Saturday, August 29, 2009

Street Fairs and Such

(crossposted at BlogHer)

Last Saturday I spent a couple hours walking downtown Oakland where the Chinatown Street Fair has being held. The notice had mentioned a number of craftspeople- I was curious to see who showed up and what they offered.

Walking the the several blocks closed (mostly) to traffic, I spotted a wide number of booths selling specific manufactured products and local services, there were only a couple stands offering anything that I would interpret as "craft". All were mainly jewelry booths and the items still appeared to be manufactured elsewhere; the street-fair sellers were only the final retailers. I enjoyed the experience for it was- a chance for individuals to sell their goods and services in a specific market- but did not stay as long as I had anticipated.

I was disappointed. This disappointment extended to the next day when I had planned to head into the city for another street festival: Rock/Make which sounded much more like it would offer my idea of vendors selling artisan crafts. When I awoke to cold wind and fog that did not clear, Saturday's disappointment made it harder to spend the time and energy to head into the city for a questionable experience.

I stayed home. And I'm still regretting it.

While this is nearing the end of the festivals that pop up in cities from early spring until often late in October, holiday craft fairs are just around the corner. How do you decide which ones are worth while and which ones can be ignored?

For me, the first decider is always a balance of the ease of getting there and time involved. Do I have to drive, or is mass-transit easily available? Can parking be found easily and without costing a lot? If I'm likely to spend half a day or more at a location, I'm more willing to consider the activity. However, if it takes me an hour to get somewhere and I spend only an hour or so there? So not worth my total time spent. I have to knead out the time value from often very vague words in the advertising. Which often makes it easier to simply dismiss the idea.

After the time/distance considerations, I look at the cost. Is it free or do I need to start with an admission fee? While admission often insures a quality experience, it also decreases the total money that I have to consider spending on crafters/artists. Are the vendors juried in? Judged? Or simply added by their willing to pay their own entry fee?

The third determinant is rather vague. What is the day/weekend/week like? Have been stuck indoors and would welcome any excuse to walk among a crowd for a couple hours? Is it raining? Will it take place in a building that is likely to be hot, overcrowded, and too noisy? Am I going alone or with someone?

How do you decide which fairs and festivals to attend?

In Related News:

The NYTimes has found that many unemployed individuals are turning to their crafting hobbies to help make ends meet. They are calling these news business owners "accidental entrepreneurs."

Anna at Knit-Write agrees with me, however, that some days are for street fairs.

There were no fiber artists this year – there never are (which is, perhaps, a niche I could take advantage of), but there was an incense maker whom we talked with for a while. It’s always very pleasant to meet other paganfolk. And a broom and candle seller we know from the flea market was there – they had their little doggy as well, and Tommy and the yorkie got to play while we visited. We came away with happily renewed acquaintances and some candles and incense that smell lovely!

Eva T. remembered past summers fondly but is Falling for Fall at the tail-end of Summer:
As a young adult, even without summer vacation (and with the
frustration of being stuck behind a desk at a boring day job when I
longed to be out in the sun) I still liked summer best. The weather
alone was reason enough for someone as outdoorsy as I (yes, even in the
city.) There was a carnival atmosphere that I loved, especially with
the proliferation of street fairs (some New Yorkers hate those but I
can't get enough of them.)

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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