Archive for the ‘Craft Fairs’ Category

The Board Chronicles: Claremont Village Venture 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.

Yes, you know I’m behind … but you also know I’m catching up. This event always happens on the last Saturday in October, and it’s been a rare very good one day event in the past. From Claremont:

I really liked this event in 2016. I absolutely loved it in 2017, where it was my best solo event ever.

Until I upped my game in 2018, that is.

The event is a bit quirky. It has an odd name. The merchant association that produces the event only allows you to buy one space per seller’s permit … so Mrs M hasn’t done this event. That’s OK, it was very good for me last year. What’s not to like?

New Ideas

  • Same old, same old. I’ve had the same booth every year.

Observations

  • This is a rare event where the marching band leads the kid’s costume parade. What’s not to like?
  • A couple came into the booth … and they shall be known as the Bickersons. She came right up to me and said that she would buy a cutting board if he would shut up about it. He responded that her cutting board was awful. After a bit more back and forth, they settled on their selection. As they walked away, we were chatting about relationships, and I asked, “How long?” Her reply: “Long enough.”
  • The worst part about solo events is the boredom. I had 15x transactions spread over 8 hours … and not nearly enough quality conversations to cover the time. With Mrs M, we have many more transactions … more conversations, more action.
  • I hate the boredom.
  • Two couples entered into the booth within about 30 minutes of each other. Both saw my steak sign:

CNC Sign 18 – 29 Steak. Hard Maple. 9″ x 12″.

Both couples announced that they had an adult child that was a vegetarian. Both couples took a picture of my sign and sent it to their wayward child. I provide parenting assistance, no charge. Apparently. Not sure what the wayward children will think of their idiot parents. Well, maybe I do know.

  • Parenting experience does allow me to accurately predict what the kids will do, after all.
  • Sales were way, way down from the prior year.  In fact, they were just under HALF of what they were last year. No clue what happened … but I’m out.
  • Requests were for clipboards (no room in the Jeep!), 2x in-counter boards (send me the dimensions!) and 2x Magic Bottle Openers (I’m out!).

The Food

  • Best Meal: My booth is in front of a deli, so I have a bagel sandwich every year. Delish.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 122
  • Booth cost: $215
  • Food cost: $12
  • Travel cost: $0
  • Total sales: $960
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 0
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 0
  • Saturday alarm: 4:15a
  • # transactions: 15
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue
  • # woodworking vendors: no clue
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 0
  • Returning next year? doubtful

Boards sold: 25

Cheese Boards: 6x

Trivets: 6x

Coasters: 5x

Hearts: 3x

CNC Signs: 2x

Large Serving Pieces: 2x

Bear: 1x

 

 

The Board Chronicles: Sherman Oaks Street Fair 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.

I’m gaining on my back log of blog posts, honest. I keep whittling away … and SWEAR I will not do an event while not having published the previous year’s blog (and I’m close to that!). In any event, from Sherman Oaks:

This is a main street event for a relatively affluent community in the San Fernando Valley. I’ve tried to find more events in the Valley, this is one … and it’s one day event.

Oh well. It fits on the calendar. Let’s give it a whirl.

New Ideas

  • One day event, with a Jeep load in. Going old school for this one.

Observations

  • Definitely found getting into the event a challenge. There were volunteers, but I was there on time and the line was, uh, not quite formed yet. Once I got by the guy with the clipboard, the street was wide open. Only a few booths had started setting up. Time to find my place in the world.
  • Lots of amateurs here. First timers, even. Not. Good.
  • A question that I’ve never been asked before: “What’s a Foodie?”
  • Uh … read the sign.
  • I want to make spoons. I need to make spoons.
  • This event had more than its fair share of shade stealers. It was a hot October day, I get it … but my shade is provided for my customers. Please.
  • Worse than a shade stealer was the table swipe by a Mom’s Purse … knocking a board onto the ground. Mom didn’t notice.
  • With only the room in the Jeep, inventory was necessarily limited. But I was still frustrated when I was asked for a chess board and a cribbage board. They were at home.
  • I believe I need to have standards, and here it is: I don’t want to set up for less than $1,000 in sales. This event did less than half of that … so there you go.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 60
  • Booth cost: $200
  • Food cost: $15
  • Travel cost: $0
  • Total sales: $483
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 1
  • Sunday alarm: 5a
  • # transactions: 10
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue
  • # woodworking vendors: no clue
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 0
  • Returning next year? nope

Boards: 14

  • Cheese Boards: 4
  • Heart: 3
  • Individual Coasters: 4
  • Coaster Set: 1
  • Sign: 1
  • Trivet: 1

The Board Chronicles: Carpinteria Museum of Natural History Holiday Boutique 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.

In the continuing saga of how far behind am I, here’s one part of that. So, from Carpinteria:

We have done this event 3 times … and had a no call no show one year due to weather. It was going to rain, 100% … and I just didn’t have it in me. But, I digress.

