If you are not someone who is interested in the behind-the-scenes experience of running our small shop, then this email may not be for you, and that's ok. Sometimes, we try to offer peeks behind the curtain to give context of how we're doing and what might be going on... and this is sure a lot.
Last week, we had the experience of vending at one of the auxiliary events around the largest fiber festivals in the country, New York Sheep and Wool (affectionately dubbed Rhinebeck). This event is called Wool & Folk and this past Friday was its third year in existence.
To say that this show was a disaster would be putting it kindly - we have never had the displeasure of vending at a more uncommunicative, inaccessible, or disrespectful event.
When we arrived at the venue last Thursday, there was no indication of where vendors should pull in to unload and set up their booths. We spent twenty minutes looking for an organizer who would be able to give us direction or tell us where our booth should be (standard practice is to send out a map of booths ahead of time). Upon finding an organizer, we learned that we would have to vend outside - something we weren't entirely prepared for because we had been informed that everyone would be vending inside. Our grid wall did not fit under the initial 10x10 tent we had been assigned, and we were moved under the larger "Wool and Folk Village" tent, which was a gravel parking lot on a hill.
We paid $900 for our booth space, which was a promised 10x10 indoor space. The outdoor tent we were in had an outside measurement of 30 ft, meaning we received a space smaller than that. We were on gravel, under a tent outside, during a weekend where significant rain was expected. Due to the slant of the hill, our booth set up was predetermined by our neighbor's booth because we had to literally prop them up with our racks, otherwise their grid wall would topple over.
To be clear, we had absolutely no problem with supporting our fellow indie dyer neighbor - we have an issue with the lack of support, follow through of promises, and outright disdain from the organizers of the Wool & Folk event. The primary event organizer never spoke to or made eye contact with us while we were working this show. We have never felt as disrespected by an event we have worked at as we did at Wool & Folk.
Despite the predicted rain - which was why the venue was changed, per the organizers - there were no side walls put up on the outdoor tents. Our booth neighbors had to procure tarps on their own, to ensure their merchandise was not ruined. Many other vendors had spots and tents where gallons of water were pouring into their booth. Some folks were able to demand tables inside (smaller than the space of their booths), and some didn't want to continue to fight with the organizers to follow through on their promises and packed up to go home.
We were also promised "ample parking" with the venue change, but parking was a quarter of a mile away, up a steep hill. For some vendors, that meant walking their racks that quarter of a mile down a hill, since they were not able to unload at the venue itself.
If it weren't for the rain, this would have still have been a poorly organized, uncommunicative event, but it may have been successful by the skin of its teeth. But the lack of organization and lack of understanding (or perhaps care) from the event organizers made this event a nightmare. Every issue the event would have had on dry land was exacerbated by the rain and became dangerous. Booths that would have been difficult to access with mobility devices became impossible to reach, and booths that were able to be reached became more treacherous. There was extensive mud in tents outside, and rather than planning for the expected, organizers put down cardboard that became even more of a hazard as it disintegrated. Mobility aids became stuck in the mud and gravel, only to be freed by others who offered help. The space behind the large tent was covered by a plastic sheet, which compounded by mud and rain made it tricky for anyone to traverse.
The extent to how badly this event was organized and executed is difficult to convey. We are exceptionally disappointed by the event organizing team, both in how this event was executed, and their response since. I'm not sure I have or even could cover everything that went wrong with this event, and how little compassion there was on the part of the event organizers. This was unacceptable and I want to emphasize that even if we made a million dollars at this event, that everyone who attended, everyone who vended, all of the staff of the venue, the caterers of the Thursday dinner, the town of Catskill - everyone deserves better than what happened. There is a certain amount of rolling with the punches as a vendor, but the people who shopped at this event, paid to be there, and suffered because of the actions of the organizers, deserve so much more.
In some ways, we consider ourselves lucky - while we did have high expectations of this event, and it is the furthest we have traveled for a show, but we managed to (give or take) break even. Many of our friendors (friend-vendors, if that’s too cutesy) walked away with devastating losses. We do have a lot of washing to do - all of our tablecloths are thick with mud, most of our samples ended up on the ground, as well as countless skeins - we will be okay. We are disappointed, but will survive.
Additionally, while it is reasonable to be loud when something goes horribly wrong, it is harder to be as loud when things go wonderfully. For that, we want to uplift some incredible shows we’ve done in the past and will do in the future. Please mark your calendars for YarnCon in Chicago, the Wool Gathering in Yellow Springs, the Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster. You can keep tabs on our Find Us page on our site!
For the full list of vendors, please check out this list from @boymeetsyarn on Instagram. The website for Wool & Folk never had clickable links for vendors. For further context, check out this thread from r/craftsnark on reddit. There have been plenty of threads created since if you're looking for more information.
Thank you for being here, whether you’ve discovered us through this snafu, or you’ve loved us since the beginning! We appreciate your being here and look forward to making more magic with you.
If you’re in Washington state, you can come see us this week at our trunk show at Northwest Yarns. If you are close to Columbus, Ohio, you can come see us at our storefront downtown. Our next planned weekend hours are for Small Business Saturday, and our next collection is a new round of cryptids coming out on Halloween!
Thank you again, for your time and support.
Kelley & Ashley