The Glamorous Life of the Vagabond Artist

A couple of times a month, I pack up my vehicle and trailer, and head out to work for the weekend.  Work (yes, doubters, it really is work!) is also known as Art Show, Art Fair, Art Fest, or one of the many other names promoters and organizers come up with for their event.  My tent is really a “temporary boutique”…a shop in a new town every week!
I know it sounds glamorous, traveling to all sorts of wonderful places, meeting all kinds of interesting people, hanging out with other artists all day.  Sometimes things go smoothly and fabulously!  Sometimes, not so much.  Here’s a peek into my glamorous life last weekend.

Day 1: Saturday.  One day show scheduled for Sunday about 180 miles from home.  According to the organizer, we can’t set up until 7 p.m.  on Saturday night.  I am meeting two jewelry artist friends at our hotel at 6 p.m.  I plan to leave the house at 2:30 (mapquest says it’s a 3-hour trip), but of course, I’m a little late getting out.

Saturday 3:00 p.m .   On the road with a full tank of fuel.  Hubby wants me to try out a new truck to pull my trailer.  I’m not thrilled, but it’s got more power than my car.  I make it through Omaha and Lincoln traffic with little trouble, and am on my way west!  I sing my little song – Art Fair, Art Fair, we’re going to the Art Fair! – for luck.

Saturday 4:30 p.m.  Big ugly noise from behind my truck.  I look back and see flying pieces of tire.  Pull over on the side of I-80 and get out.  The tire on the passenger side of my trailer is SHREDDED.  Not flat, not falling apart, it looks like some sort of black alien jellyfish.  It takes me a few minutes of shock and disbelief before I realize the fender on that side of the trailer is MIA too.  Call my friends Jan and Lynn, they are just a few miles behind me and will be right along.  I begin jacking up the trailer.  Did I mention the temp is hovering just over 90?

Saturday 6:30 p.m.  I won’t bore you with the details…but three women, with the right tools, CAN change a tire on the shoulder of the interstate whilst semis, cars, trucks, and buses whiz by at 75+ MPH.  It’s not fun, but it can be done.

Safe & sound at home.

Trailer damage

Saturday 6:40 p.m.  I pick two ticks out of my hair.  This is in addition to the four Jan picked off my jeans while we were changing tires.  I am not amused, I find ticks to be the most vile creatures on earth.  Yes, birds eat them, but birds can eat other things.  TICKS SERVE NO PURPOSE.  I am hot, sweaty, and feel like there are ticks crawling all over me.

Saturday 7:00 p.m.  Wal-Mart in York, NE has the most awesome tire & lube department ever.  I am out with a brand new spare tire, all the tires aired up, and $80 poorer in a matter of minutes.   I sing “On the Road Again”, things are going well!

Saturday 8:30 p.m.  Arrive at the destination, we decide yes, we will go to the park, set up tents quickly, grab a bite to eat and go to bed semi-early.  How hard is it to set up three tents, after all?  We are pros!!

Saturday 8:45 p.m.  Arrive at the park where the art show will be.  Find our spaces, split up to unload vehicles.   “Art Fair, Art Fair, we’re going to the Art Fair!”  Jan and Lynn are in great spots, and I’m in what will be a nice shady place under a tree.  Only problem is, the tree encroaches my space.   A huge branch, about 8′ off the ground, will be smack dab where the top of my tent should be.  This isn’t going to work.

Saturday 10:03 p.m.  After calling many numbers (one disconnected, one nice guy named Doyle who didn’t know anything but was sure willing to help) and getting no answers, I get permission from Doyle to put my tent in a location near the center of the park and by a sidewalk.  Hot, sweaty (it’s still nearly 90 and probably 90% humidity), tired, hungry to the point of shakes, and mosquito-bite ridden, I head back toward the hotel in search of food.