This event is the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. It’s sponsored by Carpinteria’s Museum of Natural History, which sponsors a monthly swap meet on its grounds. In November, though, it transforms into a handmade event.

Sort of.

But, we like Carpinteria. The weather can be outstanding … as it was for us in 2014 and 2015. I tried something else in 2017 … and decided to go back in 2018. Mistake?

New Ideas

  • We have a double booth, but we’re committed to not taking the trailer. The booth location in the back of the museum is just not workable for a trailer. Since we can’t get a street/front booth space, we’re driving separately.
  • I don’t like doing single day events, so this is a rare one for us. Thank goodness. Drive 70 miles, set up, do the event, load out, drive home. A full day of fun.

Observations

  • We felt the legacy of being at this event almost immediately. It’s good for people to remember you. It’s even better when they buy again.
  • A Lady asked me, “Are you the one with the sense of humor?”
  • Uh…. Sure. That’s me. Funny guy.
  • There were an incredible 6 woodworkers at this small neighborhood event. One guy was selling small cutting boards for $10. Uh huh.
  • At the end of the day, it wasn’t much of a buying crowd. Competitive pricing was brutal (even if the quality of work wasn’t). Other vendors also had a tough day at this event in 2018.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 280
  • Booth cost: $200
  • Food cost: $8
  • Total sales: $412
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: a few
  • Saturday alarm: 4a
  • # transactions: 21
  • # soap & lotion vendors: a few
  • # woodworking vendors: more than a few
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: nope
  • Returning next year? nope

Boards sold: 2

Small Boards: 2

 

The Board Chronicles: Tehachapi Mountain Fest 2019   3 comments

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.

This mountain community, about 90 minutes north of us, has an annual festival that we have been a part of for the past 4 years. It’s local. It’s a shopping event. It’s handmade. We love this event.

Feel the love read my Board Chronicles from 2018, 2017 and 2016. Oh, and the 2015 version is here, though the date is not in the title. (I was so young then.)

New Ideas

  • We decided to upgrade our booth, and bought a triple booth: 2 for me, and the same 1 for her. I can only display all of what I do in a double booth, so this is now the 5th event that we do regularly with a triple booth. Here, we’re in an “L” shape, just like at the KHTS Home & Garden Show.
  • The Granddaughters decided to have a dance recital on the Saturday of this event, so the Grandmother drove down to Lancaster to do what she does. This left the Grandfather working a triple booth. I was a lonely, lonely man.
  • But! It’s good to have friends. Jan & Barry have the adjacent booth, and they both pitched in to help me survive the onslot of legacy customers that need Mrs M’s stuff. And, mine too, thankfully.

Observations

  • Set up in the heat on Friday afternoon was not fun. At all. But … it’s a triple booth. Whachagonnado? We got it done.
  • Mrs M drove me to the event on Saturday, and then left when set up was all tidied up. No worries. I got this. Who needs Mrs M?
  • I went walkabout shortly before the official opening at 10a … when I returned to the booth, my neighbor who was selling several crafty wooden items (including pallet wood MBOs for $10!) was in my booth with her cellphone out taking pictures of my work. I normally don’t care, but that brazen display of idea thievery was not welcome.
  • And then she asked me where I bought my wood. I was kinder than she deserved, IMHO.
  • A vendor liked my stuff. How much for that board? $225. Vendor rate? Uh, $225. He was not pleasant: he offered me $100 cash (LOL). My day was not starting well.
  • I said no, y’know?
  • A cute little girl walked up to me and handed me a $20 bill. (thank you?) THEN I noticed she had a little owl in her other hand; she was buying some ZooSoapia. That’s when I knew why she handed me money. OK, I’m back now.
  • A young lady, 20 something, asked it we took Venmo. I said yes, but I am not very familiar. She then proceeded to take me to school on Venmo. I felt like Miss M was in the booth.
  • An older lady introduced herself to me: her name was Veda. Too bad she missed meeting Velda.
  • To complete my notable female interactions in the absence of Mrs M, another lady asked if I made the cheese slicers. When I said yes, she asked if they were related to the slicers sold by the vendor in the downtown park by the train station? Ummmm. No. I make these. The lady had some difficulty understanding that I make my stuff, and if other people have similar stuff … I didn’t make those. And they didn’t make mine, for that matter. Still not sure if she understood after I explained 3 times that I make everything in the booth!
  • We went to the event expecting sales to be down from prior year … because last year was quite good, as we remembered. Funny thing: sales weren’t nearly as good as we thought. And we thought we were down, but we were actually up a bit. We were confused the whole weekend about sales because I had not taken the time to check history, and our memories were not accurate.
  • Expectations will kill you.

The Food

  • Best Meal: As Julia Child said, “People who love food are always the best people.” Dinner with friends are the best!
  • Honorable Mention: Big Papa’s Steakhouse was a total surprise. It’s a big bar … but the restaurant side was quiet and the food was really quite good.
  • Worst Meal: The free breakfast at the Best Western won’t win any awards. I keep thinking that….

