Some of the music festivals we attend as vendors have been going on for decades where some families are now into their third generation of attendees. In the same fashion, some festivals are loyal to their vendors if you are loyal to them. I appreciate that I have now been developing such a relationship with the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival which resumed its live event at the Walsh Farm again for the first time since 2019.
This year I got to set up my booth along the main vendor row. I initially wasn't sure how I felt about being right across from one food vendor serving barbeque and another pizza, but I appreciated that the traffic they generated until the wee hours of the morning kept a steady stream of people wandering in front of us.
Putting out new daily trivia questions was a very good way of starting conversations with some people waiting for their food. I also put out a new whiteboard this time with a few things about me to initiate some contact.
My statements "Se habla Espanol" and "Se fala Portuguese" led to quick connections with various people from Brazil and other Latin American countries. Many people responded to the invitation - "Tell me about your adventure to Peru, Brazil, Japan, or Thailand." The phrase "arrested 5 times; 0 convictions" raised a few eyebrows and questions.
While most interactions with visitors to the booth were cordial and short, there were some people whose energies, instincts and/or interests matched resonated really well with me. Kristen initially seemed pixie-like and whimsical with the two butterfly clips she put in her hair, but as we talked about our work, her seriousness of purpose of wanting to do things to support life on our planet became very clear.
These colorful clips representing the monarch butterfly and four butterfly species from the Amazon were also popular with other customers.
It was wonderful to banter with sisters Lisa and Paula who stopped by the booth many times to shop for themselves and friends. Yusef and his partner had a great appreciation for frogs and appreciated learning about the background of the cambo frog in the painting they bought.
Rob did some filming of indigenous people for the Amazon Conservation Team. Aria and her friend Brenda are connected to the Roam Gallery in Massachusetts that may like to sell some of our products from Peru. Charlie and Caroline came by to buy a hawk ornament to add to their collection of birds they have placed around their home since their first purchase from us five years ago.
Linda who is a bird enthusiast has been a regular customer at festivals and online came by to volunteer several times at the booth to greet customers and prepare listings of earrings for our inventory.
Ashley bought an ornament of a roseate spoonbill because it reminded her of her grandfather who had passed away.
One newlywed couple bought several woven birds and guitar straps to accompany a musical story they are creating to celebrate their marriage.
I met Jean and Brewer on the first day of the festival and by the last day it seemed like we were destined to become old friends.
One new product which has done well at this and other festivals with hot weather this summer have been chambira palm fiber fans made by artisans from the community of Santa Cruz on the Tahuayo River. We hope to get more of these.
On the vendor front, it was great to meet my neighbors Sumaya and her family who had led a sort of gypsy lifestyle doing henna drawings and traveling in many parts of Latin America. They encouraged me to put a notice on the Grey Fox Friends page on Facebook about my search for a helper which led to a meeting the next day with Padraic who was a tremendous help setting up and taking down my booth, did some data entry in between and offered to do a computer project for us to connect to his training in that field.
Don was a veteran clothing seller who won my heart with coffee on the first morning, showing me his cool camper trailer and the wonderful back and forth of heartfelt conversation and borrowing things from the other that we had left at home.
I also appreciated connecting with the food vendors at Pierce Brothers Coffee who gave me a nice fair trade drink, Vince across the way who came by to chat and gave me a delicious pulled pork sandwich one evening (which took me almost two hours to eat because we were busy), and Nick who sourced me a slice of sausage pizza at 2 am. It was great to reconnect with Tom - the owner of the Apsara clothing brand who have been getting to know on the festival vendor circuit since 2016. He has generously shared his savvy about marketing for years and became my regular go-to stop to share conversation and a few sips of wine when the long day of selling was done. On our last night, I hung out with Tom, Leigh Ann, and Kathleen to discuss vending strategies for aging vendors before I played a few of my whale songs.
I went out with a vendor friend on the last night to try and catch a bit of the great music. We got to the Dance Tent just as the band was finishing its last number. We then hustled up to the main stage where that band was just finishing its last song, but we got to move about a bit for its encore.
Oh, and yes, we sold just over $6,400 in crafts at Grey Fox this year - a new record for sales at a single festival. I love the creativity that some people integrate into their body art and attire. All of them appreciate that they are buying something special for their home or someone special.
We even did some good sales on the very last day when people were looking for those last minute gifts for people back home. The last two customers came in when the booth was 75% packed up and got things out of bins that had already been closed. If I could still get to it and the register was open, I was willing to sell it to them.
See all photos from the Amazon Ecology booth at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival 2022 on our Facebook page
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Meeting with artisans from Puca Urquillo to design a market bag with chambira palm fiber...
"That afternoon I met with two Bora artisan groups and one Huitoto group in Puca Urquillo. It was great to see that a few samples really hit the mark, and I placed an order for one design with all three. With luck we will have our first batch of chambira market bags ready for sale by mid-summer."