Congrats on making it through your first craft fair or art festival! At the end of every event, there’s the dreaded tear-down/breakdown where every vendor closes up shop and packs things back into their vehicle before heading home.
The aftermath of an event is always more chaotic than the beginning of an event. At the end of the day, everyone wants to go home, take a hot shower, and eat a nice meal after spending 6+ hours vending. Tempers can flare and arguments can spark as everyone is rushing to leave the venue.
Here are my top 5 tips on staying safe during the last hours of an art/craft fair.
Tip 1: Situational Awareness
It’s very easy to be narrow minded and only concern yourself with your area, but you also need to be considerate of your neighbors too! If you’re a slow packer like I am, I try to package all of the smaller items within my 10×10 foot area. I only spread out of my booth when disassembling the tent and side walls after my neighbors have gone.
If you are in an outdoor street fair or a large venue that allows vehicles to drive in, you absolutely need to remember to stay out of the way of vehicles. Large vehicles have even larger blind spots. Keeping to your space will allow traffic to run smoothly.
Tip 2: Bring a Booth Buddy
Your Booth Buddy (or BB as I like to call them) can be your partner, spouse, or friend who can help you during a portion or the entire event. Depending on the amount of items you have and the weight of your boxes and furniture, a booth buddy can mean the world of difference.
I am no weightlifter. My maximum carrying capacity is about 30 pounds. Most of my boxes and bags weigh less than 20 lbs. However, my 10×10 foot tent in a 10”x10”x5’ bag weighs a whopping 65 lbs. Having my partner with me during break-down is essential.
If you don’t have a partner or spouse, consider recruiting a friend for just an hour to help you pack. Offer to pay them and/or buy them a nice meal to thank them for their time. I cannot stress enough that after a long day, everyone will be more prone to injuries as your lifting technique will suffer the more tired you are. A poorly executed lift can mean weeks of back pain or even a trip to the doctor.
The second reason for having a BB is safety. Thefts unfortunately happen during the chaos after an event ends. When you have a buddy, you can go to the bathroom and retrieve your vehicle while your buddy babysits your items. For many of the events I’ve attended, security stops the moment the event ends. You cannot rely on roaming patrols or your kind neighbor to watch your items when you have to step away from your booth.
Tip 3: Look Out for Water
Yes, you read that right. Beware of water! If you do indoor events, this won’t apply to you. However, for outdoor street events WATER is the danger no one ever talks about. Water comes in two forms.
If your booth is near landscaping (flowers, grass, or shrubs), make a note of the sprinkler locations. Look for the black circular heads of pop-up sprinklers. Sprinklers typically are on a timer automated to turn on within an hour of sunset. Sprinklers can easily be misaligned and will spray your items if you’re not careful.
If your event is held in a grassy park, you can’t escape the sprinklers, so just plan to get out of there as fast as possible! Try to move as much of your items on a sidewalk or curb to avoid getting wet.
Water is the most common method to weigh down the corners of tents. At every event I’ve attended, 55-gallon drums filled with water are used for large commercial tents. Water-walls (water-filled plastic barriers) are also commonly used for road barricades.
As soon as the event ends, one of the very first things vendors will do is empty their water weights. If your outdoor booth is located on an incline or on the side of the road, you’ll quickly find yourself in several inches of water from a man-made ‘flash flood.’ Water moves fast and carries dirt and debris with it. Even if your items are stored in waterproof plastic bins, they’ll get muddy very quickly so you want to position your items away from the flow of water.
Tip 4: Pack-up Before Sunset
You should know the time the sun sets for the last day of your event. In most street fairs, streetlamps will provide adequate lighting in the twilight and evening hours. If you’re in a park, there is often zero or very minimal lighting after sunset. It’s often a race to pack everything before night falls.
As darkness approaches, everything becomes more difficult – tripping hazards multiply and packing takes twice the amount of time. For particularly late events (night markets and late afternoon pop-up events), having several sources of light are essential. Lanterns and headlamps are great for illuminating small and pinpointed areas.
Tip 5: The Last Sweep
Always, always do a last sweep of your area before you say your goodbyes and head home. Carefully go over your booth footprint and at least a 10-foot radius outside of your area. Take 5 minutes to pick up trash and look out for small items that may have been left behind.
If your neighbors have wood displays or furniture, keep an eye out for loose screws and nails to avoid a flat tire. This past event we nearly ran over a wood block with 1 inch nails sticking out from a careless vendor.
And that wraps up my 5 top tips for packing up after your first event! Know that everyone is tired at the end of events. Be patient but try to be as efficient as possible with packing everything into boxes and bags. Rushing only leads to injuries and accidents.
An important part of being a vendor is also being a good vendor neighbor. Leave your area in the same or better condition that what it was when you arrived.
Have a tip on the tear-down that I didn’t mention here? Comment your tips below!