I’m finally getting around to blogging the whole Renegade experience from mid-September. My plan was to intersperse the photographs with the narrative, but it’s proving almost impossible to make that happen on my very slow computer, so the pictures are posted below. There’s also a short video that I’m hoping I can post to flickr – if I can, I’ll add the link here. It’s taken me this long in part because I’ve been really busy, and in part because I wanted to do it in little timestamp installments. Kinda like a play-by-play horror show. Imagine, if you will, a dramatic two-note signature tune as segue, a la Law & Order.
The Bad Beginning (with apologies to Lemony Snicket).
Approximately 1:00 p.m., Friday, September 12 – one day before Renegade: I get the official email. “Hi! Just a reminder that Renegade is tomorrow, and we’re really excited and it’s supposed to rain, and oh, by the way, people who rented tents, your tents don’t have sidewalls so you might want to pick up some dropcloths. See you there!” Now, this is information I could have used quite some time ago, as opposed to less than 24 hours before showtime. Say, for instance, when I rented the tent. Which was described as a tent, not a canopy. I am, at this point, coming off of two months of prepwork and stress for this event, and so I have a small meltdown and shriek for a while. But then I take a deep breath, get over it, and decide that maybe it’ll work if I hang shower curtains for sidewalls. More on that later.
Renegade Craft Fair, Day 1: September 13, 2008.
8:30 a.m.: I’m up, I’m showered and dressed, and waiting for my ride to buzz me from the lobby. I’m seriously prepared. I also look adorable. Normally I’m an air-dry girl, but I actually bothered to blow dry my hair this morning.
8:32 a.m.: It looks pretty drizzly outside. I know it’s supposed to be overcast all weekend, but it rained hard overnight and it looks like it’s still kinda drippy. Oh well. With a little luck, it’ll clear up by the time we’re setting up. Note: This timestamp is momentous, as it marks the first and last time that the words “a little luck” were applied to the events of Renegade weekend.
8:40 a.m.: Diane calls my cell phone and says she’s outside, and I start moving stuff down to the lobby. Leslie calls to say she’s on her way over to go with us and help unload the truck.
8:41 a.m.: I step outside with an armful of boxes, and it begins to pour heavy, driving sheets of rain.
8:41:37 a.m.: I no longer look adorable.
9:30 a.m.: They take down the barricades and let us drive through onto Division to start unloading and setting up. I’ve rented a tent (see The Bad Beginning, above), so I don’t have to struggle through putting the tent up in the rain. Many, many other people are not so fortunate. I do, however, have to find my booth. Tents and lots are not numbered or marked at all, so I count up from the nearest street corner on my little Renegade map and hope I’m in the right booth. We start unloading boxes onto the soaking wet pavement, and Leslie and I go off to find and carry my rental table and chairs through the (still heavy, driving) rain back to my booth. They take off (Leslie will come back later to help out), and I start setting up.
9:40 a.m.: I’m standing in the middle of a sodden pile of boxes with a roll of paper towels in one hand and a bundle of rope in the other, trying to figure out how to proceed.
9:48 a.m.: Still standing there…
9:50 a.m.: I get my act together enough to start hanging up white shower curtains all around my booth for walls. This sounds fairly simple, but I’m short, so it’s not. I manage to get two of them up, but they’re very lightweight and they don’t even reach all the way down to the ground, and there’s a pretty stiff breeze. Instead of acting as shielding walls, my shower curtains are blowing straight into the middle of my tent, efficiently funneling rainwater into the one area which had previously remained fairly dry, and slapping me in the head while they’re at it. I take them down and abandon the whole concept of sidewalls. I’ll just have to stay as close to the middle of the tent as possible.
10:00 a.m.: Booths around me start filling up. Fortunately, my neighboring crafters are old pros who have brought heavy dropcloths that provide some protection between our booths from the rain. They don’t look great, but they definitely do the trick, and I start to feel a little better.
10:30 a.m.: I find that the large metal grate I’m planning to use for an earring display will not work. The earring cards have absorbed so much moisture from the air that they just sag right off the grate. The ones that manage to cling on are blown off by the wind. Gotta work on a Plan B. It’s getting harder to focus. I’m soaked to the bone and I’m just realizing I’ve had no coffee…
10:45 a.m.: Shana and Shawn have arrived and are setting up their booth about a block up the street. I run up there to borrow Shana’s dressform and struggle back with it under my arm, as dry as possible under the woefully inadequate pocket umbrella I brought. I am, by now, completely bedraggled – soaked and sweaty and dirty. Shana, somehow, still looks dry and adorable, despite having to actually set up her tent.
11:00 a.m.: The booth that backs on mine is occupied by the friendly and talented Citizen Shay; they soon discover that the roof on their tent has not been tightly attached, and it’s rapidly collecting rainwater in a little canvas gulley that’s threatening to collapse and rain chaos down on their prints. To prevent disaster, they have to empty the water off the roof, but when they do that it’s going to come cascading down the dropcloth into my tent. Everything I’m storing under my table is already in giant plastic recycling bags, so that’s no big deal. I move the table and chairs as far away from the back wall as possible and sound the all-clear. Using umbrellas to push the canvas roof up and dislodge the water, Citizen Shay clears their roof, and literal gallons of water come pouring down the dropcloth at the back wall of my booth and run under the table and down the street to the storm drains. Over the course of two days, we perfected this maneuver by repeating it 6 or 7 times, and eventually I managed to capture it on film.
