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summer art fair

updated wed 29 jun 05


denny means on tue 28 jun 05

Summer Fair
The potter looks into his wife’s face, flushed with heat. Mary is not a person to show much effect from the heat. Today, her forehead is beaded with sweat; her shirt is damp. What concerns him most is the look in her eyes – something wrong there, after 6 hours in 99-degree heat. He urges her to go to the truck and run the air conditioner, to cool off. She staunchly refuses. Eventually, she does go into the nearby school, cooling down in the stone and brick corridors.
The potter worries – losing his wife to heat stroke would be the final blow of a bad day. Few sales, not enough to pay for gas, much less booth fees, or other expenses, make this art festival a financial wreck for him. His good sales at a show 2 weeks prior will somehow have to stretch to the next show. Earning at least the $250 booth fee for an October show is a lost cause, now. "I'll think about that tomorrow," he muses.
Time check. Four hours to go! A long time when there is no business. A few people come by. Folks look, some admire the work. A few pick up a piece and say "this is really nice!" or, "Wouldn’t this look nice next to our table lamp?" Then they set the piece down, and leave. Normally the potter talks the folks up, chatting, kidding, reinforcing their interest, and their choices. Today, these visitors want no conversation. Whatever mission brought these folks out; it is not buying pottery, much less larger tile wall pieces. These folks want to get on – to get back into their air-conditioned cars?
It is the same for virtually every artist at the show. Another potter, who drove four hours, reports no sales. The Virginia artist sold a small print for $65. One potter sold a cup, then a plate -$70, total. Realization that weeks of work were for nothing spreads among the artists at the "festival of the arts." Gloom spreads over the tents, the only thing thicker than the humidity.
The wood turner down the way grows more irritated by the hour. The show committee told him that he could not run his extension cord across the traffic aisle, so his electric fans sit motionless. Initially he understood – now he comments that there is no one coming by to trip over the wire, anyway.
Awards are announced. The women judges give best of show to the bead lady; the potter wins honorable mention. "Well, that is something out of this day," he thinks. The artists in his row congratulate the potter. It’s good.
The heat continues to build. The afternoon slows even further. The potter slips behind the tent for a quick shirt change. The unshaded blast of the sun pours down on him like an open kiln. The shirt stays fresh for 5 minutes. Mary retreats to the cool building once more.
Packing up. Mary brings him a picture from one of the newspapers used to wrap pots. The Target ad shows a plastic pool, on sale. For a moment they share a thought. Water, a pool, a dream of being cool. Being immersed – floating –no worries. He jokes, "if we had that pool here, we could charge admission!" They smile together; it lifts their spirits.
A friend comes over; she helps fold up the canopy, they load the truck. Roll out. Together, they eat pizza and have a cold beer. The memory of the sun retreats as evening comes on. The friend says, "you know, that show in Greensburg is supposed to be a good one." "Yup, I heard that, it probably will be a good one," says the potter, "We'll be there."
Denny Means
On the ground at the art fair in Lebanon, Ohio