BY ANGELA H. BROWN
Photos: Jake Vivori
Outdoor marketplaces are some of the most inviting selling atmospheres for both vendors and attendees. Unrestricted from the confines of a convention center, an outdoor market lures the public out of their air-conditioned homes and into the sun to celebrate summer.
However, selling outdoors can be risky. Wind gusts and rain are real and will cloud any sunny day in a matter of minutes. Without proper planning, months of hard work and inventory preparation can be ruined in an instant. We may be able to control many things in life, but there is one thing we will never control—the weather.
Mother nature is unpredictable and can have a way of humbling us. But if we are prepped for a bad weather scenario, it will be less painful and turn into an opportunity to help and educate others.
Last August, I experienced this lesson firsthand. The event I produce, The Craft Lake City DIY (Do-It Yourself) Festival, was hit with a severe case of inclement weather.
It was opening night, two hours into the Festival and everything was falling perfectly into place. Lines of festival-goers packed all four entrances. Patrons poured into the event, laughing with excitement. Bands were playing on two stages and the shade from the surrounding skyscrapers had cooled August’s bold summer sun. The VIP Patio was booked with donors and sponsors, all happily enjoying craft cocktails and craft food. Vendors were making sales, and the vibe was positive.
Without warning, a once blue sky turned dark and large steam-like clouds curled in. As a Utah Native I knew desert storms can appear out of nowhere, and we were about to experience the storm of a lifetime.
Volunteers ran around doing their best to notify all 250 artisans to cover their items. I led our production crew. We secured tents, laid down A-frames, feather flags and signs that could potentially take flight as the winds screamed. We secured scaffolding, tarps, tents and in a matter of just a few minutes Biblical clouds broke into rain. The downpour began drenching attendees, staff, volunteers, performers, artisans. The winds set in.
The storm raged. 70 mph winds instantly turned a hot summer eve into a desolate fall night. Temperatures dropped. After 30 minutes of checking on soaked vendors, it was time to accept the inevitable. I had to shut down the event and send everyone home.
I rose to the main stage and announced the event closure. Craft Lake City staff and volunteers loaded artisan inventories into cars. We packed up, went home and hoped for a sunny Saturday.
Numerous artists had been prepared for such an event, and many were not. Our hearts ached as we watched first-time vendors load out soaked and ruined inventory. But our vendors didn’t let the storm stop them. Many stayed up all night creating new inventory to sell on Saturday.
These humbling experiences offer the opportunity for us to appreciate areas of growth and look for ways to become prepared for the future.
One way Craft Lake City does this is by having our own inclement weather emergency preparedness kit.
I believe every outdoor market participant should have one. Here are 10 items I recommend having in your kit:
My favorite go-to item in a rain storm. Tarps cover large amounts of real estate quickly and can be tied down to protect items against gusts of wind.
Dark clouds roll in quickly. It can be hard to locate items stored under a table cloth. Also works well for morse code … 🙂
3) Numerous Large Plastic Garbage Bags:
Everyone can use an extra garbage bag, perfect for their intended use on a sunny day. Plastic garbage bags make perfect ponchos on a rainy day. I’ve also used them to protect water-sensitive items. I suggest having a whole roll in one’s booth kit at all times. They don’t take up a lot of room and you can easily help out others by passing them out.
4) Waterproof Storage:
I like to pack our booth items in large plastic, water resistant bins. While they can easily be overloaded and sometimes weigh more than I like, plastic bins offer protection from the ground when your booth becomes a river during a torrential downpour.
5) Weather Warning Alerts on your Device
(Tell family members to do this too): The sky may be blue, but the Doppler may be freaking out with a regional storm warning. Weather technology is your friend—use it.
6) Rain Gear:
You will laugh that you don’t need it until it is time to use it. It’s only then, that you will be thankful for you own foresight. Rubber shoes and an umbrella are especially helpful for loading out in the rain.
7) Exit Plan for Family:
In the event of an emergency, make sure you have a designated festival area for your family to meet you. If a natural disaster occurs, and you may need to abandon your booth and your inventory. Let’s hope none of us ever have to use this plan, but we all need one just in case.
8) Snacks and Water:
You may need to wait out a storm while under your booth. It’s always good to have these items.
9) Hand Warmers and Gloves:
It’s hard to move items when your hands are cold! Disposable or reusable hand warmers are affordable and worth every penny when you need them. Pair with water resistant gloves and you’re ready to load-out in a storm.
10) First Aid Kit:
A must-have for any event. Make sure you check your kit and restock it regularly. A first aid kit doesn’t do any good if its inventory was never replenished.
It could be your first time vending at an outdoor market or your 200th time, but one thing is for certain: if you are a participant in an outdoor market vendor, bad weather is going to affect you. Be prepared now to weather the storm and feel confident that you have a plan.