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 286
  • Booth cost: $540
  • Food cost: $105
  • Travel cost: $210
  • Total sales: $2,202
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 5:50a
  • Sunday alarm: 7a
  • # transactions: I have no clue; counting was impossible as a solo act … with help
  • # soap & lotion vendors: just Mrs M
  • # woodworking vendors: there are a couple of others, but they don’t do what I do
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: no end grain sales
  • Returning next year? absolutely. We’ll need to think about 2 v 3 booths, though

Boards sold: 18

  • Cheese Board: 4
  • Cheese Slicer: 4
  • CNC Sign: 3
  • Cutting Board: 2
  • Garlic Dipping Board: 2
  • Large Serving Piece: 1
  • 5 Section Server: 1
  • Bread Saw: 1

The Board Chronicles: Prescott Arts & Crafts Festival 2019   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.

I like to do out-of-town events with Mrs M. We call them getaway weekends. The fact that we’re working, up at 6a, sweating … well, sure. That, too.

These work best when Mrs M gets time off from work to go with me. This year, 2nd year in a row, we put the Labor Day event in Prescott AZ on the calendar, and for the 2nd year in a row, Mrs M discovered other priorities.

So, I’ve got a 6, er, 8 hour drive and dinners alone. I’m a lonely, lonely man … but, hopefully, having a great event in my favorite little town in Arizona. After all, when their night life section is named Whiskey Row, I should want to be there, right?

I’m in.

New Ideas

  • This is my 3rd trip to Prescott in 12 months, so I thought I knew the way. I just followed my GPS to Barstow, then I-40, then … well, then the GPS decided I needed to go the long, long way up the National Forest road on the far side of Prescott. I spent an extra hour in the desert. My GPS sucks.
  • I need a new GPS. Or a car. That’s it. I need a new car. With a GPS.

Observations

  • Finally got to my AirBnB after dark, and all was well … but on day 2, after set up, I torched the microwave. It thermaled out – twice – and my dinner was a bagel and a banana.
  • My hostess had a new microwave in place the next morning. And, I did not starve. Big bonus points to the hostess.
  • One of the quirks of this event is that you can’t begin set up until after the judges leave the courthouse. On this holiday Friday, there was a trial in session, so no one left early … and then there was a wedding to follow. Set up did not begin until after 6p.
  • Connected with a person at event check-in to help me with set up. Day labor at it’s finest … and with his help, I got the Trimline up before dark.
  • Saturday morning, I arrived shortly after 6a and began hanging signs. I was largely set up by 9am, but didn’t finish until 9:15. I left the banner down for the day; I just didn’t have time.
  • My neighbor to the right was a direct competitor. He had 36x cheese slicers on display (!) along with large charcuterie boards with metal handles (that I would call serving trays). He had a beer flight, a wine flight, some digital clocks, some hairpin leg tables … nice looking stuff. But, a direct competitor was next door. No one really wants that, right?
  • A couple walked into the booth … and the Lady looked at my 4-player cribbage boards, and said to her significant other, “Your father couldn’t cheat on this board!” (Apparently, they were used to playing on a small board that you had to take laps around the course, and the father always took a short cut somehow.) I nodded knowingly. They left. No sale.
  • A man walks into the booth. He holds his phone up to this sign:
CNC Sign 19 – 715 The Answer

The man says, “I have something for Daddy.” The phone laughed out loud.

  • Sometimes, I have no idea what’s going on in the booth.
  • Hot on Saturday … 95*. The canopy in direct sun is hotter, and I didn’t get any shade and little breeze until after 3p.
  • Saturday sales were 100% card. No cash.
  • I got cash on Sunday, but the transactions were very card heavy … because this is a touristy crowd, I believe.
  • Saw the promoter on Sunday … and she immediately apologized for putting 2 woodworkers side-by-side. I really wasn’t upset, but it was nice that she noticed the error.
  • I don’t have PTSD. I’m not freaked out about being in public at an event … but I heard 3 loud bangs followed immediately by a siren … and it took the lizard brain a few seconds to figure out that the loud bangs sounded like an empty trailer hitting bumps. Metallic bangs. Not gun fire.
  • This is something I never used to think about. Ever.
  • Sunday was kind of slow. My neighbor the blacksmith/potter/fountain maker said it was slow for him as well.
  • Then, a mother and her adult daughter walked into my booth and each bought 4x pieces. My Sunday was no longer slow.
  • I had my first ever payment via Samsung Pay today. Easy: he activated the app on his smartphone, waved it at my reader … and it was approved in about 5 seconds. No signature required.
  • My retail consultant dropped by and told me that she can’t wait for me to get a proper cash/wrap and stop showing my underwear. Apparently, this is how retailers talk to each other.
  • I was settling down, writing this blog and have a relaxing evening when I heard the wind blow up. I opened the door, and there’s an unexpected storm out. Wind. A bit of rain. So, a picture:
Find your rainbows wherever you can!
  • I poured some Elijah Craig, and started to write. Then, the phone rang, and it was my buddy Delinda. Trouble at the site: storm. Microburst. Canopies down. Destruction. Time to return to the courthouse … and find this:

