Behind The Scenes: Preparing for an Outdoor Show

Oh, the things that can go wrong with an outdoor show! Wind that blows your art away, rain that soaks your jewelry down (hello, tarnish!), sun that burns you, the artist, to a crisp... That's why I've been avoiding outdoor shows like a plague for many years.

After moving to Montana, I discovered to my dismay that the main show season runs during the months of July and August, and most of the shows (at least most of the best shows in the state) are held outdoors. Fellow Montanans, don't take me wrong! I fully understand: you want to spend every available moment outdoors before the long winter sets in again, but please, think about your tired, hot, dusty, or rain soaked local artists, and have pity.


So, I decided I'd first start on a small scale and check out some local events before investing into all that expensive outdoor gear needed to protect myself and my products from the elements. The third Sunday in June, I did a little stint at the Kalispell Brewery Bier Garten and Market in downtown Kalispell. The quick 4-hour Market was the perfect way to dip my toes into the world of outdoor shows.

Two things I had to remember about setting up an outdoor show booth were protection for the products and protection for yours truly, the artist, vendor, or whatever you want to call me. As I didn't have a canopy to set my displays and wares under, I had to see if I could borrow one. Thank goodness for friends and Swiss Gear! I managed to borrow a Swiss Gear 10 ft by 10ft canopy from some friends from church, and boy, did it save my proverbial bacon. The weather forecast two weeks ahead of the event looked promising, but then a cold front came through bringing with it wind and rain, so having a shelter of some sort became a priority. In the span of four hours on the day of the show, we had a downpour, some blazing sunshine, and 30 mile per hour wind gusts with a fairly strong (at least strong enough to lift lightweight items) sustained winds too.

The second thing I had to think about was how I should dress. I counted on warm weather and wearing my jeans, boots, and a denim shirt, but with the daily highs dropping into the low 60's, I had to change plans or I'd freeze my behind off. So, out came the long-sleeved fleece top, and I still had to dance around my booth at times to keep myself warm.

Planning on a quick setup and tear-down is also important for outdoor shows, especially the smaller ones. Most big shows would give vendors a whole extra day (or at least 3-4 extra hours) to set up the booth, but with quick events like this one, consider yourself lucky if you get an hour. That's why I had to decide in advance what will go exactly where, and to set my jewelry on busts and displays before arriving at the venue, so I could just quickly whip them out and set them in their spots on the table. Huuuge time saver!

So, now that the first of my little summer outdoor events is done, I'm still not sure if I'll consider applying for bigger outdoor shows in 2020. I've got a couple more small, local events to do before making that decision. What I can say off the bat is that the same setup I use for my indoor shows doesn't really work with outdoor ones. So, do I want to invest in two different show booth setups? That remains to be seen.

If you'd like to come by and see me at one (or more) of my live events this year, make sure you check the schedule by clicking the button below. This summer, I'll be hanging around places in Kalispell, Missoula, and Lewistown. Who knows where the show winds take me next year?

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