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Friday, July 3, 2015

Blown Away at Covington

Last weekend I was at the Covington Art Fair in Fort Wayne.  My husband always helps me set up, but he was going to be spending the weekend at some Boy Scout activities.  We took separate vehicles, and he only took my sandbag weights.  As I was leaving, I noticed it was starting to rain, so I threw in my pvc pipe weights just to be on the safe side.  It was odd, because I had been checking the forecast all week, and the weather was supposed to be nice.

So Friday night he helped me set up before he left.  We set up my EZ up with Florish mesh panels on three sides and sta-bars at the bottom to hold them, which give extra support.  We put on both sets of weights.  Here is what my booth looked like at the last show that I did:

My booth on a nicer day, in Louisville, KY

At least, that's what it looked like until I decided I got better sales by moving the cheaper items to the front and display cases to the back.  I was excited that I had just ordered three vertical banners with pictures of my jewelry to hang in the back of my booth.

Anyway, normally I set up my display cases the night before.  I had set up the legs and the wooden bases, but that's as far as I got.  My husband was in a hurry to leave, so I decided I would just set them up in the morning.  It rained all night long, and the wind seemed to increase.  I was sleeping in our little trailer, and it was so noisy on the roof I don't think I got any sleep at all.  I checked the radar a few times.  It showed nothing serious (green as opposed to yellow or red) and we were always on the back edge like it was just about over.

About 7:00 am I arrived back at Covington to finish setting up my booth.  As I pulled in the parking lot, I saw a couple of canopies had come down during the night.  This happens sometimes.  I was relieved to see mine still standing along with the others.  I went inside to start setting up.

After putting a couple of rotating displays up on the tables, the wind REALLY started to pick up.  It was scary.  I started holding the tent down, thinking that it will pass in a few minutes.  It didn't.  The wind got stronger and stronger.  Pretty soon water was pouring down on my head as I held on to the canopy leg as hard as I could.  I could hear things crashing outside -- apparently other tents were coming down around me.  

All of a sudden, I heard a siren.  Tornado warning???!!  It's time to abandon tent, I thought.  I was afraid to unzip the door of the tent, because it would let the howling wind in.  So, in spite of needing two knee replacements, I somehow was motivated enough to duck under the side wall.  Before I did, though, I quickly put both my rotating displays on the ground.  I got up next to the building where there is a large awning, and I took this video:

The siren I heard was apparently just a police siren.  I helped my neighbors get their last piece of painted furniture under the roof.  I still wasn't sure that we wouldn't have a tornado.  The roof above, all the way around the shopping center, was glass.  That is definitely NOT a safe place to be in a tornado.  So I went around the mall to see if the artist hospitality suite was open yet, pulling a few artists' possessions up under the roof as I went around.  If my tent was going to go, there was nothing I could do at this point.  I thought it was best to at least get in a building as soon as possible.  

The hospitality suite (an empty storefront) was open, fortunately.  After getting calmed down a little bit from my experience, but still soaking wet, I stepped outside the door and got another video:

Here is a still shot of the view from inside the hospitality suite:

Many of these artists had just lost their tents, and some of them had lost more than that, including their inventory.  They seemed to be taking it all in stride.  Everyone was so helpful to each other.  I finally got enough nerve to go back to the other end of the parking to see if my tent was still standing, and it was, but it was looking a little funny.  One of the cross braces had snapped, and the wind was still blowing.  Some other artists helped me start tearing off the sidewalls so the wind could go through.  As we were doing that, I stopped to take this picture, which shows the broken support hanging:

The table draped in black should be on the right hand wall.  The table didn't move, the tent moved.  The black legs you see sticking in the air are the legs to my display cases.  The green tub on it's side was full of display items, and it's not all that light.  The purple tub still upright is very heavy, and includes my display case glass.  You can see my weights still attached, but tipped on their sides.  My rotating displays, still wrapped in bubble wrap, were fine, though one had been knocked over on it's side.

I was going to text my husband, and let him know that my EZ-up had gone to a watery grave.  However, it was resurrected thanks to a couple of other artists.  Someone suggested that I salvage a crosspiece from one of the many destroyed EZ-ups that were now littering the parking lot along with several more expensive tents. Sarah Thompson, who's tent had blown over from the other side of the lot, was nice enough to give me one, and she and Troy Anderson actually even found a wrench and put it on for me!  

We took the tent down because of the wind.  Someone who counted said there were eight tents left standing.  I don't know if they counted before or after we took mine down.  Anyway, it did pretty good for an EZ-Up!  I read later that there were sustained winds of 50 mph, and gusts up to 70 mph!  The show was cancelled for the day.  After the rain quit, the clouds and wind stayed for several hours.  The whole thing lasted about 24 hours.  The storm just stayed in the same position and just rotated.  Since I was in no mood, or condition, to put that tent up a second time I opted to set up a couple of tables up under the roof next to the stores for the next day.  Many artists went out and borrowed or bought another tent and had it up for Sunday.

I hope I NEVER have an experience like that again.  But it was a learning experience, and here is what I learned:

  1. Weight your tent down good!  
  2. Most EZ Ups fail because water collects in the roof.  Domed roofs are superior, not because they are more aerodynamic, but because they shed water.
  3. If there is a chance of bad weather, don't set up glass display cases, or breakable inventory, the night before.  (Had my cases been set up, I would have lost all the glass.)
  4. If the weather is bad enough, it won't matter what kind of tent you have.  (Of the eight tents that survived, I know that one was weighted down with much hanging metal inventory, and another was tied to a large van that also blocked the wind.)
  5. Strongly consider the need to have at least liability insurance.  (Some tents are destroyed when they are run into by other tents.  When someone finds your tent in their spot on top of their tent, you will be liable.)
  6. I should have set up the tent again!  (It seemed as if I wasn't part of the show, and missed a lot of traffic, but I will know better next time!)
  7. Artists are a caring, helpful community!
In closing, let me say I was very fortunate because, assuming my lights and inverter dry out, I did not lose anything.  Many other artists were not so fortunate.  I am really hoping my next show is NOT a learning experience.  I've learned enough for awhile, now I just need a good show!