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On Being an Event Merchant: First Things First

Updated: Jul 22, 2022

I’ve been casting about for a post idea that might actually be interesting and informative, not just me blathering on, because it’s far too early to start doing that. This morning, a picture from one of my previous shows popped up in my Facebook memories, so I thought, “Why not?”

This post draft started out as a single post, but as it started pouring out onto the screen, I realized how much there is to tell! So this will be another series that I hope will be as entertaining as it is educational. Maybe it will give someone out there enough confidence and knowledge to take that first leap and do a show as well. I am happy to answer questions along the way!

If you have ever been to an art show, a Renaissance Faire, a street fair, in the Dealer’s Room at a convention, or at a similar event, but have never done a show with your own products, you may not realize how much work is involved for each individual booth or table. This series will be from the perspective of an artisan who makes 90% of my product and carefully coordinates the remaining 10%. I do not have experience as a buy/sell or multi-level marketing vendor. (Think Tupperware, Mary Kay, glass cleaner, or imported resale goods.)

My goal in this series is to help you understand everything that goes into doing an event. It’s hard work, it’s rewarding work, and most of us who do events find that the rewards far outweigh the challenges.

And so we begin.

In a normal year, I do around 20 events. These include basic holiday and Christmas events; reenactment- and fantasy-style events that include Viking age, pioneer-era trappers, and everything in between; goth and Halloween-themed events; fiber festivals; church bazaars; art shows. Sometimes my husband comes along to help, sometimes we bring some sheep, and sometimes I’m a one-woman show.

My neighbors, audience, and the event organizers change with every event. It isn’t like the circus, where everyone travels together, but in many cases, some of us are like extended family that come together for major life events, catch up briefly, then go back to our daily lives. I am fortunate to have several of these “families” of various sizes for several shows. You hold each other’s guy lines during setup in a windstorm, watch each other’s booths when someone needs a potty break, help break a $50 for someone else.

This variety also means being knowledgeable about not only my own product but how it fits in with the type of show I’ve chosen to do. I have to educate myself on appropriate costume and either make or purchase what I need to wear for specific event requirements. Costumes are not provided.

Booth décor is also important. There is also maintenance to be done annually or repairs needed between shows. Each artisan is responsible for maintaining or replacing their own equipment.

Next week, we’ll talk about event costs! (Hint: you might want to sit down for it.)

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