Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Roundup: Art Affair on the Square 2013

The Art Affair on the Square (July 20th) turned out to be a disappointing event on some levels, mainly due to the weather. Rain. Hard rain, and gusting winds arrived about ninety minutes after the festival started and lasted about thirty minutes.

The Storm Arrives

This drove away many of the early festival goers. I believe it kept away many of the people who
might have attended later on.

Luckily my wife called, warning us of the storm passing through St. Paris (about 15 miles west of Urbana) so we were prepared, even thought the approaching dark clouds were warning enough. But we were given a clue as to the storm's intensity.

Flood Flowing Behind Our Table
The tent provided by the city and the Champaign County Library held up well, and the Douglas Inn largely at our back offered protection from the downpour. I also bring along large trash bags as part of my 'signing kit' for random needs, including covering up books, book marks, etc.

After the storm passed, three of the six author bailed, leaving the tent only half full. My experience at events, when there are empty tables or they look less than full, proves to be a deterrence to potential reader/customer interest.

In addition, many of the tents/artists/crafts folks near the Literary Arts Tent packed up and left, including the emergency response tent (At the time I commented, "Do they know something we don't?"). I don't blame the vendors, especially those that specialized in water color paintings or crafts that don't respond well to water. There was a chance for more rain later in the day.

But for me, getting to the event...once there, I'm going to stick it out. I formed this attitude years ago when I worked in the fast food industry (Taco Bell). If business was slow, a manager would go around and ask crew workers if any wanted to end their scheduled shift early. It amazed me how many jumped at the chance. Heck, I was there to work and get hours to earn larger paycheck. What's the point of showing up only to go home after a couple hours?

I keep the display basic,
especially when outdoor
wind is present
In any case, the Literary Arts (Author) Tent was set up on the southwest corner of the square in Urbana. All the folks on the southeast corner left after the rain. I am guessing they got the worst of it. That left only one food vendor and one photograph/art vendor near us, with the rest of the festival running along the street to the north of the square and extending along the street away from us. There appeared to be very little reason for folks to walk around the square, past one food vendor and cross the street (cars and trucks were still driving around/through the square along U.S. Route 36) to explore the two tents (ours half full) and a small food vendor, when there were probably five dozen or more tents along the north-running street, and food vendors closer to them.

Does that mean I didn't meet any readers or sell any books? No. I met some neat folks and sold a few before the storm arrived and a few after, but the visitor traffic before the storm seemed to be about 1/3 the number of last year, and after the rain, maybe 1/5th on our end. I think it was considerably better along the festival's central route.

Domestic Diva Tent
The Domestic Divas, for example, did pretty well. They were on the main strip and had some protection from the buildings too. So there were plenty of potential customers.

If asked to be an author guest next year, I'll jump at the chance. The Champaign County Library folks were wonderful (both this year and last year). Sometimes bad luck occurs, especially with respect to outdoor events--oppressive heat, rain, strong winds, etc. As an author, I just roll with the punches, look at the good, and move on to the next opportunity to meet readers.

A Butterfly on my Daughter's Shoe.
She thought it was pretty neat. Me too.



  1. I love that you made the best of a difficult situation. Great role model for you daughter, too. Of course, that doesn't surprise me about you. The good news is that people who visit a literature booth during a thunderstorm are probably serious readers! lol

    1. Dean,
      Sometimes my family swings by events I'm participating in, and you're right in that I do what I can to be a positive role model. :)

  2. Sorry to hear about your bad luck, but I'm glad you managed to get into contact with potential readers.

    Hope next year is even better, though. :-)

    1. Thanks, Misha. I think next year will be better. I hope I get invited again!