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The Board Chronicles: Prescott Rodeo Days Arts & Crafts Fair 2020   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 long darkness lifted a bit.

I went to an event. I sold stuff. It was almost normal. Except, you know, for the masks & health checks & threats & such.

This was my 4th trip to Prescott, AZ, and I was going for their big 4th of July celebration that centers around the World’s Oldest Rodeo. The Rodeo happened … limited to 25% capacity. The Arts & Crafts Fair happened … with all of the booths socially distanced. The very popular parade … canceled.

But I was back in business, if only for a moment. I had to leave California & drive 400+ miles each way, but I had an event!

New Ideas

  • Geez, it was all new. I hadn’t had an event in 5 months. I hadn’t set up this canopy in 6 months.
  • New products, made during the pandemic:
    • 2x sizes of Dip Servers
    • Magic Bottle Openers returned from a 2 year hiatus, both wall & fridge mount
    • Cutting Board selection was deep, with highlights to include several charcuterie boards like a live edge Black Walnut board (sold), a Dough Board with Hooks, and many traditional boards.
    • Also returning from being sold out previously: Hearts, Coasters, Ampersand Boards, Cracker Things, California Bears, 5 Section Servers & a wide array of Handled Boards on a new display stand.
  • The Mowry Cookbook made a rare appearance for sale, as I had the space.
  • Mrs M stepped up and made “Keep ‘Em Clean,” a Waterless Hand Cleanser. This new alcohol-based product was offered for free so everyone could clean their hands before/after entering the booth, or even just as they wandered by. Everyone appreciated that.

