
  • Serving Tray: 1
  • Signs: 12
  • Custom Orders: 2
  • Clipboards: 2
  • Coasters: 2
  • Bread Saw: 1
  • Cribbage Board: 1
  • Lazy Susans: 2

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