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Fest Tips!


I've been a Fest shopkeeper for 20+ years. And before James became a glassworker, he worked with and managed shops for artists for the same length of time. But before that we were both rabid patrons just like yourself who visited the show as many weekends a season as possible (and this was before season passes!) Together, we have an idea of what a Guest at Fest can do to have the best Fest experience possible, and here are some tips:

TIP #1 - The best weekends to visit (in my humble opinion) are these:

  1. 1st and 2nd Weekend. Why? Because everything's still fresh and new! After that, the crowds become heavy, the grass becomes dust, I crash and burn after months of prep and weeks without sleep, and the novelty of being at Fest again begins to wear off a titch (don't worry - it could never wear off more than just a titch!). Plus, it's almost like the good citizens of Minnesota don't even think about Fest until September, when they panic and hie themselves to the site in droves. Those first two weekends are serene, people! Show up then and you'll have the place to yourself. (The only negative thing about it is that sometimes my new art hasn't finished being printed by the first weekend, just an FYI.)
  2. Labor Day Monday. Because (A) everyone else in Minnesota is either buying school supplies or at the State Fair, and (B) we're all so exhausted from already having worked two long Fest days that now we're just plain silly.
  3. Festival Friday. If you're the kind of person who would rather shop than sit on a bench and watch a stage performance, THIS IS YOUR DAY. Not all the entertainers or food booths are required to be open or performing that day, but all the shopkeepers ARE, so if an uncrowded day of Fest shopping is your thing, by all means call in sick and grab the credit cards! But be aware that it's also a school day, and field-trip attendees descend on the site by the busload. They will, however, be gone by 1 p.m.
  4. A day with light rain. That first drop sends everyone home because they haven't planned accordingly and thought to bring a poncho or umbrella. But the rest of us still have a show to do, and whom are we going to entertain? Just each other. And YOU. How fun is that?

TIP #2 - Get there early. Seriously. If you don't, you'll be sitting in traffic at high noon on the hottest day of the year with a million other people who all have the same idea when all the smart people are already there getting the best seats, drinking all the beer, and calling dibs on the new Mayfaire items. (Now don't you regret sleeping in??) Likewise, do the same for stage performances; get there early.

TIP #3 - I know it's supposedly a 'family show' but in my humble opinion Fest is not the place to bring your newborn or toddler. They will FRY, for one thing (because there's not a whole lotta shade), and they'll be bored and tired and scared silly by the costumed characters. OK, not ALL the costumed characters, but understand that there's only so much 'Twig the Fairy' to go around, and the older children/boys/men/seniors will be crowdin' her so much that your infant will be lucky to hear her pan flute. Trust me. Get a sitter.

TIP #4 - On the same note, dogs (and other pets) would probably prefer staying at home tearing up your shoes and shedding on your furniture than baking at Fest in the hot sun while you see the same Tortuga show for the gabillionth year in a row. But you know them better than I do. Just know that if you bring them and fail to clean up after them, I will find you and make you eat it.

TIP #5 - Beer and wine feature heavily in a Fest experience, but please don't make them your liquid of choice for the day, especially if the weather is hot. Regardless of the temperature, for every glass of wine or mug of beer you purchase please follow it up with a glass of H2O. If you don't, I guarantee you'll have the most-viewed YouTube video by morning. (Note: Caffeine is just as bad. I know it's a liquid and everything, and on a hot day it's all about the liquids, but if you're going to hydrate yourself with Diet Coke, please chase that soda with a glass of water.)

TIP #6 - If there's even a slight chance of rain or cold (or rain AND cold), either dress accordingly or bring warm clothes and/or rain gear along and stash it in the trunk if nothing else. An extra long-sleeved shirt or hoodie can be tied around your waist. A hat - even a lightweight one - will work wonders at keeping you warm. And those little 99-cent, one-size-fits-all gloves will fit in a pocket and you won't mind if they accidentally fall in the privy because they're cheap and expendable. (But, I kid you not, you'll have them dipped in bronze the first time you need them and they're there. I promise.) And FYI: There's no room for me to stash your extra gear in my shop, so please don't ask me to, 'k? If you've been sloggin' it around all day in 100-degree weather because I told you to, think next time and pack lighter.

