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To Market, To Market

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a hundred times---I bet I could do this. Yeah, right!

It's a well worn tale about how I became a vendor at the Orlando Farmer's Market, going on near SIX years ago which I won't repeat. Search my blog for that if you're interested. What I will say is that never in my life did I once aspire to sitting in a tent for six hours in our Florida heat, but, by golly, I've had more fun doing it than I ever dreamed.

Of course, all that fun comes at a price which is not measured in dollars and cents. Furthermore, without Bruce's help I wouldn't have done it to begin with! So, here's what a typical day doing the market is like.....

We wake up. Bruce gets himself ready and loads the Pilot at 7AM. Loading a vehicle, whatever one is used, is practically a science, and we all know how bad I am at sciences! Bruce, on the other hand, is a genius when it comes to packing. During our years "vending" we've gone from using the BMW and MINI Cooper, to the Honda Element, and now the Honda Pilot ,which is the best of the lot. The Element worked well, but it was filled to the BRIM, including the passenger seat. After some initial trial and error, Bruce figured out a system which we follow faithfully each and every Sunday.

He tries to leave by 7:15, stopping to get coffee at Dunkin Donuts on his way. He unloads everything at our spot, or make that behind our spot and parks the car. The tent is first, the poles to hang the panels next, and finally, the Flourish panels which attach by velcro at what seems like a hundred points. The worst part of this process is when rain is expected he also has to tie on all the side panels. Dreadful! There are weights at each corner, and the tent is also tied to the ligustrum behind our space...just in case a hurricane comes through!

You might have noticed no mention of Mrs. Camera Crazy. Good job! She is lollygagging at home. Not really, but it takes me longer to get going, and he does all that better without me anyway. I arrive around 8:30, by which time he is usually hanging stuff. We used to use more walls, eventually learning that less is better at the market. A show? That's a different story altogether,  best told another day.

Finally, the walls are hung, the front rack and sling are filled, the boxes are behind the tent, and the baskets arranged on the tables. Price tags are hung, and the day begins. Most days I shoo Bruce home not long after I arrive so he can begin his day doing whatever needs doing, which translates into answering 100's of emails.

This Sunday, before he left, we had visitors--Ha and Maria. Ha visited my VERY FIRST day at the market and continues to be a faithful friend and visitor.
Ha, wearing the orange tank top, used to work with Jonathan and Bill at Martini Graphics which is now kaput. Her new employer,  AAA, has a sale around Christmas when artisans come in for the day. I'm hoping, with her help, to be one of those folks! We shall see.

Looking closely you will see two chairs on the left--one for me, and one for whomever comes to visit and wants to sit in front of the pictured wind machine. Usually, before the day gets going, I roam around taking pictures of the market for Dana to use on FB, and share with the city.
Although we only have one vegetable and fruit vendor he has more than anyone could possibly need. Depending on the time of the year, Jonathan and Amy have upwards of NINE tents. I cannot imagine setting it all up!
Those who've been reading from the beginning may remember that when I began, they were selling their corn out of the back of their truck, having farmed it in Belle Glade near the Everglades. These days, Jonathan still farms, but most of what they have comes from other farmers. Dana taught them how to do displays, going so far as to buy them baskets and table cloths. They were quick learners!
After visiting their tents I make my way to the BATHROOM near the playgrounds. That is one thing Winter Garden definitely has over Lake Eola--close bathrooms! I mosey back on the bridge, photographing whatever strikes my fancy. I have met some super great folks while doing this all these years. Some have hung around forever, beginning long before I did. Tim has been giving massages for more than 10 years!
Of course, Jim and Kathy play a big part in my market days. Not only have I purchased oodles of plants and orchids from them over the years, they have become good friends and market neighbors. Kathy is constantly checking my sales book, making sure I'm doing well. This Sunday she was not happy...
Denny, a new friend from WG, has now found a home at Lake Eola where he's having no problem selling his amazing pastries.
Sheila, seated at her sewing machine is another fairly new and awesome vendor who is close by my tent.
The photo above makes my next point. As I sit in my tent, talking to folks, I am amazed at the great variety of people who mosey through the market. Many, dare I say most, are not there to buy a thing, instead preferring to people watch and socialize. Oh yeah, and drink beer while listening to Joseph, who is terrific. I've heard him now, all these years since Dana brought him in, and I never tire of listening to his voice. This past Sunday, I heard a different voice take the mike--he said, excuse me everyone, and I grabbed my camera quick!
I was in such a hurry I did not get the happy couple in focus, rather the folks in front; indeed, he is proposing marriage at the market. And that's not the first time that's happened. I returned after they were seated, bringing them my heart cloud picture, taken one day while at the market over Lake Eola. I've called it "Love is in the Air", and indeed, it was on Sunday.

So, I sweat, I sit, I talk to a wide variety of people. Usually they stop and look at the sling which is both good and bad because I never know what to put in the sling. What do I mean by "the sling?" Well, it is on a frame, holding the 16x20 and 18x24 prints. Mostly I put landscapy stuff in there, but who knows? Perhaps I should be putting something different in there.

The market gets busier as the day goes on; typically, when I should be eating some lunch, I have either visitors, or customers, thus lunchtime for me gets pushed well into the afternoon. And, of course I need another bathroom break, which in the afternoon, usually means a walk to the neighborhood Publix for a small dose of air conditioning. Kathy keeps an eye on things, and is oh so happy when she sells something in my absence. Me too!

I almost forgot to mention the dogs! Good grief, you've never seen SO MANY dogs in one place. They come on leaches, in strollers, in arms, and if that isn't enough for you, some of them are dressed. I've seen it all in my years, or so I thought, until Sunday, some folks came along with this dog...
 Need I say more?

Eventually, particularly if it is a slow day, Bruce returns for the take down. By then, and sadly this is most of the time in Florida, the heat is pretty bad. We each have our tasks, doing everything in reverse order from the morning. Thankfully, if we work quickly, the take down takes only about 30 minutes, followed by my getting our vehicle and lining up with the others. With the large volume of vendors we now have, getting our car into our space to load is--I'm at a loss for words here--maybe, pretty challenging works?

We load as quickly as possible, and most days we are back home by a little after 5. And then we collapse!

In my artist group most of the others do not do outdoor events, claiming it is too difficult. They are right--it is really hard. Could I do it without Bruce? Not a chance! It is hot, it is cold, it rains, and I have slow sales days, but still we go, because really, after all this time, both Bruce and I are part of what we fondly call "our market family." I remember once reading in a blog Matt turned me on to called Spitafields Life (linked to on right of page), that one of the vendors had been at their market for 40 years! Yes, you read that right--40 years! That obviously won't work for us--gosh we'd be in our 90's by then. Only time will tell how long we'll continue, despite how hard it all is, we've made some good memories, met wonderful folks,  and sold a few photographs along the way.
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