It’s not easy when one decides to go a-vendoring.
  • NOT MY BOOTH. Thank goodness. I counted about 12 canopies down, mainly on the north and east side of the courthouse square. I was on the southwest corner, so I was OK. At least I was at 7:30p, when I folded up my umbrella and headed for my AirBnB.
  • My alarm for the final day, Labor Day Monday, just got earlier.
  • I woke at 5:30a to a serene sunrise. Blue skies. The weather forecast says isolated thunderstorms; a 30% chance of rain. We shall see.
  • The official count was 30 canopies destroyed. 43 vendors packed and left due to loss of product, canopy, etc. This was a major storm event.
  • Labor Day Monday started slow and never really improved. But, I did better this year than last year, in spite of the wet on Sunday … and continuing rain Monday afternoon.
  • I did have a guy come back to the booth on Monday, bringing his Marbles board that he wanted me to duplicate … and he brought a friend that would buy it if I did! We had a fun conversation, at least. Not sure I’m going to make this game board, but I’ll think about it … next year.
  • Final “customer” of the day: “Would you make a deal on a sign at the end of the day?” I asked what she had in mind … she wanted this sign:
CNC Sign 18 – 58. Hard Maple. 9″ x 12″.
  • She wanted to buy the sign for $30, a 1/3 discount. I said no, and pointed her to the $30 signs that I did have for sale … and she didn’t care. I was good with her leaving the booth with empty hands.
  • Requests were for a game called Marbles (?), an Aggravation game (I am so slow), a Magic Bottle Opener in a different color (as I only have 1 on display) and a Lazy Susan (I’m still out! I need shop time!!!).

The Food

  • Best Meal: Mrs M’s spaghetti, naturellement.
  • Honorable Mention: I went out to dinner after load out with our good (former) vendor friends, Barry & Wendi. Fabulous burger at Bill’s Grill … and better company. That was a treat.
  • Worst Meal: Dinner with a broken microwave, a bagel and a banana. Was there any doubt?

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 960
  • Booth cost: $550
  • Food cost: $18
  • Travel cost: $550
  • Total sales: $2,656
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 1
  • Saturday alarm: 5a
  • Sunday alarm: 6:30a
  • Monday alarm: 6:00a
  • # transactions: 27
  • # soap & lotion vendors: I saw 3; there may have been more on the backside of the courthouse.
  • # woodworking vendors: My neighbor, of course, and another guy that makes iPhone acoustic wooden amplifiers that are kind of cool.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 34:1
  • Returning next year? Yes … in a shady spot, I hope.

Boards sold: 35

  • Special Order: 5
  • CNC Sign: 5
  • Garlic Dipping Boards: 4
  • Cheese Slicer: 4
  • Bread Saw: 4
  • Cutting Board: 3
  • Large Serving Piece: 3
  • Cheese Board: 2
  • Trivets: 2
  • Cribbage Board: 1
  • Chess Set: 1
  • Heart: 1

The Board Chronicles: Art In The Park Spring 2019   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.

Behind. Yes, I’m behind. I’m working on it. So, from Paso Robles:

We love Paso Robles. It’s a great getaway destination, especially for wine drinkers (which I am not). Also great for olive oil lovers (check). There’s an event there in a lovely downtown park, all handmade … and it fits on the calendar.

You know it: I’m in.

New Ideas

  • First event in Paso, and it’s just for me. We booked the AirBnB, and Mrs M even agreed to accompany me as my designated wrapper.

Observations

  • This is a well juried handmade event. There were a couple of vendors I might quibble with the definition of “handmade,” but over all, this is a good one. Love Paso, too … lots of tourists. Lots of locals. Here to shop.
  • My people.
  • So much CNC & plasma cutter work being done these days. Everybody’s getting into the act. You better bring your “A” game.
  • Had a stalker show up who recognized my booth at first glance when he saw my trivets! Great chatting with him.

The Food

  • Best Meal: The Hatch. Oh my goodness. The Hatch. If you haven’t been, you must. 100%. You. Must. Meatloaf for the entree. Maitake mushroom appetizer. You can thank me later.
  • Honorable Mention: We rarely are social when we are working at an event, but we did accept an invitation to dinner from my stalker, and we had a fabulous time with his wife & family. Lovely. Oh, and I got to tour his shop. Bonus points!
  • Worst Meal: Given the above meals, we had a nice culinary glow all weekend. No losers here.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 382
  • Booth cost: $399
  • Food cost: We ate at The Hatch. I’m not counting the cost of that lovely meal.
  • Travel cost: $550
  • Total sales: $1,050
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): Loser, but the food was good.
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • # transactions: 9
  • # woodworking vendors: there were several. 1 was a direct competitor, but several had competitive products.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 9:1
  • Returning next year? Maybe. This certainly wasn’t a barn burner, but I did have a good follow up order … and I’m going back in October for the “better” fall event. We shall see.