TIP #7 - Don't choose the first privy you come to!

TIP #8 - Wear decent, comfortable shoes. I kid you not, I have seen women in stiletto heels hobble around that place in agony, and they're no more comfortable carrying the shoes and walking barefoot. It's a place for sensible footwear, people; emphasis on the 'sensible.' And don't wear anything you won't mind wrecking. Five minutes of rain turns the site into pudding. Plan accordingly.

TIP #9 - If you don't want to be noticed, don't draw attention to yourself. I get such a kick out of the folks who arrive pierced as a pincushion and then get mad when the Ratcatcher remarks that they look like a tool box.

TIP #10 - Don't be afraid to ask! We don't want you wasting your whole day trying to find the mead booth, the Dregs, Outa Torch Glasswerks' marble-making demo, or a privy. There is an awesome Information Booth on the grounds. But if you're nowhere near it at the time, ask someone in costume. And don't worry; not all of them will take you on a privy run….

TIP #11 - Visit Fest with like-minded people. If your Significant Other would rather stay home and watch the game, go with a friend (I can't stress this enough!). You'll seriously have more fun. (And while we're talking about what to leave at home, please refer back to Tips #3 and #4.) If you drag Mr. Crankypants away from the Tube thinking he'll just thank you later when the first perfect-as-a-ripe-persimmon bellydancer crosses his path, I guarantee he'll look right past her at the guy in tights, roll his eyes, and make your afternoon even more miserable than it already was by having him there to begin with.

TIP #12 - Take some responsibility for the Magic. You'll have a far better time if you don't stand around waiting for it to come to you.

TIP #13 - Scotch Eggs or Bangers 'n Mash. They're affordable, filling, and perfect on a cold day when comfort food is necessary.

TIP #14 - I go on and on about all the 'fun Fest characters who stop in my shop to entertain me' and how you shouldn't miss them. Well, you will miss them, unless you're one of my first customers of the day. The 'fun Fest characters' all have a daily itinerary that's not only written in stone but is as detailed as a page from the Encyclopedia Britannica, and I'm crazy lucky to have them visit me at all. First thing in the morning seems to be the best time for them to pay me a call (as it takes the crowd a while to find its way to my neck of the woods), so if you're in the area at the time there's a good chance you'll get in on some of the silliness.

TIP #15 - If I were to put together a backpack of the essential items for a fun-filled day at Fest, this is what I'd pack:

  1. WATER! This will easily be the heaviest item you'll carry (outside of all your amazing purchases) but it will be worth it. And/or bring a PowerAde of some sort (an electrolyte replacement liquid like Gatorade).
  2. Sunscreen. One with a ginormous SPF will cover everyone in the group from baby to grandma to tanorexic teen. Be sure to use it liberally. And don't forget the ears. You don't want them looking like bacon rinds at the end of the day.
  3. Bug lotion. You probably won't need it; but if you do and it's there, you'll be eternally grateful.
  4. A cell phone. Use it to locate other members in your party who are driving separately or have wandered away from the herd. Just be sure to turn it off if you're sitting in the audience at a stage performance. Please. Because if you don't and it rings, you will be noticed. And you aren't gonna want that.
  5. A camera. Or a cell phone that takes pics. Because that photo of you posing drunkenly next to 'Twig' will look great on this year's Christmas card or your MySpace page…
  6. Money. 'Nuff sed. Cash, of course, and more than one credit card, because (A) it's an expensive place (which is one reason why you might want to leave the kids at home), (B) not everyone takes plastic, and (C) of the ones that do, not everyone takes Discover and American Express. Oh yeah, and (D) you'll have a backup for when Mickey panics from all your out-of-character credit card transactions and freezes your Disney™ VISA. And please (please!) remember to set aside cash for tipping the entertainment. I'm not joking. It's how they eat.
  7. A band-aid or two. In case of blisters from sand in your shoes.
  8. A collapsible tote bag. Trust me. Souvenir mugs get heavy when you've been carrying one around all day in one hand, and your backpack is already going to be full with all this other stuff I'm suggesting you carry.
  9. A rain poncho or mini umbrella. It beats having to pinch one of the black plastic garbage bags in the event it rains, and it looks classier too.
  10. Sunglasses.
  11. Kleenex. One of those plastic-wrapped, purse-size packs of them. In the event that yon privy is paperless, you will find me immediately afterwards and give me an award, you'll be that grateful.
  12. A quick snack like a box of raisins, a package of trail mix, etc. If you're experiencing a blood sugar thang or have been standing for 45 minutes in line for a popover and the kids behind the counter are only just now getting the hang of making them, that dry 'n dusty granola bar will taste like tiramisu.
  13. Hand cleaner. You can find the little plastic bottles of the alcohol-based stuff for pennies, and buying one at that price is far better than trading your children for one the first time you leave a potent privy and discover that there's no soap in the sink dispensers. (Or maybe not; you know your children better than I do…)
  14. A hat or a cap with a visor. Don't wear the good one 'cuz you'll just lose it.
  15. A trial-size container of Baby Powder for that sand-in-the-waistband/straw-in-the-bloomers feeling.
  16. Water socks. No, I've never tried this idea myself (they didn't have water socks back in the Stone Age when I was a patron) and it might sound silly, but remember that 'sensible shoes' tip? If you've got a pair of water socks, throw 'em in the bag. They don't take up much room. And on the off chance a downpour occurs during your Fest experience, you can carry the sensible shoes and wear the socks and you won't have to leave for the day. You can always rinse the mud out of the socks when you get home, the soles of your feet will be protected from all the turkey bones and roofing nails, and you'll have saved your good shoes from certain destruction. See? Easy breezy.

