Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gum Tree Festival: Mississippi Mud

Friday, 5/8/09:

Left the house around eight o'clock in the morning heading to the Gum Tree Festival in Tupelo, MS. Boarded Rusty and Bucket at Puppy Park near Greenbrier, AR. Ran into about 45 minutes of stop-and-go traffic on I-30 just north of Little Rock. The traffic finally started moving, but we never saw a reason for the slow down. Ate a sandwich for lunch at the last Arkansas Rest Area on I-40 before getting to Memphis. Finally pulled into the motel in Tupelo around four o'clock. Stayed just long enough to check in and unload our personal belongings from the van before heading down to the show site on the courthouse lawn in downtown Tupelo.

Set up at this show is relatively difficult because the courthouse lawn is build up. You must go up five steps to get to the area where our booths were located. This means you cannot use a two-wheeled dolly or any type of cart. Every box, fixture and canopy component much be carried up the steps. Jo and I worked on getting our booths set up until around 8:30. We got the canopies up, fixtures erected and the boxes of pots moved into the booths.

A half dozen different inflatable slides, obstacle courses, etc. were set up in the street in front of our booths. The kids bought tickets and played on these attractions quite a bit on Saturday. However, the show sponsors packed them up Sunday morning without even waiting to see if the rain was going to stop.

Saturday, 5/9/09:

Jo and I were back down at the courthouse around seven o'clock to finish setting up our booths. We'd barely gotten our canopies opened and started working when a heavy downpour began. There was some thunder and lightning along with the rain, but fortunately, no high wind. The heavy rain lasted about thirty minutes, then spent another fifteen minutes or so tapering off before finally ending. The ground was already wet from rains earlier in the week. This downpour increased the saturation and mud potential.

After the rain stopped, Jo and I finished getting ready for the show to open, although we feared the early morning rain and continued threatening skies would severely affect the turnout for the show. This fear proved unfounded. Once the show opened, the crowd was good and so were our sales. The fact that we have many items suitable for last minute Mother's Day gifts always helps our sales at Gum Tree. The show sponsors spread hay in the paths, but this helped very little in keeping the high traffic areas from becoming total quagmires.

Jo and I attended an artist's supper and awards presentation after the show. Neither Jo nor I won an award, but the fried catfish, hush puppies, etc. were a lot better than the sandwich we would have eaten back at our motel room. The supper is usually held in the show food court, but the sponsors moved it to an indoor location this year. That proved to be a very wise move, because rain began again shortly after the show closed.

The main performance stage is on the opposite side of the square from where Jo and I are set up. Our booths look out over the "Kids Area". Local dancers, gymnasts, bands, etc. are featured on this stage, which in past years was down at the end of the block, but was moved almost directly in front of our booths this year.

Sunday, 5/10/09:

The rain stopped overnight, but started up about the time we got down to the show on Sunday morning. The rain was light, but steady. For a while it looked as if the show might not even happen on Sunday. At least a dozen exhibitors went ahead and packed up. Jo and I debated upon doing the same, but finally decided to stick it out unless the sponsors pulled the plug on the show. We wouldn't have saved any money by leaving so any sales we made would help a little bit. The rain finally stopped during the early afternoon, but the Sunday crowd never amounted to much. What few people did come out got to slop around in a lot of mud. We started packing up at five o'clock and finished around 8:00, our usual three hour's work of disassembly, packing and loading. Our canopies will need to be set up, cleaned off and allowed to dry. Our next show isn't for two weeks. They'd be moldy by then if we don't get them dried off.

By Sunday afternoon, the path in front of our booths -- and all paths throughout the show -- was quite a muddy mess. (The majority of the few people still at the show were there to watch their friends and family members perform.)

Monday, 5/11/09:

Our trip back home from Tupelo was uneventful. We left a little before seven o'clock and arrived home around 5:00. The skies were overcast and threatening the whole way home, but we only ran into a couple of small rain showers while still in Mississippi. Once home we got our personal belongings unloaded from the van and that was about it.

We stopped on our way through Little Rock and looked at a couple of used vans. There really isn't much to get excited about when shopping for a cargo van. After all, they are all just a box on wheels with a power train. There precious few options -- and all of them are white. We're just looking for the best compromise between year model, mileage and price.