Boards sold: 9

Cutting Board: 3

Coaster Set: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Charcuterie Board: 1

Cheese Slicer: 1

Cheese Board: 1

Clipboard: 1

 

The Board Chronicles: VHS Choir Holiday Boutique 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.

Yes, I’m behind. So, so behind. I’m working on it, though, and that’s why I’m publishing these event reviews from months ago. Hope you agree that they’re still worth it.

The Valencia High Choir sponsors an annual Holiday Boutique as a fundraiser for their award winning choir.

The choir sings Christmas carols during the event. In costume.

What’s not to love?

New Ideas

  • Nope. We’ve been here, done this … and we love it. One of our favorite events.

Observations

  • Set up is always easy, with choir kids there to do the heavy lifting. Love. This.
  • This event is unique: Friday sales during the school day, so faculty, staff & students have easy access to the boutique. Saturday hours are provided for the general public. Some vendors complain about the Friday hours, but the event works for us.
  • We missed our other favorite high school fundraiser (Saugus High’s Boutique Fantastique) in 2018 due to a death in the family. Luckily, many of our legacy customers that missed us in November found us at this December event … so we had record sales.
  • It’s good to have a back-up.
  • I love hometown events.

The Food

  • Best Meal: We ate at home. Always the best.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 18
  • Booth cost: $200
  • Food cost: nope
  • Travel cost: nope
  • Total sales: $1,837
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: many
  • # transactions: 71
  • # soap & lotion vendors: one other soaper, and a lotion vendor as well. But nobody does handmade like Mrs M. IMHO.
  • # woodworking vendors: just me
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 12:1
  • Returning next year? Absolutely

Boards sold: 13

Special Orders: 4

Cutting Boards: 3

Cheese Board: 1

CNC Signs: 3

Trivets: 2

 

Recovery: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles   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.

When I left you, dear readers, I had a rental car and was in a hotel in Gilroy, trying to imagine what should be next. That was Monday. If you need to catch up, you need to read about our experiences at this year’s Gilroy Garlic Festival. Read about it, here. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Since that fateful Sunday evening just 5 days ago, I’ve driven several hundred miles, finally gotten all of my stuff back … and am now sitting at home. Here is what happened:

Velda & I spent Monday watching the news and trying to figure out what to do. We networked with other vendors and read email updates that we began to get. The Garlic Festival website had a dedicated link to news as well.

CNN was carrying all of the Gilroy press conferences live at this point, and we were eager viewers. We learned that the entire Christmas Hill Park was now considered a crime scene, and that the entire area was now under FBI protection. It appeared that it would be days before anything could be recovered from inside the park – where the jeep and trailer were parked, and the booth was set up with all of my wooden pieces on display, open to the elements 24/7.

Remembering the Enterprise Rent-a-car slogan (“We’ll pick you up!”), we took them up on that offer and got a rental. We stayed near Gilroy on Monday night, which was an extra night in the motel, plus food (an accurate accounting will follow in the formal event review, but for now, you’ll just get approximations). $200.

We communicated with our final customer of the day, who had bought a beautiful, large Black Walnut cutting board and left it with us for pickup later … until we were all interrupted by the idiot with the gun. The buyers, luckily, lived in Gilroy, and we agreed that we would see each other when we returned, so they could get their cutting board … which was currently in the FBI’s protective custody.

We decided to drive home with the rental on Tuesday, and drop it off in Santa Clarita. $200.

Gas, $40.

On our way home, we learned at 2:45p – when we were 4 hours away from Gilroy – that we could pick up the Jeep if we were there by 6:30p. No way we could make that, and having the Jeep wasn’t that helpful anyway in the near term. The trailer had to stay with the booth – and the product was not accessible. Yet. We decided to keep on the road to home and do nothing, for now.

Wednesday was more of the same. I called the offered information number … and got the main receptionist for the city of Gilroy. No help there. Velda got a call from an FBI agent, who verified that she did not see the perpetrator.

We saw nothing.

Our near-complete lack of information, and general confusion continued throughout the week. Official announcements were typically made shortly before the time period that you were allowed to do something, so you really had no advance notice when anything would change. No. Idea.

Late Wednesday, an update landed on the website saying that “sometime” on Thursday the vendors on our side of the park would be able to recover their property. No other information was given. No time. No schedule. Nothing. We were cautioned that we would need an ID or driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration for the vehicles before they could be recovered. Well, OK, then.

Velda & I agreed that we would pack up Wednesday night and drive north Thursday morning. We would take the opportunity as it presented itself.

Velda, who had her fair share of anxiety – and then some – woke up at 2:15a. She puttered in the kitchen. At about 4a, she starting making the bed with me still in it and that’s when I got up.