For the Best Fest Experience in my shop (or James's):

  1. In our Fest neighborhood (from the Crown Stage west to the privies), slow shop times are from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to the 7 o'clock cannon. Understandably, these will be the best times to visit with us without interruption (except for the occasional awesomely spectacular musical/entertainment performance, in which case you'll want to shut up and pay attention anyway), so be prepared to make Mayfaire and Outa Torch your first or last stops of the day.
  2. DO NOT park your stroller, small child, pet, or teen in my shop while you do whatever it is you need to do (unless they have free access to your wallet and won't mind if I make some healthy purchase suggestions). I eat children, keep pets, and subjugate teens for my personal computer/technology needs.
  3. I'll be happy to set aside your Mayfaire purchase until you're ready to leave for the day so go ahead and buy LOTS because you won't have to carry it around.
  4. Unfortunately, my landscaping plants, oil lamps, counter props, window curtains, shoes, jewelry, and assorted costume pieces aren't for sale, but my art is.
  5. Bring photos! The kids, the pets, whatever. Show me yours and I'll show you mine.
  6. If there are more folks than just you in my shop, I can't give you my undivided attention (as much as I'd like to). Please be understanding. (This rule applies to entertainers as well as customers.)
  7. If you draw, want to draw, wish you could draw, think about drawing, or want to learn how to draw something, bring a sketchbook and show me your work. I'm serious. I love to see other people's art and I promise I'll be nice.
  8. Sign my guest book LEGIBLY to receive future snail mail and email correspondence. You won't regret it! I try to send a mailing out as close to the Fest season as possible; keep it and bring it with when you visit my shop. It could be good for a percentage off a single Mayfaire item or your total Mayfaire purchase (and who doesn't like a bargain??). And email me if you have a change of address during the off-season! Postage is expensive, and my feeble bank account cries every time a Mayfaire flyer gets returned to me because of an incorrect address.
  9. A reminder: There's no room for me to stash your extra gear or purchases in my shop, so please don't ask me to, 'k?
  10. Keep in mind that by the time you see us we've been up for hours, maybe even days, and quite possibly weeks. That should explain a lot.
  11. When/if I manage to get into 'character' I sound a lot like Mrs. Olsson channeling Mary Poppins doing a bad Eliza Doolittle impression while standing on her head underwater. Don't comment on it and we'll both be happier.
  12. And remember: I take VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, personal checks, gold coins, cash, barter, trade, and services of equal value. Want some art but can't afford it? Consider spending some time hawking for me, carrying my art in the 11:30 parade, trading some costume pieces or shop props or musical instruments, exercising your Certification of Massage Therapy, or . If you have a suggestion and it's something I can't make use of, we'll work something out, 'k?

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Updated 8/20/2008

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