Here’s our wrap up post for the Florida Folk Festival this past Memorial Day weekend held at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs, Florida. Since this was our first time attending this event and being vendors everything was a little chaotic to say the least. I am, by nature, a planner and like to have everything lined up before any event we are attending. It helps to keep stress levels down and allows us to enjoy being there. That, in turn, translates into making your customers feel welcome and more willing to buy your wares.
First of all, the event coordinator was very nice but a little slow in the communications department. Mainly, I think she is use to dealing mostly with returning and local vendors. This year we were told on several occasions, that there were not as many returning vendors because the rules had changed. The application is several pages long and used for the musical participants, craft and pioneer demonstrators as well as the craft and food vendors. Most events we have been a part of or looked into had separate applications for each type of participant to simplify the process and not to confuse them with unnecessary sections that do not apply to them. Also, this year each participant had to have a Florida State and National Sexual Predator report run on them. The event personnel ran the reports on the main applicant but the vendor had to run their own on each person who was helping out in their booth or in the group. These reports had to be printed out and included in the application. They did include the link to both sites in the application and it is a free service to the public. Anyone selling products had to have a Florida Sales Tax form on file as well. Finally, you had to submit a CD with pictures of your wares and your booth set-up. This is quite a hefty package to put together. The application dead line was at the end of November of last year. However, since there were not as many craft vendors the deadline was extended all the way up to the last week before the event. This meant we were not told we had been accepted until two weeks prior to the event. The craft vendors only got 2 free tickets for the weekend and a parking pass. We had to buy two tickets for my other helpers.
One great thing they did this year is to have either a flat fee or 15% on gross sales for the vendors. We were not told what the flat fee was until a few days before the event. This year it was $150. You had to pay the flat fee on the day you signed in. Not knowing how well we would do at this event, of course, we opted for the percentage of gross sales. We heard rumors that some of the vendors who didn’t elect to pay the flat fee on the set-up day wanted to opt for that on Sunday because they did so well they didn’t want to pay the percentage. I don’t think that was very sporting of them. Nor should the coordinator have allowed it. The whole point of the vendors fee is to collect enough money to put on the event in the first place. Having the percentage of gross sales is much better for us small craft vendors who haven’t had enough experience or the following to be sure of how much we are going to make. Besides, if we had done enough sales that our fee was greater than $150 we would have gladly forked over the money.
Another thing they did, which is extremely helpful for vendors, is allowed us to come the day before the event and set up shop. Beginning at 10:00 am on Thursday the vendors had to check in at the main park office and get our armbands, parking passes and the Florida Folk Festival Booklet. If we were camping in the campground we would have gone over there to check in and park our RV. Only those who were emailed their tickets could come in to set up. The coordinator was really nice to allow my mom to help us set up on Thursday. We didn’t have enough money to purchase three more tickets and mom couldn’t be in the heat for three days anyway. We then had to check in with the assistant coordinator at the information booth at the auditorium to make sure they had all the information from the application. Apparently, the extra information and a copy of my Florida Sales Tax Revenue form was not received via email and I had to print it out and bring with me the next morning. From there we were escorted to our booth. They sprayed white chalk outlining the booth placements but didn’t put numbers on them. I guess it was a good thing that there were only 13 of us setting up. (Two of the vendors asked to be moved on Saturday to the amphitheater area). It took us a good 4 hours to do most of the booth setup. The next morning we arrived about 9 am so we spent the next hour finishing with the set-up. We still moved things around during the day till we were satisfied with the arrangements. We really need to get that vintage travel trailer made so that we can just pull into our vending slots, open the doors and we are ready to go!
Friday was slow, of course, as everyone was still at work and the kids were in school. We did get a group of older elementary school kids from the local school a couple of blocks from the park. Saturday was extremely busy and we did fairly well. We even had some of our friends from Dade Battlefield Historic State Park in Bushnell, Florida drop by our booth. They were checking out the event to get some ideas for future events at their park. One of volunteers at Dade was tent camping and volunteering for the whole weekend. It is always nice to see old friends. Even though we closed our booth every night at 6 pm we still walked around the park after our hours just to see what we could see. Also we wanted to enjoy the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band that evening. Sadly, we only got to see about half their concert as they got started late and we had to be back at the park at 8:00 am the next day. Sunday was our best day as far as sales. My youngest daughter and I had to break down the booth by ourselves as our helpers had to get back to Jacksonville. It only took about an hour and a half to get everything back into the boxes and loading into the SUV. Of course, the last couple of days has been spent putting everything back into their packages and into their correct storage bins. I also use this time to check my inventory. Anything we sold or cannot find we have to take off our online stores.
