What's that you say? "Whoa, wait a minute there chief. What makes a techno-geek like you qualified to comment on craft shows?"
I'm glad you asked.
My mom has been a craft person for as long as I can remember. In the early days she did woodworking crafts. You know the kind. Wood cut outs shaped like baseball gloves with a ball, bat, and glove holding hook sicking out of it to mount on the wall. Cut outs of tractors and other farm related shapes for hanging on walls. Stuff like that. They were, of course, all either stained a nice color or hand painted. She evolved that into some really cool 3D creations of ducks and swans made with layers of wood and then hand carved, sanded and shaped to be the form desired. Her grand creation at that time was a huge swan that made it into a magazine or two. We'd spend our weekends traveling from Craft Show to Craft Show setting up and taking down and spending the day showing her creations. Back then the shows were very picky and the items had to be hand made BY THE ARTIST showing the items. Some people did their craft on site and customized items where others like my mom just made the items at home and showed/sold them at the show. The point is EVERYONE hand made their items. Over the years the wood working type of craft slowed in popularity and mom hung up her craft side business for a while. She didn't give up completely. She just took a break for a few years. Now she makes unique gourd art by growing, harvesting, drying, cutting and carving, hand staining and painting her own Gourds.
So that's why I feel I'm qualified to comment on the current state of the annual craft show and festival. Most of them are becoming CRAP compared to what they once were.
Gone are the days where booths were reasonable in their fees.
Gone are the days where the festival planners actually required their vendors to hand craft or make their wares.
Gone are the days of submitting photo samples of your craft for review and acceptance.
Today any John or Jane Doe can order a shit load of pre-printed wash cloths and set up a booth at the festival. Today people can go to Wal-Mart and bulk purchase goofy face mass produced flower pots, slap some paint on them and call them "crafts". Today people can bulk order mass produced art and sell it as if it were their own. Today people can purchase just about anything they want at Wal-Mart and show up at a "craft" show and sell it. That's not a craft show, thats called a Flea Market.
I still go to local festivals but I'm starting to be selective of the ones that I visit. I like the environment and the opportunity to hit the local business booths and see what goods and services I might be missing out on. I'm just annoyed that so little effort is put into the vendor selection process these days. I'm annoyed when I hear how much some festivals think of themselves based on their "booth fee" or even worse, the ones that want a cut of your business done that day on top of a booth fee.
Festivals don't cost half as much as they lead you to believe. I'm sure there are expenses involved and I'm sure someone can come scream at me with balance sheets to prove to me its expensive but there are some things I know for sure. They use local boy scout and/or explorer post for parking the cars (FREE). They use public parks or areas that aren't in use anyway (FREE). Most non-food vendors don't require Power. Most established festivals already have set dates annually so advertising is just a matter of reminding people and can be traded for booth space with businesses that can advertise for the festival (local paper, local sign companies, etc..) (Equal BARTER). Radio Stations can also trade for advertising mentions and the opportunity to set up and broadcast/sponsor the festival.
What then is the $100-$250+ per booth space fee going for? Such high booth fees make it that much harder for an honest hand crafting vendor to justify attending the festival. That and they risk being put next to Billy Bob and his collection of bulk ordered NASCAR collector plates, hats and jackets or placed across from the lady selling fuzzy photo frames she got on discount at Wal-Mart last thursday. Its hard to compete when the Flea Market crowd is dragging overall price expectations down with their booths of crap.
The list of festivals I'll actually spend my time on is getting shorter and shorter every year and today I added another one to the list. There are still some good vendors that show up at this festival but I'm tired of wading through the sea of crap to maybe find a booth worth stopping at. Festivals use to take me a good 1/2 day to walk through and experience. Today I think it took me all of 30-45 minutes to see the entire festival.
Good Bye Snellville Days, its been fun these past 10 years I've lived here but you've gone down hill every year for the past 3 or 4 years. I'm done giving you part of my Saturday and getting nothing of value in return. Let me know if you get your act together.