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.
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.
8:40 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.
8:41:37 a.m.: I no longer look adorable.
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.
9:50 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.
10:30 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…
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.
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.
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.
5:17 p.m.: I’m. So. Bored.
5:26 p.m.: Text Shana.
5:42 p.m.: Text Shana.
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…
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.
6:39 p.m.: Leslie calls me back, and bless her forever, says she will be right there.
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.
Renegade Craft Fair, Day 2: September 14, 2008.
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…”
4:20 p.m.: The sun comes out for almost an hour!
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.