We were on the road shortly after 5a. We drove her car, with the plan being that she would drive it home while I drove the Jeep & trailer home. Gas to & fro, $80. Wear & tear … well, we’re way beyond accounting for that on this one.

We were in line behind a flatbed produce truck. I have no idea why.

When we were almost to Gilroy, we learned that we could get access to the park after 1p. Since it was shortly after 9a, we had some time to kill. We ended up at the Gilroy outlet mall, and Velda did a bit of shopping. I read a book. We ate lunch (she made our lunches at 3a, I think it was). We headed out at about noon, and we were at the gate at 12:15p. A CHP officer was manning the barricade, and he told us where to wait. We got in line; about 10 cars were ahead of us.

Soon after we got in line, an FBI agent came out to talk to everyone in line and tell them what to expect:

  • You would be individually escorted at all times
  • You were not allowed to do anything but recover your property that was located on what’s called the “park side” of the park … where our booth was.
  • Everything in your booth had already been examined by the FBI.
  • All cash in the booth had already been photographed, logged and removed by the FBI (we had left none).
  • All valuables were similarly removed from the booth, we were told (so my cutting boards were not considered valuable. This is SO WRONG.).
  • They had already arrested some people that tried to sneak through the protective line of police. The crime scene was still being managed by the FBI (how stupid do you have to be to try and sneak onto a crime scene while the police are still there?).

We finally got to go in a little after 2p.

Each car had to be checked in by the FBI. A form had to be filed with my ID info for each of my 2 vehicles. Velda was also identified with legal ID and logged into their system. While in the park, we had a nice FBI agent named Matt (badged & armed) by our side at all times. Our trailer was an additional wrinkle; but we got a ride in an FBI cart to the Jeep, where I could then hook up the trailer, drive to the booth and begin to do what we were there to do. Velda took the pictures … this is exactly how we found the booth. The empty containers in front of the booth, the products and the canopy were set up exactly how we had left them Sunday evening.

This is the area of our booth after it was removed. The mostly brown grass was the walkway between my tables. The green grass was under the tablecloths. The rectangles of dead grass are where my empty containers were sitting under the tables. As you can see, most of the other vendors were already out of the park, but work continues.

There was some minor damage to most of the boards due to exposure to the elements; they’ll need to be refinished. Unfortunately.

Thursday evening, we went to our motel for the evening & I took a shower, thankfully. We went out to dinner, and then found our customer to present her with the board, now liberated from protective custody.

Motel, $140. Food, $52.

We got up Friday morning, had our horrible but “free” breakfast at the motel, put gas in both cars and got on the road. We’re now home with the Jeep, trailer & my boards. The trailer is in the driveway … and now I have to fix all of the damage.

But not today.

I need to repair 200+ boards before my next event in 14 days. Costs … let’s call it a day or more, and at least $100 for supplies (sandpaper, oil, beeswax, lacquer).

Home again.

We now know that the FBI investigation will continue for perhaps another week; all booths and property left on the other side of the park (the “ranch side”) are still in place. Those vendors must simply wait.

We now know that our last customers of the day – the couple that bought the nice Black Walnut end grain cutting board – were RIGHT THERE when the shooting happened. They saw it all. They ran for their lives, and, fortunately, were not injured. They are also 100% certain that the shooter acted alone. There was no accomplice. There was no 2nd shooter.

There was just one stupid, crazed gunman who wreaked havoc on a community.

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Terror: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles   3 comments

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.

2 July events … and both get a Special Edition of The Board Chronicles.

Not. Good.

I was a vendor at the 41st Annual Gilroy Garlic Festival. It’s been on our bucket list for many years – long before we were vendors, Mrs M was a great cook. She is a foodie. And if you’ve ever eaten at her table, you know she loves garlic.

Loves. Garlic.

So, of course, we wanted to go to the world’s pre-eminent festival in celebration of the Stinking Rose. Since the event is always in the heat of summer … and Mrs M’s products don’t play well when it’s in the 90s … we decided that I would be the vendor, and Velda would be the tourist. We had a plan. I applied to the Festival, got accepted as a vendor, and we were on our way.

All was good through most of the event, which will be reviewed separately. It’s a 3 day event, and Friday and Saturday passed without incident. We had fun. Sunday was a slower, relaxing day as is typical for a festival. I had just finished with my last customer at 5:35p and sat down to rest for a few minutes before our packing & load out would get started at 6p.

5:41p. We heard some pops. And then some more.

It sounded like gunfire, but some pops didn’t, I thought. No clue what it was. We then saw people running by my booth, screaming. “Shooter! Run!” But … run where? We had no clue what was happening where, so we didn’t move. We did go behind our booth to not be as visible.

5 sheriffs ran by, towards the source of the sound, guns drawn.

A 30-something woman was also behind our booth, with a crying, lost child. The woman called the child’s mother trying to reunite them.

No one knew anything. Hysteria. What? Where?

