Sunday, August 8, 2010

Raspberry Days 2010 or God's Trying to Give Me a Stroke

It was the day I had been anticipating ever since I put in my application as a vendor for Raspberry Days. 150+ hours of planning, buying, cutting, sewing, ironing, stitching, sorting, stickering, packaging and ignoring my children, husband, home and all other responsibilities resulted in this....

701 finished ties neatly displayed on my gridwall, eagerly anticipating some wide-eyed little boy, fashion-conscious mother, or doting grandma to take them to their new home. I invited my experienced craft fair friend, Eden, along for the ride, as well as my fabulous photographer, Jen, in the hopes that she would get some new leads as well.

Day 1 was nerve-racking, to say the least. Having never tried to sell my ties outside the anonymity of the world wide web, I tried to prepare myself for the possibility of negative feedback and zero sales. I was sure a stroke was inevitable, but Eden and I were able to set up the booth in a matter of only a couple of hours, which would prove to be useful information later on.....

In the vendor world, Thursdays are generally known to be the slowest day, so when sales were scattered and much lower than I'd hoped, I tried to remember the other vendors chanting, "Sa-tur-day! Sa-tur-day!" at our mandatory meeting the first night. Apparently, all vendors LIVE for Saturday, so I tried to remain calm about the slow foot traffic all day.

I had actually anticipated removing all my inventory nightly, then returning it every morning, but Search and Rescue was on hand all weekend to provide security throughout the night, so it was a welcomed relief not to have to do so much extra work. Since the fair opened at 10:00, we slept in a little (how heavenly!), took our time getting ready (yep--showered and all!), and arrived back at the booth a little after 9:00--just in time to discover that the Bear Lake wind had blown over our whole display sometime in the night!!!! We had less than an hour to set it all back up again, and literally just shook our heads as we picked up every tie, dusted each one off and replaced them all, along with all the hooks and signs. Since this was our second time doing setup, it went much more quickly, and we finished just in time to welcome our first customers around 10:00. I hadn't planned on starting to sweat that early in the day. Had I known what was coming later on, I surely wouldn't have chosen to wear my cute, white eyelet skirt along with these little babies I found for a $9 steal at Payless.

Around 5:30 or so, the wind really started picking up. We could see the dark clouds moving in over the mountains to the west, but really didn't think much of it since the previous afternoon "blessed" us with a few showers as well. Then it hit. For about 30-40 minutes straight, hurricane-force winds blew unforgivingly through our little tent city, snapping awnings like they were uncooked spaghetti (including ours), sending merchandise crashing to the asphalt, and sending people into a full-on screaming panic. Eden ran for the awning to try to hold it down, while I stood in front of the display, pushing against it with everything I had, just to keep it from pinning me underneath all its once benign hooks. I was nearly knocked down twice by stronger wind than I had ever before felt in my life, and I'm still in shock that I was able to hold it up while wearing those 3-inch heels. (Those of you who know what my ankles are like can marvel with me.)

I knew we needed to get the tarp off the sides and off the top, but I couldn't let go of the wall or it most assuredly would have impaled me in at least 15 different places, and Eden couldn't let go of the awning, or the wind would've swept the awning into the wall and it would've landed on the both of us. I kept wondering when the tornado was going to actually hit as I saw dust and debris flying sideways past the door of the tarp, and Eden was trying to strategically figure out at what point we should just run. That's when the firemen rushed over and literally cut the tarps off with a pocket knife, sending the wind rushing through the gridwall, and the ties FLYING. We were able to get the wall with its remaining ties to lay down, but by then it was raining pretty hard on us, so we started grabbing them and shoving them under the cut tarp to prevent the rest from flying away, and to keep them from getting soaked in the storm. Eden had the good sense to make me get my camera out to document it all, and I'm so glad I did.
Eden--shoving ties under the tarp.

Our neighbors, under their mangled awning, trying to gather and save all their silk skirts.

More vendors trying to brace their walls.
Our cute little neighbor and the table she hid under while everything fell around her.

Did that seriously just happen?

Laughing--what else could we do at this point?

Laying on the tarp as the wind picked up again, trying to save my ties, and holding another vendor's tie (totally not as cute as mine--trust me) that blew into my pile. Hope the irony is not lost on you.

While I'm laying there on top of the ties, I look across from us to the Kettle Corn people who have just dropped their awning and are trying to secure all their stuff. This guy in the white shirt walks up and asks to buy some kettle corn--right in the middle of Hurricane Hilda!!! I thought I was going to DIE!!!!! So of course, I took a picture to send to her so she could remember the most idiotic customer she's ever had.

These next few are of us after we've run everything back to the van amidst the downpour, with the help of the band's bass player who, after helping, tried to flirt with me in the middle of the monsoon. I'm just surrounded by crazies!!!

We got back over to Grandma's house with all our stuff loaded in the van, and plopped the tarp on her tile floor to sort through. I was convinced I'd lost most of my inventory, either to the wind carrying them out to the lake, or to the filthy asphalt that they were smashed into by the helpful firemen.
To my surprise, only 2 of the ones we recovered weren't in good enough shape for me to sell--miraculous!!! Eden and I set up a little ironing station, complete with Grandma's non-adjustable ironing board and two irons. We propped ourselves up onto other chair cushions and proceeded to iron all the ties. Every. Single. One.

"Are your ties very durable?" I've been asked. Now I can--without hesitation--give a resounding, "YES!!!"

The following morning came very quickly, and we got to the fair by about 7:30 to set up......for the third time. We did our best to rig the broken awning and reconfigured the space so that the ties were in the corner, instead of just along the back wall, that way we could secure the wall to the awning and hopefully prevent it from tipping over again.

The vendors were right about Saturday. We sold more than twice the amount we had on either Thursday or Friday, and LOTS of people were very interested in ordering online. (Which is fine with me--people buy more when they can slap it on their credit card!) One girl even recognized PickleFace Place from the internet, and said she'd been dying to buy one of my ties for months! How cool is that???

Despite the PTSD that stayed with us on Saturday, and swelled every time a gust of wind came up, it was a good day, and I'm SOOOO excited about the ideas I have for my booth for next year! (Yes, I'll be doing it again. I'm pretty sure I've already survived the worst fair experience ever.)

And this is me, now that it's finally all over.


megmom5 said...

Oh wow! What a story! FYI, next year hang bags of sand from every corner of your awning. It will hold it down in the worst wind. Can't wait to hear about it when you call me (hint hint). :)

Fiddlefish said...

I teared-up when I read this post. You busted your butt for this event! I seriously am so impressed that despite all of that you STILL IRONED ALL THE TIES again. You are absolutely amazing. I hope the event was a success for you, and that you get many on-line customers. My little man wore one of your ties again today (the paisley one). Love, love, love them.

Jonesy said...

Megan--the awning was already weighted down with sandbags....yep.

Tasha said...

Wow Amanda! What a weekend! Since hanging out with Mike on Wednesday, we've been anxious to hear how many you were able to sell. Can you give us a total? I'm so glad they weren't ruined. What a scare. We had a good time with your girls at the game. They sure are good helpers!

Lorien said...

Wow Amanda! You roll with the punches like no one I know. You are amazing!!