This past weekend was difficult for me due to the fact that we were not able to host our yearly show called Gateway to the Thumb Arts & Antiques Festival at the Eastern Michigan Fairgrounds in Imlay City, Michigan. Generally there is an enormous amount of pre-planning, physical labor, and creativity that goes into the process of putting together a project such as this. There’s lots of behind-the-scenes activity, and as with everything I dream of doing, a lot of personal direction that both Barry and I focus on making the festival what it is. Most people don’t realize how much work we actually undertake in getting the grounds set
up to our standards that no one else would be willing to take on.
We both actively recruit the vendors and the attendees, getting help from our trusty sidekick, Katrina, to handle the online marketing. We invest all of ourselves into making this event successful and then hire additional personnel to staff the festival day-of. Time, energy, and money go into this project that doesn’t get measured because you can’t quantify these investments. If we did, we would be completely in the red.
This year we began ahead of schedule in January preparing for a jump on our past experience. Little did we know that we could not prepare for what would be a completely unheard of roadblock – COVID19. By late February we had secured a fair number of early-bird vendors when we came to realize that our festival was in serious danger. After many conversations with the fair board director, I had to face the reality that there would not be a 2020 GT3 Festival. Time, energy, and money had already been spent and we were facing a complete close-down of our other new business, Pilgrim’s Cottage, which had just opened after a complete remodel of our new building. You could not make up these scenarios, even with the most outlandish comedy routine. We were definitely in a bad position.
However, after discussion we decided to return the vendors' pre-payment over time, even though there were many, many examples of other festivals sticking to their contracts which included no-return stipulations just the same as ours did. We felt that those who had confidence in us to sign up early should not be penalized for doing so. It has taken us to this point to slowly return those dollars to the vendors, and we are almost completely done with that. There are those that understood our plight, and there are those who did not.
And so, this weekend passed. I was saddened many times in reflection. I know other venues that have opened and I have attended some that were over the “mandated orders”. I have thought to myself, “We could have done this!” But in the end, there was no way to predict what the response would have been by the vendors or the attendees.
I guess that is life. No guarantees. And really, that is what I like about it. In America, we can work as hard as we want to for our successes. Sometimes they turn to failures or not as grand as we dreamt. But we get to decide that for ourselves. My life right now is full of promise. I get to decide how I want to proceed with all of our business decisions and for that I am grateful. I get to decide if I want to get up at 5am and spruce up listings online or close early at the store to spend time with family. I can completely dictate how I operate my business, because we have the rights to do that in our current America. I love that! And I can have the hope that next year we can have another festival, if we want to do that. And maybe we will! Or maybe I will come up with a brand new idea that gets me excited about life. As with everything, only time will tell.