Craft Show Review: Auburn Hills, MI Summerfest 2017

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We were at Summerfest this past weekend and had a great time. I feel like this is a relatively little known show, and I’m so thankful to my good friend Heather for turning me on to it. It’s definitely on my calendar for the foreseeable future. I have a couple of reasons for that which I will list right away at the beginning of the post, and then I’ll go on to break down in further detail how the show went and what you can expect if you apply next year.

Here are the major details:

Summerfest is always on a Friday evening and Saturday morning in late June. This year, it fell on June 23-24 (2017). Friday set up is usually 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., and show hours are 4-10 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Saturday. Vendor parking is reserved close by, but there is no access to the show on Saturday morning; if you have to restock, you have to bring things from the parking lot.

Before I really get into things I want to do a little disclaimer: doing a show review is a little tricky because things can change so much from year to year as far as the weather, the economy, the traffic, and the interest in the show. I’ll do my best to give you all the information I can here—both the good and the bad about the show, including my particular biases (like the fact that its only three minutes from my house). It’s also tricky because vendor experiences really differ by craft–selling furniture is a lot different than selling jewelry, candles, or dog treats. If you’re out there doing those things, leave a comment and tell me how it was for you–or better yet, write a post about it! I’d be happy to feature it on my blog!

Ok, so here are the reasons I love Summerfest:

  1. It’s three minutes from my house.
  2. At $40, it’s one of the most affordable shows I’ve done.
  3. Sweets (you’ll get addicted to their ice cream, I promise).
  4. There is a ton of stuff for kids to do.
  5. The Den (this is the air-conditioned!! hangout space for vendors).
  6. Auburn Hills Parks and Rec. They are super sweet and easy to work with.

To break it down a bit more:

  1. Commute: The commute to and from a show is a big factor for me when deciding whether I want to commit to it. A long commute adds one more expense I have to make up; in addition to my booth fee and food, I also want to make up the money I spent on gas to get to the show. The longer the commute is, the more money I have to make just to break even, and that can add a lot of stress at an event like this—if you’re anything like me, you’re constantly trying to figure out where you are at for that show in terms of profit/loss. I really want to be able to relax and have fun without being super stressed about that stuff, and doing shows that are really close to where I live helps out so much with that. It’s also really easy to run home for more inventory if I start selling out.
  2. Cost: I feel like this one is self-explanatory. Shows on this scale are usually much more expensive (though I will admit, the actual number of shoppers in Auburn Hills doesn’t compare to a show like Sterlingfest or Arts and Apples. The pictures are a bit deceiving here–there are a TON of people that come through, but it’s mostly for the free stuff).
  3. Ice Cream: I can’t say enough good things about Sweets. The ice cream is to die for. Do yourself a favor and try “This $#@% Just Got Serious.” Great name, great flavor. You won’t be disappointed. We go there all the time anyway, and Dan is on a first name basis with Cathy, the owner, but being right across the street in my tent is even better than being three miles away. Plus, they use her delicious ice cream for the ice cream social.
  4. Super Kid-Friendly: This can be a good thing and a bad thing. All of the kid stuff is free, so from a parent point of view, yeah, bring the kids out and let them ride the water slide and do the inflatable mazes. Then go to the ice cream tent, get them some free ice cream, and run them back through all that stuff again. From a vendor’s point of view, that also means a lot of kids coming into the booth and touching stuff or getting impatient with the moms who came to shop a little first.
  5. Vendor Perks: The Den is such an amazing perk for vendors—it’s the kind of amenity that many shows don’t really attempt to provide. Usually, the Den is hangout for area college students, but during the show it’s volunteer and vendor headquarters. Drinks, snacks (mostly candy, but who doesn’t like free candy?), cool air and a real bathroom? Yes, please. I definitely don’t miss the port-a-potties that even the vendors have to use at the other big shows.
  6. Staff and Security: The show is so well staffed. There are constantly police officers, security guards, Parks and Rec employees, and volunteers around (this year, the volunteers wore bright orange, which was super easy to spot). If you or anyone else has a question about literally anything, there will be someone within ten feet that knows the answer. I can’t say this about the majority of other shows I’ve done–even city sponsored shows like this one.