Terror.

A little after 6p, event organizers (all volunteers!) told everyone to evacuate to the south (away from the gunfire). I had already emptied the cash drawer; I gathered up our electronics and was ready to go. Velda … she picked up her valuables, which were 3 braids of garlic and her purse. Yes, I got to carry 10 pounds of garlic the rest of the evening. But, it was safe.

Velda saved the garlic.

We walked away from our $4,000 Trimline canopy, and my 200+ boards in the wide open booth. We moved with the crowd to the southern-most area of the park, and then eventually were moved to a nearby large concert amphitheater.

We simply abandoned the booth. We walked away from everything, open to the breeze. It’s just stuff.

We. Got. Out.

Organizers were there to help keep people calm and announce what was known (nothing). Velda shot a little video (why?) that shows you what the chaos sounded like.

We were in the amphitheater with several hundred people. Most were normal guests of the Garlic Festival. There were several volunteers, and many vendors as well. Eventually, it was decided that the guests that were in remote parking could walk to a nearby elementary school, and meet shuttle buses there to get them back to their cars. Those with cars on site (us!) would sit tight. That was just getting going … when 6 police moved quickly through the theater, guns drawn. They were going further south. Quickly.

Soon, there was a panic and people started running away … to where? Back to where we were evacuated from? Chaos returned. We had been sitting on a straw bale in the front of the audience area; Velda and several nearby people were now face down on the grass, hiding from … what?

We had no real information.

After that calmed down, we were quickly told that everyone would go to the elementary school. We started walking: six tenths of a mile to the school. We got to the school, and many people got picked up by family members there. Buses were there, taking people to parking lots. We … sat on a curb. We had no easy way to get anywhere we wanted to go. Our hotel was 8 miles away. No family or friends to come pick us up. We heard there were 3 Uber drivers in all of Gilroy, and they would clearly be overwhelmed.

Then we heard from a bus driver (!) that we were all to get on a bus which would go to the remote parking lots the Festival patrons needed, and then could go to Gavilan College, where people like us would get assistance to leave the area.

We got on a bus, and the driver immediately got lost. We turned around, circled the neighborhood, and then finally got to the Green lot … and waited behind some unmoving buses for a while. The driver eventually determined she needed to go around the buses that weren’t moving, and we got to the loading zone. Some people got off. We turned around … and then another party on our bus determined they should have gotten off at the last lot. We had to turn around. Again. The chaos continued.

We got back to the Green lot … but now we had to wait to be interviewed by an officer there that were taking down ID info, phone numbers, and statements. We saw nothing … but they have my cell number if they want to ask me any questions. After the interview, the CHP did arrange for us to get on the bus and get transport to Gavilan College.

Once there, another officer stepped on board to ask if we had seen anything. With that negative answer, we were free to go … where? We had no way to go anywhere and thought that waiting for a cab would probably be hours at best. That’s when a nearby young man raised his hand and called out, “Anyone need a ride?”

Fidel was simply a good samaritan that was helping out. He lived in Gilroy. He and his buddy Neil had their families in a safe place, and they were now offering rides to strangers.

You bet we got in their car. We do rely on the kindness of strangers all of our lives; but it’s always surprising when it’s such a large kindness. Fidel, AKA “Pops,” gathered up 5 strangers, and we proceeded to go to 3 different hotels & a restaurant that the strangers needed to get to. We were the last stop, and discovered that Neil was actually our vendor neighbor. His girlfriend is a 2D artist; the Gilroy Garlic Festival was her first-ever event. We met them Friday; hadn’t realized that he was the boyfriend until we got out of the car.

Kindness.

One passenger in our SUV was 80 feet from the shooting and talked about throwing kids in his booth behind boxes to try and get them undercover. We met another vendor that talked about how the shooting happened right beside the booth they had last year … but they were in a different position this year. But for the grace of God….

We got back to the motel at about 9:15p, 3-1/2 hours after the incident. Velda bought screw top wine from the motel gift shop. We ordered pizza.

We now know that the shooter cut through the perimeter fence to bypass the entrance security for the event. We now know that the incident was contained VERY quickly by the police force on duty at the event. The event site was divided into 5 zones, with officers patrolling each zone. We saw cops on foot, on horseback and on dirt bikes throughout the event, and 3 of those cops responded immediately to the shooter, and killed him with their pistols within a minute of the shooter opening fire with his AK-style rife. The cops were out-gunned, but they ran to the danger. And, perhaps, they ended it right then. Perhaps all of the uncertainty that thousands felt after the shooting was unnecessary, if that idiot shooter was truly a lone, crazed gunman.

Our perspective is that the event organizers did EVERYTHING right. They had a fenced border. They had security. They had a significant police presence. One idiot lone gunman defeated their planning. Unless they build a border wall around the park … what can you do?

As I write this on Monday, we still don’t know if there was a 2nd person involved in the attack (witness accounts varied). We still don’t have access to the park, so our booth and my products are still open to the elements. The Jeep is still on lockdown, and we now have a rental car.

