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Face Painting for Festivals Series: Part 1-Getting a Festival
I hope that everyone is enjoying this beautiful spring weather. I only want to die from allergies every other day now, so I guess you could say things are looking up! With this beautiful weather comes the beautiful prospect of doing festivals! Festivals can be both amazing and terrifying, so I’ve decided to break up my festival lecture into three blog posts.
Today’s post is Part One: Getting a Festival. This is arguably the most important part about doing a festival. It’s kind of hard to paint at one without permission from the festival producer… I mean, sure you could do it without permission, but then you’d be that person. You would be that person, showing up with their TV tray and tiny paint kit, hawking your wares at the passersby, as they shield their children from your sight and pretend not to hear your cries “Face Painting! Get your face painting here!” You’d sit there in constant fear of being found out, of being discovered for the fraud that you are. For shame! Don’t be that person, friend. Be the better painter. The one who did it the right way, the one who shows up and proudly stands next to their giant sign that says more than words ever could “Face Painting!”
“But Ashley,” you say. “How do I get to be that awesome painter with my cool sign and my legit painting spot?”
Don’t worry little baby birds, I’m going to tell you how to do this, step by step.
STEP ONE-figure out your demographic.
If you’re a kid’s face painter, then you want a fest with a TON of children in attendance. Look for fests with things like a kids area, other children’s entertainment (puppet shows, costume contests, petting zoo, etc.) If you’re more interested in henna/temporary tattoos, then kids are preferable, but you could also do well at fests with a lot of adults who are drinking alcohol. Because let’s face it, no one loves to do weird and fun stuff more than people with a drink in their hand and money to burn. Those kinds of fests will have music concerts, maybe a motorcycle show, vehicle contests, booze for sale, fancy art to buy, you know…. adult stuff. Pick a show that fits the description that bests suits your needs.
STEP TWO-figure out if the fair will be well attended.
Some fairs are just amazing. Maybe they are located in the most popular touristy spot in your whole state, maybe they happen to fall on a major holiday, or maybe it’s just incredibly popular and everyone and their grandma loves to go their. Those are the kinds of fairs you want. You want the fair where people go because it’s practically a tradition and they would be devastated if they missed it.
Be aware that just because a fair seems perfect, doesn’t mean that it is. I once tried a fair that was right down the street from my home. I did my research. I made sure that it was well attended, that it would have a lot of children, and [bonus!] it was really close by! The one thing that I never took into account was weather. In my head I thought, it’s spring, the weather will be perfect! But you know what spring is also famous for? That’s right…spring showers and flying kites.
Everything started out really well and then the wind started… eventually my entire table blew over, then I had to hang onto my tent to keep it from blowing away, then I let go of my tent to catch my table again and my tent really actually blew away! I chased after it and some nice folks helped me drag its sad corpse back to my spot. UGH. It was kind of awful. Since then I’ve never done that fair again (even though it has potential to be amazing) because I know that it also has potential to be a disaster. And every year since then I check on the weather on the day of the fest, and every year but one has been awful. It was a lesson that I learned the hard way.
Do your homework! If you’re considering a fest, I would definitely check how the weather was during that fest for the last 5 years. I rained 3 out of the five? Well, maybe that one just isn’t meant to be.
Another thing to consider is advertising. Does your fest have a Facebook event page? A website? Radio spots? A commercial? An ad in the paper? An Instagram or Twitter account? Fairs who put a lot of effort into being known, even if they’ve been around for a while, are probably going to be better than those who survive on word of mouth alone.
STEP THREE: approach the fair producer.
So you found a fair that you think will be a good fit? Great! Now let’s try and get you that spot!
First make sure that the fair doesn’t already have a face painter. Some fairs are big enough (think 100,000 people and up) for more than one painter, but most are not. If there is already a painter, then you can approach the painter and ask if they are so super busy, would they like to bring you onto their team? They would provide the booth, setup, booth fees, etc. All you do is show up, paint with your kit, and then give the booth owner a percentage of your sales. I’ve done this with some painters who are now some of my best friends (you know who you are and I LOVE YOU! *muah*!) Some people might not like you asking though, so be super duper respectful, and don’t step on their toes. I repeat, be super duper respectful. Being pushy is no way to make friends. Also, do not go to the producer and try to steal the fair from them. That’s lame. Don’t be that person.
But hey, there’s no painter at this fair! YAY! So in that case it’s a matter or finding the producer of the event. This person is often the contact person for the show. I often just send a short email with an introduction and a little bit about how I’m interested in providing face paint entertainment for their fair.
Sometimes they will say, “great, I’ll give you a spot!.” And then you run out and buy a lottery ticket, because you know that was too easy and it must be your lucky day.
But most of the time, they will ask you to fill out the vendor application. Those are pretty standard, they want your contact information, info on what you plan on doing at the fair, how big of a space you want, whether or not you want electricity, proof of insurance, and sometimes pictures of your booth and what you plan to have at the fair. That application will also say the price of the booth.
Now the price might be totally reasonable! “Hey, $100! I can do that!” But more likely it’s going to be way more… like $$$$ to $$$$$ more. That’s because most people at fests are selling inventory and they will be making a lot($$$$$) of money at this event. You’re a face painter. You don’t really have inventory, your money is wholly dependent on how many faces you can physically paint in a day. Now you have to gently and logically point this out to your contact person. Let them know that you provide a service and even if you painted non-stop for the whole fest, and everyone purchased the most expensive design, you could only make (insert number.) Ask if it would be possible for you, instead, to pay the event with a percentage of your gross sales. If you are articulate and humble about your request, and explain how you are providing entertainment to the event, and have a bit of luck, the event may grant you your request! This approach has worked for me in the past, so it’s worth a try if you just can not afford the booth fee. Keep in mind though, that if it’s a HUGE fest, then there is a good chance that booth fees are non-negotiable. In that situation, you’ll just have to weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself.
Ask yourself things like:
-How far away is it?
-Is it worth giving up my time and other hourly gigs for?
-Will I be hurting if I don’t break even?
So, now you have a festival! Congrats! Make sure that your application, or contract that you sign with the event producer states in writing the deal that you have agreed upon.
Now you can sit back, and start to panic while you over think how in the hey diddle are you going to put together a successful face paint booth!
In next week’s blog post: Part Two- Preparing for Your Festival!
Until then, be kind and happy painting!
P.S. Please remember that I am not a festival expert. Take everything I’ve told you with a grain of salt and please, do what’s best for you. Love ya!