Ann Arbor Art Fair: Set up Day in a Polar Vortex


by Betsy Lehndorff

Can you say “disaster”? Add an exclamation mark to it and in one word you will be describing what it was like to set up for the Ann Arbor Art Fair on South University this afternoon (July 15).

Ominous skies.

There were dramatic gusts of wind. There were dark skies and rain. It was cold in the middle of summer thanks to the polar vortex – and all these forces kept threatening to dash our spirits, rip up our EZ Pop Up show tents and send our plate glass cases crashing to the ground.


With the forecast calling for more gusts of up to 24 mph this evening, I’m not sure if anything will survive. We will only know the answer to that question when we show up again at 7:30 tomorrow morning. Show starts at 10, with customers looking around at 9 a.m.

The photos I took just don’t show the wind. It blew and blew and blew and we had to hold our EZ Pop Up tent down until we could tie on the weights. Meanwhile, a few booths down, two other EZ tents were popping into the air and blowing away. These belonged to a woman who makes sculptures out of river rock, but she seemed unfazed. She simply set up her rock sculptures on mats, went and got another tent and eventually got everything up a second time.

Tents that didn’t blow apart were made out of steel pipe and heavy canvas. As gusts of wind battered and tore at us, those tents ignored it. Their owners had them tied down and zipped up quickly, so let that be a lesson to you. Experienced show participants arrive in vans and panel trucks, with special cubbies built in just for storing those steel pipes.

On the bright side, we had lots of help. On the bright side, no one complained. We all just did the best we could. But overall, it was a tough start, and we had such high hopes. Compared to the 100-plus degree days during the last two years, this show’s weather was expected to be delightfully cool.  Regardless, wind is a terror in Ann Arbor and upended our booth last year, shattering a lot of the glass that we used in our cases.

I guess all of this goes to show that shows are unpredictable. It also shows that you have to be pretty sturdy and resilient to stay with it, although right now I’m feeling pretty cranky.

So – tomorrow morning, what will the day bring? More wind? Devastating wind? More rain?

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, I’m going out to Joe’s Crab House for dinner. I can commiserate with my food.

Wubbers University instructor Betsy Lendorff is a journalist by day and silversmith during her spare time.  Mostly self-taught, she like to make beautiful narrative pieces that are very detailed and a challenge to solder.  She also occasionally writes for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine and other special interest publications.  You can view pictures of her work and enroll her in Wubbers U classes here.


Posted in Handmade Business, Selling Jewelry

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