After last year’s Rhythm and Roots Festival, the owner announced that the event was going to end due to his health problems. Many attendees, volunteers, vendors and musicians who had enjoyed participating in this unique festival for decades were very disappointed. It was, therefore, a welcome surprise to hear from the vendor coordinator a few months ago that the owner has sold the festival to a company with lots of experience organizing music events, and the show would go on. I can’t imagine how hard it was to pull together an event of this size in several months, but I readily signed up to give it another try.
I pulled into the site on Wednesday morning and was happy to find Tom from the Apsara company was already there setting up. We caught up a bit, and I got down to the task of unloading the trailer and car. I welcomed the help of one local volunteer to set up the tent and support structures and then continued on my own until Tom invited me to join him and others for a yummy dinner of Indian food – better than the can of beef stew that was on my original menu. Their guests included four lively women associated with Chilly Brothers – a food vendor that routinely supports local non-profit causes.
It took me another full day to finish setting up, but by the time the festival opened to the guests, we were ready. Sales on that Friday afternoon and evening were pretty slow, and I began to worry that the lower attendance at this event due to the late hour changes in management were not going to compensate me for my large investment of time to dry a full day from home to create a beautiful setup.
Fortunately, on Saturday, there were more people, good weather, great music and really good sales. A woman from Chilly Brothers brought me some yummy jumbalaya as a thanks for the festive hats I had given the “mothers” of their restaurant, but it took me about five hours to finish my lunch since I had a line with up to five customers in it throughout the afternoon.
When we weren’t super busy, customers and others enjoyed trying their knowledge (and patience) with the daily trivia questions. Some also read a separate board titled “know your vendor” where I listed some tidbits about my life. These included mentioning that I had lived in Brazil, often traveled to Peru, and had a son living in Thailand. These led to some fun conversations with people from various countries in Spanish and Portuguese. I even exchanged a few phrases in Thai with a woman who said that I spoke more than her husband.
There was a good crowd on Sunday as well so our sales on the last day were again really strong. I started packing up the plants and animals in early evening and got into high gear as the music wrapped up. I spent the whole night packing up by myself with one break to enjoy a couple of peanut butter sandwiches with a fellow vendor who sold vintage boots and jeans. Amazing to find that we had both followed non-traditional paths after graduating from New England prep schools. I got my last items packed in a very full trailer and car just after dawn – unfortunately stuffing two sets of wet tents and sidewalls which had absorbed large amounts of morning dew. I enjoyed some coffee with another vendor rising to finish her packing and helped vendor friend Leigh Ann take down the wiring from her clothing booth.
Heading home on Labor Day was not a fun time. I only made it a few hours from Rhode Island into Connecticut before too little sleep, too many cars and too much rain convinced me it would be better to hole up in a motel before continuing my journey home. When I drove the rest of the way home to Pennsylvania on Tuesday, I was at least better rested but continued heavy traffic and rain still prolonged my journey along the section of I-95 approaching New York from one hour to four. I was grateful that I was able to keep my brain engaged without too much stress listening to the final book in the Clan of the Cave Bear series on CDs. Ayla was sure one amazing cave woman.
Wrapping up a summer festival season always brings a mixture of emotions. I was proud (and relieved) that our sales for the summer were once again very strong and able to contribute a good bit to support our artisan partners and program work in Peru. I was also a bit sad that this season of rich interactions with so many wonderful people had come to an end, but I was happy to put away the displays in my garage for the next time since doing these festivals does require a tremendous amount of mental, physical and emotional energy. I was ready for a break – albeit one that would not be long because I had to finish my accounts and pack for my departure for Peru at the end of the week.
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