We’re fine. We’re safe. The stuff we left in the park will be taken care of eventually, and I’m very OK with that.

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Shredded: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles   5 comments

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.

There I was, settling into a long drive home from the World’s Oldest Rodeo. Prescott, AZ had not been kind to me on this trip (read the event review, here), and I was 400+ miles from home.

I had elected to take the northern route home (I-40 to I-15) instead of the southern route (I-10). The southern route takes me across 50 miles of absolutely nothing desert before I get to the freeway, and I just don’t like the drive. The northern route is about 40 miles longer, but I like the drive more.

So there I was, 30 minutes out of Prescott on Arizona 89 North. It’s a 2 lane blacktop, connecting to I-40.

I felt the trailer fishtail a bit, so I checked the side mirrors.

The semi behind me was flashing his lights.

There was smoke in the right side mirror.

This is bad. Very bad.

I pulled over immediately. Here’s what I saw:

The tire was shredded. When the tire came apart, the flailing rubber pieces caught the aluminum fender and bent it back underneath itself. The white side of the trailer was marked by all of the revolving rubber pieces. The tire totally came apart.

Why? Who knows. Maybe it was a blowout. Maybe I hit something. Maybe the tire was tired of carrying an overloaded trailer and decided to teach me a lesson. I don’t know … but I do know that my spare tire is now required to get me home, and I need help to get it on the trailer. Thank goodness for AAA (which Mrs M insisted we get last year, by the way).

So I call AAA, and am told that 1) my policy doesn’t cover changing a tire on my trailer and 2) the person I called was in California, and I need to talk to an Arizona person. I was told I would have to pay cash to the tow truck driver. Oh, joy. She then transferred me … and I was disconnected.

Strike 1.

I called back, and got a different person that could help me. She had a great deal of difficulty with my location. “What city are you in? What’s your address? Your cross streets?” All very reasonable questions … and I had no answer. I was 21 miles south of I-40 on AZ 89 N. That I knew, from the GPS. Other than that … there was nothing visible but highway, junipers and brown grasses as far as the eye could see.

Nothing else.

I knew I had gone through Chino Valley after leaving Prescott, and knew I’d gone by a post office a while after that. Eventually, the AAA lady decided she knew where I was, and told me help would be there within 3 hours (sigh).

I then got a call from another lady, from the designated tow company out of Flagstaff. She asked me where I was … and, yup, we had to do the whole routine again. She eventually decided that I was outside of their territory, and she told me someone else would be coming to help. Not her territory.

Strike 2.

I noticed it was getting hot, so I decided to get a folding chair out of the trailer and set it up in the shade of a convenient Juniper bush, about 10 yards off of the highway. It was very nice in the shade, but the temperature was only going to go up.

15 minutes later, I got a text that help was on the way.

Then Officer Krumm of the Arizona Highway Patrol stopped by to see if I needed assistance. I told him I was fine – and learned that he and his wife had visited my booth at Prescott Frontier Days! His wife, a seasoned trail cook, he said, really liked my cutting boards! I did ask where I was. Come to find out, there were mile markers on the highway and I was near mile marker 241. Paulden was the nearest community … and the cement plant in Drake was just up the road. I was on the edge of the Coconino National Forest, I’ve since learned.

Pro tip: you can always call 911, and then have them give you the GPS coordinates of the call, which you can then relay to AAA for roadside service … if you should ever find yourself on a remote highway on the edge of a National Forest without a cross street!

I was not lost.

About a half hour later, the tow truck driver showed up. He surveyed the situation, rolled out his mechanic’s jack, and changed my tire. Come to find out, the tread of the tire had wound itself around the axle after it detached from the shreds of the tire still on the rim, so he had a bit of a struggle to clean it all up. No worries: the tire got changed, and in the end, I was back on the road with only a 90 minute delay.

The driver only asked for my signature. I did not have to pay cash for the tire changing service.

Next stop: I went to the next gas station to check the inflation of the trailer’s tires, and the newly mounted spare was indeed low. $1 of air later, I was on my way across the Mojave & back to home in Valencia, CA.

  • I visited my local AAA office, and the clerk there confirmed that I needed “RV” level coverage to get roadside assistance for my cargo trailer. Further, my “classic” level of coverage only provided 7 miles of towing, should that be required … and I know I was way more than 7 miles from a garage on this latest trip. I upgraded to Plus membership as well. Pro-rated, that was $53.09 to upgrade to the additional coverage, good until next February.
  • My tire store carries trailer tires, and I have an appointment tomorrow to get both my old tire & my shredded remnant replaced. The spare will … go back to being a spare. $285.
  • My trailer retailer will inspect the trailer, and I’ve got an appointment Friday for them to replace the broken fender, repair the running light and get the trailer back to good condition. I don’t have an estimate on that cost yet, but I’m certain it’ll be more than a dollar.

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