I have the subtle stamina of a marketing campaign. I have the tenacity of a beaver. I have the productivity of an entire bee hive. I can do this. I have Earl Grey brewed by the gallon and quinoa cooked seven different ways. Orange juice. Check. Organic corn chips. Check.
Heathcote Earthings is appearing at five county and state fairs from now till the end of September, about sixty fourteen hour days in a row without a break. In the whirlwind, I’ll be squeezing in trips to Kentucky, Virginia and California to spend time with significant others. I have a feeling I’ll be the needy one…
Why torture myself to sell crystals and smudge sticks between pig races and tractor pulls? Well, I will mention that when I scheduled this, I didn’t know that by the summer I’d have three long distance polyamorous relationships, with sweeties visiting me at Heathcote and inviting me to travel to and fro. We at Earthings have been exploring county fairs for a while. It’s wonderful to be set up in one place for eight to eleven days, almost like have our own brick and mortar! So it’s an evolution that is an outgrowth of our genesis. (Anybody else enjoying that juxtaposition?)
I’ve been working with my friends Herb and Rita Jane from Crystal Cottage in their booth at the Maryland State Fair. They’ve been in the same southeast corner of the Exhibition Hall for about twenty-five years and I’ve been having a blast helping them for maybe eight. They operate a brick and mortar in Tanglewood Mall, Roanoke, Virginia, about half the year. That allows them to travel, garden, make jewelry and do volunteer work for School of Living through the summers.
Crystal Cottage is my inspiration and model for Earthings. When I discovered tumbled gemstones and soaked up their names and meanings, when I discovered glass teardrops, gemstone donuts, Swarovski Austrian crystal prisms, etc., I knew I had the spark to sell them. And when I saw how people from all far flung walks of life were drawn to gemstones with such awe, as if gemstones made them remember something forgotten, as if all the colors, banding, mottling, inclusions and fissures were a lost language, a key to some universe, I knew there was value in putting nature’s art work in front of the public.
Earthings started with the Howard County (Maryland) Fair. Last year we added the York (Pennsylvania) Fair. This year we’re trying Cecil County (Maryland) and Bloomsburg (Pennsylvania). Crazy enough? No! While I’m visiting my mom in Kentucky I’ll help her with her Harmony Habitat booth at the Kentucky State Fair!
Our goal is to determine if we can find enough customers while moving and schlepping less. Some fairs and some festivals are better than others. For example, we’re missing Baltimore’s Artscape to attend Cecil County Fair. We’ll see how they compare.
I’m amused to see our goddess batiks and bumper stickers like “Come the rapture, can I have your car?” in the same hall with a Gideon Bible booth and church groups, with the Boy Scouts selling ice cream on waffle sandwiches outside.
Surviving a mission like this is all about planning, flexibility, good food and sleep. I have several vendor secrets:
- Good shoes. Fourteen hour days on concrete floors in unairconditioned buildings can melt you from the soles up. Crocs are good. So are nursing shoes and walking or hiking shoes.
- Rubber mats and carpeting. I carpet my booth with institutional rubber mats at the stations where staff stand for long hours. Often the isleways of my booth are carpeted to give customers and staff a break from brutal concrete.
- Fans. I point fans where I’m stationed and customer areas. Shoppers really appreciate it!!! If you’re a vendor, pay the silly overpriced electric fee that the facility charges if the hall is unairconditioned.
- Food. Bring your own food. Fair food is not designed to sustain life. It is designed to teach you humility when you ride the midway. Since I’m vegetarian, almost vegan, I seriously have to bring my own food. Fair fare is all fried flesh, broiled flesh, grilled flesh, flesh-on-a-stick, you get the idea. Often even the french fries have been cooked in the same vat with chicken fingers, fish things, etc., and are not strictly vegetarian. These food vendors are working from a very mysterious food pyramid. I can’t fathom it.
- Water. Bring it. Bottled water at fairs is often three dollars and you’ll need lots of it.
I can’t wait to see what happens next. I have a sweetie arriving tomorrow. I hope he likes Ferris Wheels!