In all honesty, we did better than we have at any other event but not as well as we had hoped. I just found out that there were only around 12,000 people in attendance and not the projected 30 to 40,000 they had hoped for. We were busy most of the time with customers and those just looking that we only got to see some of the concerts after we closed up our booth for the day. Sadly, we didn’t even have much time to take pictures of the other vendors booth like we normally do. We did get to chat with those vendors in our area and got some good tips on future events.
Next time we will opt to camp in the park. They had all the musical acts and vendors in the camping area while the volunteers, extra park rangers and security personnel camped in the volunteer village area. We didn’t get to go to the Seminole Village area till after their events stopped for the evening and didn’t see anyone camping in the Tiki Hut area next to the craft village. Most of the locals decided to go home every night. We stayed in a hotel in Jasper, Florida right next to I-75. From what we learned from some of the volunteers and other vendors they had a rocking time in the campground every night with impromptu jam sessions, pot luck dinners, free breakfasts and just hanging out. It was packed with travel trailers, RVs and tents. I am just glad we were not the campground hosts.
All in all it was a pretty great experience for us. We were in the Old Marble Stage area at the south entrance of the park so we had access to the southern cooked meals by some of the local churches, music playing in the big tent and a real bathroom to use at the ranger’s station. There were golf cart shuttles picking up and dropping off people all throughout the event as well as ice water stations set up next to the port-a-potties and water misting fans to help cool us off. Our fellow vendors in the Old Marble Stage included:
Bob Andrews of A.C.L. Leather from Fernandina Beach, Florida who makes and sells handbags with native skin inlays, hand sewn briefcases, backpack with native deerskin, leather vests, leather boxes, etc.
Elvira Ashers of Verash who makes and sells metal hairpins, earrings, combs, bun and ponytail holders.
Tom Brown of Ozello Islands Products who makes and sell pepper sauces, glazes and jelly. He and his wife are from O’Brien, Florida.
Tom Derrough of Creations in Wood who makes and sells handmade vessels, bowls and vases using a variety of downed trees. (didn’t get to talk with them and they do not have a website I could find but they are from Englewood, Florida)
Dixie Dream Farms who grows their own flowers, herbs and honey to produce their own line of handmade soaps. They are from Valdosta, Georgia and also sell olive trees and other herb plants. (We bought some of their ‘bugs-away’ soap and it seemed to keep the mosquitoes away)
Mary and Mom Tye Dye– from Jacksonville, Florida who created tie-dye clothing including t-shirts, dresses, socks, and hats.
Ben Rogers of Tinker’s Forge who has a portable blacksmith shop on a trailer who demonstrates blacksmithing and sells hand-forged items.
Mark Stewart of Happy Bee Honey who sells raw honey, combs, nuts and handmade soaps.
Ray Woods of Island Flutes sells Native American style flutes, herbs, flute bags, bead and leather items.
The only vendor we got to visit in the main area at the Amphitheater hill was Thomas Honey. We love Tupelo honey and it is only available during the last week on May and into June. Mostly, it is made in places around the Florida Panhandle. Thomas Honey is a family owned business located in Lake City, Florida. According to the lady we talked to in the booth their bees didn’t produce Tupelo this year. They only had about 3 crates left and wouldn’t have anymore (hopefully) till next year. So, we bought one 16 oz jar and traded for another. Don’t ya just love bartering!
Below is some of the pictures of our booth at the festival and some of the products we sold. We will probably not do another event until the fall so mom is making a bunch of the hooded scarves. If we find an event sooner that we just have to attend then we will post it here in our blog, tweet about it on Tweeter and post it our our Facebook page.
Till next time, keep crafting!
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