From the car to the booth space
If you are considering doing art fairs, look around at how much each artist requires in their booth.
Ask them how do they transport their booth, accessories and product from their car to the booth location?
You may be surprised at the answers.
Booth locations and distances, relative to parking, vary greatly from one venue to another.
I’ve done a couple of shows where we are allowed to park the car directly behind the booth, leaving it there for the duration of the event. Very convenient, and very rare!
Some shows allow you to drive to your booth location, unload, then move the car to the parking location some distance away.
This can be both convenient and troublesome. Set-up may not be a problem if vendors arrive in staggered times.
However, tear-down can become very busy. Vendors maneuvering their vehicles as close to their booths as possible, often in tight quarters. (A cart can make this show much more relaxing – more on this below).
I’ve also done shows that required carting materials a full city block or more. This has been especially true – for me – at shows held in city parks.
How then, does one transport the materials?
Believe it or not, some artists hand-carry everything to their location from their car. This requires a number of trips, some carrying heavy items.
Others will use a cart of some type. I’ve seen homemade carts which are flat boards with wheels pulled by ropes.
Others, myself included, use commercially available carts.
From my experience, there are a couple of key points to consider when purchasing (or building) your on-site transportation cart.
Very rarely will you be transporting your product over paved sidewalks. Consequently, the cart should have large wheels to easily go over uneven grass.
The cart should be large enough to handle your product. Realizing you’ll still require multiple trips, a decent sized cart can help reduce the number.
My first cart – a convertible hand cart
When I first entered art fairs, I purchased a convertible hand cart from a local large hardware store. This cart started out as a two-wheeled dolly and converted into a four-wheel push cart. (Search the internet for convertible hand carts and you’ll quickly see a picture). The front wheels were small, the back (main) wheels were larger.
I thought this was a great idea. It packed up small in my minivan. When set up as a cart it moved around my driveway with ease. An economical solution.
My very first art fair was in a city park. All booths were aligned a very long paved walkway. My booth was easily a block down the path.
My little cart worked perfectly. Easily pushed over the pavement.
My second show was on grass. Though my booth was only about 50 yards from the parking, I tried to use my convertible handcart to transport things and make less trips.
Over grass, this cart failed. The front smaller wheels were too small, always getting stuck. It was a nightmare, and I ended up just walking everything from the car to the booth.
My second cart – nursery wagon
As you might have guessed, that convertible handcart didn’t last long. I did two more shows with it, one again on a side walk, another on grass.
In early August of that year I donated it to the local charity and purchased a 48″x24″ Farm Tuff Nursery Wagon. With a 1200 pound capacity, the size was great. The weight carrying capacity may have been more than required.
The Nursery Wagon solved the lawn issue. With four large inflatable tires, this wagon easily went over the roughest ground.
It didn’t have sides, though had about a 1″ lip of metal around its top. I found the lip quite useful, keeping things from falling off. Carrying flat items (such as the booth poles), I would secure the items with a strap.
The wagon – at that time – fit in my minivan. As I added more items to my booth, the wagon was transported on a hitch carrier.
My third cart – Pro Panel Cart
Midway through my third season in art shows I added Dura Plaq prints to my display. At this time, I switched also to the Pro Panels, which I felt was needed to display the Dura Plaqs aesthetically.
However, my nursery wagon was now no longer viable. The panels could not lie flat and still maneuver the wagon (even if I did something with the lip).
My third cart came into existence. I ordered the Pro Panel “Haul-It-All” cart when I ordered the panels themselves. As with the convertible hand cart, the nursery wagon was also donated to charity. It was a great wagon, just wasn’t going to work for me.
The “Haul-It-All” cart has been my only cart since August 2014, and I have no regrets. It easily carries the Pro Panels themselves, even over uneven grass. It carries all items and equipment without having any issues.
I’ve pushed this over farm fields and lawns, down paved sidewalks and walkways, through mud and soggy parking lots.
Just a side note. When I’m on paved walkways I tend to really load the cart. On grass, there is a limit to what I can reasonably transport. Rather than fighting with an over-sized load, I’ll just make another trip. It’s much easier, and relaxing.
I use the car hitch carrier to transport it to the shows.
I’m a firm believer in being totally self-reliant. This philosophy extends to setting up, tearing down, and transporting my product and equipment.
It takes me about 90 – 120 minutes to tear down, and 2 1/2 to 3 hours to set up — all depending upon weather, distance to my booth location, etc. Rather than trying to park closer to my location (and wasting time in the process), I much prefer to park the car in a reasonable location and employ my cart.
For one, I’m not frustrated trying to get closer parking, for another I get additional exercise. If it is raining, I can remove items I need at the time, leaving everything else dry in the car. Until the booth is set up, it doesn’t pay to have the Pro Panels out in the rain!
I’ve found that if I really hurry with tearing down, I may save 10 minutes. Even if it is raining, 10 minutes isn’t much. If it is raining, that’s OK, I’ve planned for rain.
Rather, I’ll take my time, put things back where they rightfully belong, and casually transport my booth and product to the car. More than once I have at least half of my things in the car while others are still waiting in line to park their cars closer.
Having your own cart, (or system for on-site transportation) and being self-sufficient – at least for me – makes the show much more relaxing.