Thursday, October 13, 2005

Knitters' Day Out

Cynthia writes:
This past weekend (two weeks after Stitches), our shop went as a vendor to Knitters' Day Out, near Harrisburg, PA. We have done this for two years, and the routine has already become that I go to the show while Kim watches the shop. It works pretty well. Although I am alone, vendors who are nearby can watch my booth when I need a break or lunch.

This Knitters' Day Out event was absolutely great this year.

Except for one thing: the rain. The rain was a torrent when the vendors unloaded, and it was a constant drizzle when we packed up. It is very, very hard to pack and unpack merchandise in the rain. If you get it wet--especially books--it is ruined. (As of this trip, I have determined that we are no longer going to take books to knitting shows. They are at once heavy and delicate. I will let other booths deal with them.)

I spent all Thursday afternoon loading the car. Kim was out that day, so my mother took care of people at the store while I loaded. By Thursday at 6:00, I was finished. I left Friday morning around 10:00, which was a civilized time to start. I got to KDO around 1:00 after stopping for lunch at the Red Rabbit for their famous Bunny Burger.

The Red Rabbit is a cool place to eat. You drive your car to the building, and the waitress comes out, takes your order, and then brings you a tray of food and hooks it to the car window. It's like going back to the 1950s or 60s. And the food is wonderful. Bunny Burgers are not made from bunnies (or if they are, then I would like to report that bunnies taste like beef). They are a hamburger with lettuce, tomato, and a special sauce. I delete the cheese, pickle, and bacon from mine, but those items also come standard on the Bunny Burger. Warning: The Red Rabbit is only open weekends during warm-weather months and is about to close for the season.

And so it poured the entire drive to KDO, and when I arrived, I wondered how on earth I would unload the car. I had brought along some plastic shoes to avoid ruining my good shoes. For some reason, I had packed plastic shoes just because I knew it was going to rain and I didn't want to ruin my good shoes, but I did not think to pack a raincoat.

I got a cart, and I started loading and unloading my plastic bags of yarn. Another vendor lent me her plastic bin so that I could bring in some of my things that were not protected enough.

I would like to record an official thanks to the Duponts, whom I suspect are the ones that have given us the invention of so much plastic in so many useful forms.

One hour later, most of the stuff was out of the car, and I was drenched and miserable:

(I love the saying on the mirror in the bathroom. The possibilities for pictures seem endless.)

A vendor looked at me and said, "I didn't think you could possibly get any wetter."

Not that she looked dry.

So the loading was finished. I had brought an extra shirt and socks (also in case of rain--but why--why no raincoat?), and I changed into those. My pants were still drenched. (I apparently had thought that only my shirt and socks could get wet.)

Okay. Kim is right. Even if you go away only overnight, you need to bring extra clothing in case something happens. There was no time to shop for new clothing, because the market that night was from 6 to 9, and it took until nearly 6:00 to unpack. I was doomed to stay wet.

Once I was unpacked, I enjoyed chatting with people at the market, and I got to do that all the next day. I also talked to a lot of vendors during the quiet periods. I particularly enjoyed chatting with the man who has a small fleet of alpacas and sheep, which he transports in a small school bus. (The bus was cheap to buy, he says, and it's air conditioned. The animals walk right in the door and up the stairs.)

While I worked on Saturday, I came up with a solution to loading the car back up in that evening's rain (and what had become the wind and the cold). It was this:

It wasn't glamorous, but I didn't much care (although I do enjoy wearing black). Starting at 6:00 when the market closed, I got our booth packed, going from this....

to this.... 37 minutes. It took another 40 minutes to load the car. I ate at the Red Rabbit again on the way home.


As you gaze at the picture of me dressed in a plastic garbage bag, and you visualize lugging those piles of plastic bags in the pouring rain, and you come into the store afterward to see Kim and me with glazed eyes, you may wonder why we would ever want to be vendors.

It is a good question.

It is not really for the money. Although we make a little extra, most of it is actually eaten up by expenses. And even if you don't count that, the extra work is enormous in comparison to the amount of money we do make. It is much, much harder to do a show than to run the store. But we keep doing it. Without a moment's hesitation, I signed us up to do Stitches and KDO next year, and I'm even looking forward to them. Why?

One reason is a break in the routine. I like going to other towns and meeting new people.

I like being able to talk to the other vendors. It's nice when you get to talk to someone else who runs a business. When I talk to other shop owners, I get ideas for what might work in our store, or I get confirmation about what works and doesn't work. There is a certain amount of camaraderie among vendors.

Being a vendor is like working backstage in a theatre. I like that.

I also like seeing new people from outside our town. Every place has its own culture, and it's interesting to see what knitters from other places are making.

People discover you. We're at Penn State, and a lot of people come here to visit. Some of them stop by our shop because they've seen us at a show. That helps us a lot.

I also get a kick out of staying in hotels every once in a while. It's a nice change of pace. I don't have TV at home, so I get a chance to watch TV.

But most of all, it's the excitement. At a convention, large groups of people are excited about knitting or quilting. It gives you yourself an extra feeling of excitement to be around all those people. They're all on vacation, they're learning new things about their craft, they are all carrying around yarn or fabric, and they are happy.

It is a good life when you are around lots of people who are especially happy about yarn or fabric.

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