Saturday 10:13 p.m.  Arrive at hotel in crew cab truck with trailer.  See Taco Bell next to hotel, decide to park truck/trailer and walk over.  The door to Taco Bell is locked (they close at 10?!) but the drive thru window is open.  There is a pretty long line of cars, but I really don’t want to get back in my truck and try to find something else.  Besides, I am beyond soaking wet with sweat, hungry to the point that if I don’t eat soon I will be sick, and dead tired.  Working outside in the heat and humidity is really taking it’s toll.

Saturday 10:18 p.m.  Taco Bell voice on the drive-thru speaker informs me “WE DON’T TAKE WALK UPS”.  I politely say that my large truck and trailer are parked at the hotel and I just want some food.  I place my order and wait.  No response.  I ask after a few minutes if they got my order and am told once again “WE DON’T TAKE WALKUPS”.

Now, I know I do not look or smell all that attractive right now, but I have a purse (with money) and really need food badly.  After the day I’ve had, I crack and start to choke up, walking away from Taco Bell with tears in my eyes and cursing at the 17-year-old that has the unfortunate timing of opening the back door to take out trash as the sweaty, exhausted, and hungry crazy lady takes the Walk of Shame.  (I’m not proud of yelling at her, but I was pretty upset at this point…just take my money and give me a taco, FCOL!!)

Saturday 11:00 p.m.  Food from Wendy’s (also next to the hotel, I was so tired I didn’t even see it).  Drank 1/2 of a large iced tea in a matter of seconds (I felt like that Gatorade commercial where the athlete replenishes their body fluids).  In bed, attempting to sleep.  Sometime later, Jan calls the front desk to ask if they can request that the party next door (screaming, laughing, pounding on walls) will quiet down so we can sleep.

Sunday 6:30 a.m.  Up, showered (again), dressed in decent clothes for the day’s festivities.  I’m still singing the Art Fair song, it’s a new day.   I arrive at the location and begin taking down the sides of my tent in anticipation of 90+ degree temps with high humidity again.

Sunday 6:40 a.m.  A man comes up to me and tells me I’m in the wrong place and need to move my tent to the proper place.  I try to tell him about the tree branch and my discussions with Doyle, but he doesn’t care.  He goes to get Dan, the organizer.  Dan arrives, and nicely but firmly tells me I can’t have my tent in that spot – it will interfere with his traffic flow.  This is BS, it won’t, and later in the day, I see he puts the artist check in and info table in this exact spot.  :sigh:  He offers up another spot, which is fine, but means I have to move my tent for the third time, along with all my stuff.

Sunday 9:00 a.m.  Show time!  I’m set up, sweaty (again) but hydrated and have eaten.  The kid next to me has “interesting” paintings; he and his friends say “dude” a lot, play music and burn incense all day.  They are nice neighbors.  It’s hot, and as the day progresses, there is no amount of shade, handheld fans or ice-water cooled towels that will beat the heat.  I like hot weather, but 98 plus high humidity is just sort of stupid.

I keep smiling and laughing, joking about the heat and telling customers to think about us poor artists when they return to their air-conditioned homes.  We all drink lots of water, try to stay semi-cool and at 5:00 are glad to tear down and pack up.  The crowds were pretty good, especially in the morning.  Dan (the organizer) stops by a couple of times to be sure my (third) location is suitable.  During the course of the day, I met a lot of interesting people and made contacts in an area that I haven’t been to before.  It takes me an hour to tear down (jewelry and displays packed, table coverings folded, tables folded, four 60 lb weights removed from the tent corners, tent folded) and re-pack everything in the trailer.

Sunday 6:04 p.m.  Ready to roll.  I call my husband and let him know I’m on my way.   I brace him for the trailer damage and ask him to put a bottle of wine in the fridge, stop at Burger King for a gourmet dinner (to be eaten on the road) and take off.  By 9:30 p.m., I’m home without further drama (thank goodness!), showered, changed, and sipping a small glass of Moscato.

Art Fair, Art Fair, we’re going to the Art Fair!  Anyone want to join me on my next trip? 😉

Words to live by!