I learned some valuable lessons from a recent festival. It has been an extra raining Spring in Atlanta this year. According to NOAA, we are at 204% of normal precipitation for the last 30 days. Rain is not normally an issue since most festival style tents (ie, the 10X10 white ones) are water-proof, and most festival and farmers market events are held on either sidewalks of a local downtown area or in parking lots of the local county or city courthouses. However, I recently attended an event that was held in a grassy area that had turned into a muddy swamp with all the rain.
Lesson 1. If there is a chance of rain, and you are in a non-hard surface area, bring some straw with you. Usually it would be a welcome change to be on grass since grassy areas are not heat islands unlike man-made hard surfaces, but when you have rain every day for a week straight, a grassy oasis can turn into a mud hole. The solution to this problem is a thick layer of straw placed on top of the grassy (now muddy) area, and I assumed the event organizers would do this not only to protect the grass, but also in order to make the area safe (and nice) for their vendors and customers, but you know the old adage, “When you assume you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me'”. So instead of dry straw, we had a swampy, slippery, muddy mess which caused many falls and lots of mess. Luckily, some of the vendors who attended with a buddy or spouse were able to purchase straw and bring it back for us to sprinkle in and around our tents. This also allowed the customers who were willing to brave the mud to get to us, a drier area to walk and shop.
Lesson 2. Bring a bag of kitty litter in case your vehicle gets stuck in mud or snow. I saw many vehicles get so stuck in the mud that it required manually pushing them out. My own van got stuck three times, but lucky I only need help once to get it out. Every vendor I’ve ever met has been extremely nice and helpful, and many stopped setting up their own displays to push stuck vehicles out of the mud. Kitty litter is great for providing tire traction in slippery situation like mud or snow. It’s inexpensive and easy to keep with you.
Lesson 3. Have a backup means to transport your products, display, tent, etc back to your vehicle if the event’s organizers don’t allow you to drive in to retrieve your items. Usually when a festival is over, vendors are allowed to drive back in to retrieve all their items. However, if it’s a multiple day event, the streets may be closed until the event is completed. During this event, the 2nd day called for extremely bad weather overnight through the afternoon. Even though the organizers did not cancel the event until the next morning, I could see the writing on the wall (ie, the weather forecast was 100% chance of thunderstorms including hail, tornados, heavy rain, and wind) so I was not going to leave my stuff there overnight. This meant I had to transport (on foot), my entire display, tent, and products back to the parking lot including my 200+ lb tent weights. Thankfully, I always “borrow” my kids’ metal Radio Flyer wagon. It can hold up to 200 lb, it making transporting everything on foot so much easier, and since I already own the wagon, and it’s small, it’s relatively easily to take with me even if I never have to use it. Some vendors did not have any type of wagon or hand truck with them, so they were forced to leave their items overnight and walk everything out the next morning in the heavy rain after the event organizers deemed the area to muddy to allow in vehicles.
During all my years of doing outdoor events (4 years of weekly farmers markets and 2 years of festivals), I never been stuck in a muddy area before, but now that I have, I plan to be prepared just in case it ever happens again.