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Outdoor Show Survival ~

Art & Craft Shows, Fairs & Festivals

Information for Craftsmen & Artists


    Outdoor shows are not for everyone.  If your product is fragile or will sun fade, or if you have allergies or suffer from weather extremes, you may prefer to do only indoor shows.

   For those who want to try outdoor shows, a few precautions and the following gear should help you survive and enjoy them.  Check this list against your own, there may be one or two things here you’ve overlooked.

  • Don‘t wear aftershave, perfume, or perfumed deodorant, hair spray, etc. Yellow jackets and bees are a problem, especially August through October.
  • Sunscreen, and a hat with a four-inch or wider brim . Baseball hats aren’t enough protection, they leave your ears and neck exposed.  When they’re turned around to protect your neck, it leaves your face exposed.  Don't wear after-shave, perfume, or scented hairspray or deoderant, it attracts bees. 
  •   Dark glasses.  You can’t smile and be pleasant if you have a blinding headache and a sunburn.


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  • A long-sleeved light-weight garment ; you can get a sunburn through a T-shirt.

  • Sunscreen agent . Use SPF #30, and replace it every few hours. The good news is that it’s effective, -the bad news is that after a year, it loses its screening ability. Buy just a small bottle, unless you have a large family. Throw leftover lotion away at the end of the season.

  • Broad-brim hats:  Hats with a 4-inch or wider are ideal to cover your face, ears and neck.  A baseball cap leaves your ears and neck exposed; if you turn it around to protect your neck, your face will be exposed.  Skin cancer rates are climbing.  Hats are good protection, - in Australia, the law demands that school-age children wear broad-brim hats outdoors because of the rise in skin-cancer, yet Americans seem to be oblivious to these dangers.
  • Boots; the grass is wet in the morning.
  • Take warm gloves , too; we had ice on the water-buckets Memorial Day weekend in Accord, NY, and that’s not even high-country.

  • Comfortable shoes, and an extra pair of socks, so you won‘t have wet feet all day.

  • Sweat-shirts, nylon wind ­jackets . If you dress in layers, you can take them off one at a time, and be comfortable.
  • Tick and insect spray with DEET ; -spray your clothes, not your skin.  OFF brand foam insect repellent is nice on your face, neck and hands and works against most flying insects, but it’s not effective against ticks.
  • Extra clean cloths, and a large towel ; these are wonderful if you are caught in a downpour.
  • Handi-wipes, or wet washcloths in a zip-locked bag.
  • Tissues and paper towels .
  • Large waterproof tarp, or heavy-weight plastic for emergency cover-up of your display; make sure everything is dry before you pack them away, or everything will smell musty!
  • A package of clip-type clothes-pins to anchor plastic tarps, table covers, etc. in wind and rain.
  • If you have glass display cases, be prepared for dust; pack Windex and paper towels . - If you don’t have glass cases, - what do you need to help you cope with dust?
  • If your eyes suffer from wind, dust, and pollen, buy a bottle of lubricating eye drops , -not the kind that gets ‘the red out!’ There are several excellent brands; the best ones (with few preservatives which can cause allergic reactions) are Hypo Tears, Tears Natural, and Baby Tears. There’s another type that has no preservatives, and comes in a box of 30 ampoules: "Refresh" and "Celluvisc". Celluvisc is more viscous for very irritated and dry eyes.

  • Refresh is made by the same manufacturer, is less viscous, and suitable for sun-stressed or dust-irritated eyes and normal use. The ampoules are tiny, and are sterile until broken open, and store well, (about $12/box 30.) Your eyes are your most precious resource; carry some sort of eye lubricant in your toolbox.
  • Cheapie plastic drop cloths as extra cover ups . They cost about a dollar, and are great in surprise shower.  Drop over your merchandise and clothes-pin in place or weight down as best you can.
  • Large trash bags , for emergency pack-down, and to cover boxes of inventory, etc.
  • Rubber bands, Zip-lock bags .
  • Leveling boards : buy a $5 bundle of wood shingles at a lumberyard/supply center to use as shims, (they break into pieces easily) or use pieces of paneling, or thin plywood; you will never set up on level ground.
  • Hammer/hatchet, rope .
  • Poncho or rain cape to leave in car till needed.
  • Thermos or ice chest with water/juice/soda/coffee, etc. (non­alcoholic beverages.)
  • Blanket, chair, and a rug to stand on in cold weather.
  • Munchies, and real food in case you can't get away.
  • Don’t forget to pack all your gear for indoor shows, too, including extra receipt books and a copy of your show contract stashed in your cashbox where it’s readily accessible in case of a discrepancy.  If you paid for 1 1/2 spaces, a corner space, electricity, etc, your proof is on hand.

Don't forget to include your Sales Tax certificate.  I put my original in my cash box, and post a copy on my display or on the wall behind me, in plain sight to keep the tax people happy.  Packing up, I often forgot to take my cerficate (copy) off the wall, or lost it in my boxes.  My original was safe in my cash box, - that saved my bacon!

     If you’re shopping for a canopy, it must be white for the colors of your product to show true.  It’s heartbreaking to set up with all your beautiful work displayed under a green tarp that casts a bilious green tint over everything.

     To find the best canopy to suit your special needs, network at shows.  Many have special features, e.g. can be set up by one person, are especially sturdy, have options which allow the canopy to fit different size spaces.  It takes a while to know what’s available and decide on the best setup for you. It’s tax deductible, and with proper care, lasts for years!

Happy camping!

Art & Craft Show Yellow Pages, published by Craftmaster News.  It's published quarterly and covers art and crafts shows in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia- and now: New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

 copyright 1998-2006  Betty Chypre All Rights Reserved
This article may not be copied without written permission, in any form, or electronically.

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