Noon: The barricades are opened, and people start coming in to shop. And believe it or not, there are actually plenty of people out, in spite of the filthy weather. Leslie comes back to help out, and Archy comes with her. “Help out,” for the purposes of this event, means “sit next to me holding a sodden and shivering puppy. Offer calm and cheerful moral support, and sympathy for how wet and demoralized I am. Also, could you get me a coffee?” She performs these tasks to perfection.
1:00ish p.m.: One Chicago Street Team member springs matching leaks on either side of her roof. She successfully and neatly patches them with electrical tape and soldiers on.
2:00ish p.m.: Another Chicago Street Team member suffers a roof leak directly onto their credit card machine, which shorts out.
4:00ish p.m.: The wind picks up and one of the sidewalls of Shana’s tent blows down. She’s forced to stand outside in the chilly wet and hold the tentpole to prevent it from sailing away altogether.
1-5:00 p.m.: I sell a handful of earrings, but it’s never busy enough to need more than person in the booth at a time, so we take turns wandering around and looking at everyone else’s stuff, or getting lunch, or finding somewhere to sit down and warm up for a little while. I’m actually enjoying this part of the day, and I get to see a lot of cool stuff and meet a lot of people, including some customers and artists that I’ve corresponded with but never actually met. Around 5, Leslie and Archy are ready to go home and dry out, so they let me get some food and one last bathroom break and then they take off.
5:17 p.m.: I’m. So. Bored.
5:19 p.m.: Text Shana.
5:26 p.m.: Text Shana.
5:29 p.m.: Text Kaitlyn, Leslie, Matthew, Michael, Jenny, Diane, JP, Faith, Tim, Allie, Adrianne and someone named Meghan who is in my phone but I have no idea who she is.
5:42 p.m.: Text Shana.
5:47 p.m.: Perform roof-purging maneuver. Dry off chair. Sit back down.
5:49 p.m.: I haven’t sold anything in over two hours, although I’ve handed out tons of business cards so it’s not a total loss…
5:55 p.m.: Sell a pair of earrings.
6:00 p.m.: Even though it’s only early fall, it’s been pouring steadily all day and it’s starting to get very dark out. The streetlight closest to my booth is out, and it’s already pretty hard to see. I’ve rented electricity, but we were told it was too wet to set up and so I’m basically sitting there in the dark. Officially, we’re open until 10 p.m., but there’s no way I’m going to sit here that long. The original plan had been to meet up with several other Chicago people and go out for a very large drink, but the general consensus by now is that damp crankiness has won out and we’re all going home at 8ish.
6:38 p.m.: I can’t see anything at all anymore, so I pack up in the dark and call Leslie. She doesn’t pick up. I leave a message of extreme pathos regarding my stranded position in utter darkness, then hang up and sit in the dark.
6:39 p.m.: Leslie calls me back, and bless her forever, says she will be right there.
7:40 p.m.: Get back home, peel off melted clothing, dry hair and collapse on the floor.
8:00-9:30 p.m.: Repackage everything that got wet, using new backing cards and mylar sleeves. Streamline my supplies – I took a lot of stuff I didn’t need and forgot some stuff I did.
10:00 p.m.: Crawl into bed and pass out cold.
Renegade Craft Fair, Day 2: September 14, 2008.
8:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.: Repeat.
10:30 a.m.: Shana came around with truly excellent Bloody Marys (stay me, oh comfort me!) while I was setting up on Sunday morning, and that got the day off to a much better start. I had a lot less extraneous stuff with me, and my packaging and displays were much better, which helped as well. It still pours first thing in the morning and during setup, but eases off around late morning. And then the temperature drops 15 degrees. A very sweet girl I don't know asks me if I want to borrow a sweatshirt. "Seriously, I just live right there, I can run upstairs..."
1:00-4:00 p.m.: Jenny comes to perform the task of sitting next to me and being calm and thoughtful and allowing me to wander off and stretch my legs. My girlfriends are my personal heroes.
4:20 p.m.: The sun comes out for almost an hour!
5:00 p.m.: City officials declare a county-wide state of emergency due to flooding. Still sitting outside…
7:30 p.m.: Still no electricity. There’s a rumor floating around that they’re going to turn it on, but with two and a half hours left to go, it doesn’t seem worth it to stick around. It’s freezing cold and the foot traffic has dwindled down to almost nothing. I pack up and go home. (voice of Strong Bad): It’s over!
All in all, in spite of the horrors, and in spite of selling fewer than 20 things, I enjoyed myself in a couple of places. I met really great people; circumstances like this build really great rapport, and crafters are great at finding solutions to insoluble problems. I learned a huge amount about what to do for my next craft fair (and what not to do), and I’m also pretty much guaranteed to never have a worse craft fair (I know, I’m tempting fate with that one…). And anyone who was there can now consider it a badge of honor to have survived.