Monday, October 5, 2009

Ojai Big Chili Let-Down

Well, this last Saturday was the culmination of a weeks worth of crafting for myself and the DONO girls. We signed up to have a vendor booth at the 1st annual Ojai Big Chili Cook-off. The booth itself was a pricey $150 but with only one other event, the Johnny Cash Music Festival under our belts, we decided it would be worth it. It was promising to be a big turn-out, with many vendors and chili contestants and live bands to draw a crowd. The event opened to the public at 12:00 but we arrived nice and early to stake a claim on the best possible spot to set up. We were as full of ambition & excitement as you can be that early in the morning. We set off from Ventura in a three car caravan, my rusty yet trusty wagon as the official DONO mobile, loaded up with our wares & gear was the lead car and Jaymee with co-pilot Candice (lookin' pretty in pink)in the middle and Claudia bringing up the rear.

We arrived at Lake Casitas and didn't see a single sign indicating the event until we go to the main gate. We informed the gate-guy that we were vendors for the event and he then directed us all the way through the park to a dead end where we had to ask for directions yet again to get to the correct location. Our three cars trailed each other back out of the park and down along a side road to the vendor entrance. Once we cleared the gate there, we were mis-directed several more times to before we found our booth and were able to set up. There were some other managerial difficulties with the set up too, like when they moved a picnic table away from the back of the booth because it was supposedly in a walkway and then let a another booth set up at the end, essentially blocking off access to the walkway. I understand that it was a first annual event and that there are growing pains to be expected but it seemed like they were unprepared for their own event.

Once we were finally situated, the DONO booth went up with no problem. You would have thought we were seasoned pros at set-up. Everyone's beautiful hand crafted awesome-ness was ready to meet the hoards of chili lovin' patrons! We set up our chairs and eagerly awaited our crowd. At noon they opened the gates to the public. People paid the $10 admission and started to meander in. The 1st place they all went were the ticket booths where they had to purchase "tasting tickets" for the chili participants. For $5 they got 10 tickets to taste table spoon sized portions of the various chili offerings. So right away the customers are out $15 a head. The crowds hit all the chili booths first (which rightfully, were amazing) while we waited for the waves of customers. We waited, and waited.

The projected turnout was going to be in the 1,000's but in reality it was probably more like 500-700 people. We sold a total of about $30 DONO merch, and Canidice made a fair amount off of her hand-made jewelry but we didn't come anywhere near recouping the cost of our booth. In fact we barely made back the money we spent on the breakfast burritos we treated ourselves to! It was pretty dismal. We talked to other vendors and they all agreed, several others did not make back their booth investment either. However, what we didn't make in money, we gained in precious experience. That, I suppose is priceless.

We packed up about an hour early and like a sigh of relief, other vendors started to tear down too. We carted all of the stuff back down to the cars and loaded them up, tired and ready to go. We all hugged and then loaded ourselves into our cars and got the hell outta Casitas. Our faithful DONO mobile carted Lisa and I back down to Ventura where we and the other girls will plot our next event with the knowledge gained from this one.

P.S. To see great photos of our booth and the other hard working vendors & chili people, check out Kara's Facebook album here:

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