Observations

  • I have no expectations for this weekend. None. I mean, how can you? Who knows who will show up, or if they will have money in their pocket?
  • I found this event because my original event for this weekend in Morro Bay, CA was canceled on June 1. I scrambled & followed my friend Delinda back to Prescott because Arizona is open. Delinda had been there for Memorial Day; I stayed home then. But, no more.
  • I was very fortunate that some good friends had recently moved to Prescott, and invited me into their home for the weekend. Not only was the lodging free, but they cooked for me, too. This was not only incredibly kind, but allowed me to do this event with much less financial risk.
  • Vendors were required to wear masks. Vendors had to pass a health check at set-up on Thursday, and had temps taken daily. We were warned that if we were non-compliant with the masks, we would be required to close our booth. We were told that if the event was found to be non-compliant, it would be closed by the county. We live in an era of threats.
  • My local friends connected me to a recent high school graduate to help with set up. He had a buddy … so I had a crew to set up. I love it when that happens.
  • In spite of the help, we didn’t get set up done on Thursday evening. A quirk of events on the courthouse square in Prescott (which is *lovely*) is that you can’t begin set up until the last judge leaves the courthouse. That was after 6p … we worked until dark, and then buttoned up. I had an early morning on Friday.
  • Friday, I couldn’t sleep so I got to the booth at 6a. Set up continued, with a brief pause at 7a for a mandatory vendor meeting where the threats were repeated. I continued with set up and was ready for customers at 9a.
  • Here’s a truth: dog walkers aren’t buyers of my product. They are out to get exercise, see the sights, and share with other dog owners. They never buy cutting boards (Oh, ok, there was this one lady … in six years.). Not my people.
  • One dog walker met another dog walker in front of my booth. The dogs were the same species. Or something. They chatted. They talked. One of the dogs pissed on my table cloth.
  • The dog owner, deep in conversation, barely turned her head for a pro forma “sorry” and kept talking. My table cloth now serving as a territorial marker for the rest of the weekend was unimportant to her.
  • Not. My. People.
  • It began to sprinkle about midday on Friday, and it eventually worked itself up to raining for 30 minutes. I had to tarp over my exterior displays and wait for the blue skies to return at 2p or so.
  • My biggest sale of the weekend was during the rain. I feel sorry for the vendors that close up when it gets wet outside. They just don’t get it.
  • Saturday was the 4th, and Prescott traditionally has a parade that’s a little slice of Americana in this rural town of 40,000+. The parade was canceled this year due to the virus, though, so no one knew how large crowds might be on this holiday weekend. They were good, but perhaps not great. There was a steady flow past my booth all weekend which had both locals and tourists.
  • The morning of the 4th saw some convoys of vehicles cruising through town with many American flags & much honking. The town leaders might have canceled the parade … but there was still a parade.
  • People carried flags around the square as well. It was very red, white & blue on the 4th. I appreciated that very much.
  • Masks are hot when you wear them for hours.
  • The vast majority of shoppers were masked. Some were not, certainly, but most people were following the directives that the governor of Arizona had given.
  • Did I mention masks are hot? I took to alternating between my various masks: I brought 5x styles with me. I preferred the gaiters, though the paper masks were good. I did discover that if I was setting up – working – I felt the mask limited my oxygen. I didn’t wear a mask when I was doing the physical labor required to do what I do.
  • New at this event were the Dip Servers, which were prominently displayed, front & center. I heard the Dad joke twice and was embarrassed I hadn’t thought of it myself. “Dip Servers … oh, this is for me?”
  • I did see a lot of hats & shirts promoting President Trump. Through the whole weekend, I only saw one Democratic sign. Truly, 99+% were pro-Trump. This is a conservative area, but I was still struck by the absence of visual Biden support.
  • Two ladies were wearing Q t-shirts, which caused a bit of a stir. People were asking to take pictures with them!
  • I can’t believe I saw more Q than Biden.
  • Please note: my selling of cutting boards is 100% non-political. So is this blog. I am reporting on what I saw, nothing more.
  • My handled cutting boards were again compared to paddles (sigh). I was asked if I had one engraved, “Make Kids Great Again.”
  • I do not.
  • I will not.
  • Definitely saw some price resistance this weekend, but, honestly, no more than I typically do. I wondered if there would be more due to the large unemployment numbers, virus damage to the economy, etc. Things seemed pretty OK for those that were shopping. And, I did sell the most expensive board in the booth, so there is that.
  • Saturday afternoon, I was processing a credit card transaction when out of NOWHERE, water started running down the roof onto my front table. Did somebody launch a water bottle onto my roof? Squirt gun war. HUH??? My table was soaked.
  • Come to find out, there was a pool of water trapped on the roof from yesterday’s rain. 24 hours later, the wind must have caught it just right, and I suddenly had an ill-positioned cascade. No boards were damaged, but it was freaky to have water just appear.
  • My worst day of the weekend was … Saturday, July 4th. That wasn’t typical of most other vendors according to my informal survey. My best day was Sunday. Weird.
  • But what would you expect from 2020?
  • Taking everything down was speedy, as I had 2 helpers + my hosts help me. I was more manager than worker, and we got everything back into the trailer well before dark.
  • On the drive home, I thought I would stop in Barstow at the Black Bear Diner … closed. Back to the reality of living in California.
  • In the end, I broke even on the weekend. The booth cost was relatively expensive. Event promoters are not giving a Covid-19 discount. The attendance was clearly lighter than prior years, I was told by many. There were fewer vendors, too … but sales didn’t rise as a result. But, I got out of the house, remembered how to set up the Trimline again, and went a-vendoring. I’ll take that as a win.
  • Request included a larger Cracker Thing, a Cheese Board/Cracker Thing combination, and a Cutting Board display stand (sigh). Maybe someday.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Pot Roast. Home cooking for the win.
  • Honorable Mention: Creamy Shrimpy stuff.
  • Worst Meal: Friday bagels that tried to get eaten after set up. They didn’t age well in my gear bag.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 882
  • Booth cost: $950
  • Total sales: $2,695
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 4
  • Friday alarm: 5:15a
  • # transactions: 35
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue
  • # woodworking vendors: no clue, but I know at least 2 others were selling similar things. The guy selling cheap, shaped boards made from Corian was there, too.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 36:3
  • Returning next year? probably not, if California is open

Boards sold: 39

  • Signs: 8
  • Cutting Boards: 4
  • Trivets: 4
  • Charcuterie Boards: 4
  • Dip Servers: 3
  • Cracker Thing: 3
  • Handled Boards: 3
  • Magic Bottle Openers: 2
  • Bread Saws: 2
  • Lazy Susans: 2
  • Garlic Dipping Board: 1
  • Surfboard: 1
  • Cheese Board: 1
  • Special Order: 1
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