July 20, 2022


Before COVID hit, the main way that we sold crafts made by our partner artisans from the Peruvian Amazon was being a vendor at summer music festivals.  The pandemic shut down all of these in 2020, and we only attended one event in person in 2021.  Many events held impromptu online festivals, but while these provided some means to listen to some good music they could not substitute for the energy of the live events and did not lead to any online sales for us.

So while new versions of COVID are still circulating, we signed up to attend six music festivals again this summer.  I'd like to share some thoughts, highlights, and images of the first three.

I began the festival season by attending the Romp Bluegrass Festival in Owensboro, KY.  Given the super high prices for gas, I had some trepidation about driving my Toyota Highlander and small trailer to an event that would take two days each way from my home in central Pennsylvania.  It was well worth the time and effort, though. 

Amazon Ecology booth at Romp Festival 2022

It was great to see Tessa Daniel again who is an artist that began volunteering with me at my booth the very first time I was a vendor at Romp in 2017.  She came back again and was joined with her partner Truss Campbell.  Truss' skills as a handyman were immediately useful to temporarily fix two broken braces on my two aging 10 x 20 tents.

Tessa Daniel - Amazon Ecology volunteer at Romp Festival

Tessa leant her aesthetic sense to arrange our new collection of llanchama bark paintings of flowers and butterflies on attractive panel walls and dress Fairtrade Francie - a full-size mannequin that I brought along for this tour to display a rotating complement of earrings, necklace, bracelet, anklet, belt and fair-trade "topper" from Ten Thousand Villages.  Francie was a bit intimidating to some people so we tried to be playful by inviting people to take a selfie with her along with a message they wrote on a little whiteboard.  She did her part, though, by helping us sell a number of nice accessories.

Amazon Ecology customer at Romp with Fair Trade Francie

I left the big whiteboard at home this time that I had used for a community art board since it was full of cracks and the trailer was quite full, but we maintained and built on our tradition of stimulating engagement with festival goers with a new set of trivia questions every day.  Some people take pleasure in testing their knowledge while others shy away if the exercise feels like school.  I tried to remind people that the purpose of the trivia "quiz" more about learning and having fun than getting the right answers.

Since an owl is the mascot of the Romp festival, our crafts with owls were very popular.  These included owls that were woven, carved, and incorporated into jewelry.

Amazon Ecology customer with Owl necklace at Romp Festival

Decorative owls carved from balsa wood by artisans from the Peruvian Amazon

It was also wonderful to engage with visitors to the booth about their trips to Peru and other parts of the tropics and take pictures of a few smiling customers with the crafts they had purchased.  Over the course of the festival, several people like Ruth, Carl and Alyssa came by several times to chat and shop for gifts and things for themselves. 

Amazon Ecology customer at Romp Festival with morpho butterfly barrette

I appreciated getting to know other neighboring vendors who each have their own fascinating life stories.  Some vendors have built a business traveling to festivals to sell their wares (lots of tie dyed clothing) or services (henna drawings) while others are people with other careers who mostly want a chance to share their creative efforts and make some extra income if they can.  I made a special connection with an artist named Nate who offered to do a sketch of me while we discussed ecology, spirituality, and prisons.

Artist Nate Moody with sketch of Campbell at Romp Festival 2022

The other highlights of the trip for me were getting to stay with two good friends in the Columbus, Ohio area coming and going and the chance to meet the owners of several fair trade stores in Ohio and Kentucky who I hope will be wholesale customers in the future.

See the full collection of photos from the Romp Festival on the Amazon Ecology page on Facebook.


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in News

Puca Urquillo artisans cooperate to build a bird's nest to withstand an impending flood
Strengthening artisan organizations in Puca Urquillo

November 26, 2023

"While concepts like punctuality, mutual respect, no put downs of self or others, and listening when someone else is speaking may seem like obvious guidelines to form a positive community, a commitment to actually practice and hold each other accountable to observe these agreements is profound in a culture where showing up late, malicious gossip, and interrupting a speaker are painfully common."

Continue Reading

Artisan group with green darner dragonflies made at artisan facilitator training
Artisan Facilitator Training with Bluebirds and Dragonflies

November 26, 2023

"Artisan facilitators should of course share what they know, but beginning and experienced artisans all benefit by remaining humble, enthusiastic about learning, and committed to encourage and affirm their fellow artisans.  So many artisans said that the thing they most wanted to bring back to their communities was this spirit of working in a mutually supportive environment."

Continue Reading

A Traditional Bora Dance and Craft Display
A Traditional Bora Dance and Craft Display

November 25, 2023

"Both men and women wore garb made with bleached llanchama tree bark painted with graphic figures from Bora clans.  Several wore headdresses made with the feathers from macaws and parrots.  They discussed the importance of nature and craft-making in their culture and then launched into a lively dance where the men chanted and pounded sticks into the ground to the rhythm of moving around in a circle.  Visitors joined the undulating lines to share the vibrant energy."

Continue Reading