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So those are the big reasons why I love Summerfest. The proximity and the price can’t be beat by any other show I do in the summer months. Now, on to specifics about this year’s show and what to plan for if you’re thinking of doing the show next year:

Weather: I don’t know why I’m even bothering to write about Michigan weather at all, because we all know that the weather is unpredictable and the meteorologists are wrong most of the time. I always monitor my weather app pretty closely the week before a show, and the number of times the weather predictions changed in the days leading up to this show was infuriating. I should just learn to pray and let God worry about the rest.

The weather on Friday morning was spotty, so I wanted to get there right at 9 a.m. to set up the tent and get everything inside and zipped up before it started to rain. When we bring mostly furniture, like we did this year (we’re slowly moving away from bringing a bunch of little things with us), set up takes barely any time at all. Just throw everything in there because you’ll be rearranging it later anyway. My mom and I had enough time to set the tent up and unload the cars (plus I had enough time to go home and get another small load and still be back to the tent, unloaded, and in the car) before the rain started a little after 10 a.m. I told you it was close to my house.

It poured, but our tent kept everything dry and safe, and by the time the show opened at 4 p.m., the rain was done. Saturday was touch and go for awhile according to the weather peeps, but it stayed clear (if a bit windy) and cool, especially compared to last year.

Traffic: There were a lot of people on Friday night, but not a lot of shoppers. I get it–there’s a lot to do. I always think it’s hard to start a show at 4 p.m. on a weekday, since there are still people at work, or coming from work, or eating dinner. Traffic doesn’t really pick up on a day like that until about 6 p.m.

Saturday shows are usually busy in the morning and slow down later in the day. Because this one is open so long, it tends to be a little more spread out. Plus, the beer tent opened at 4 p.m., so that was a big draw.

Sales: The first goal is always to “make your booth”–to make back the money that you spent on your spot. At this show, it isn’t hard, though it took a couple hours longer than usual. We made it by the second sale on Friday, and sales were pretty steady from 6 p.m. to about 8 p.m., when activity started to drop off a bit.

Our average sale at this show was about $12, which is pretty slow for us (our typical average is about $25-$30). Because so many people live close by, we get a lot of folks that walked to the show, and they seemed to be on the hunt for smaller items that were easy to carry. A couple of people bought larger pieces and came back to pick them up later, but not as many as usual. The benefit for us really lies in the contacts that we make at this show and the follow-up orders we get (I’ll be picking up a custom order dresser and mirror next week from someone who saw our work at the show) rather than the actual sales the day of the show.

If you are planning on applying to Summerfest for 2018, that’s awesome! I’d love to see you there. It’s always great to meet and get to know new crafters and small business owners! Here are a few final things to know about this show if you are planning on trying Summerfest next year:

It’s a big show on a rather small scale:

Everything is crammed onto Main Street in a condensed space–at one end is the stage and food/ice cream tent, and at the other is the kid stuff (inflatables, face painting, balloon animals, etc.). The craft show is sandwiched in the middle, which forces traffic to move around it all day, which is good, but also means that on either end of the strip of tents, it’s pretty loud. Plan on getting there early to nab a spot near the middle.

Summerfest is organized a little differently than a lot of other shows:

To piggy-back off of that last thought, set-up is different in that there are no assigned spots. It’s first come, first served (no assigned numbers or spaces), and parking and maneuvering vehicles can be a little tight. That’s another reason I like to get in and out early so that I don’t waste time waiting for someone to move their car. Also, because the show hours are so long, electricity is provided for free, which means at some point, Parks and Rec will be in your tent to provide a work light that they attach to the top of the tent with zip ties along one of the supports.

The show is super dog friendly:

There’s a pet parade on Saturday morning, and people are allowed to have their dogs at the show all weekend (vendors included!). If you have a laid back dog, bring him or her! This year there was a great dog treat vendor, too, and there are bowls of water all over the place. I love dogs, so it’s super nice to go to a show that’s dog-friendly.

You’re provided with two vendor ID cards for the Den:

There’s usually someone in The Den monitoring who goes in and out since it’s not open to the public. You’ll get a pass at check-in; make sure that you always take it with you, just in case the person on duty doesn’t recognize you as a “staff member.” There’s a lot going on, and a lot of people in and out of there, so it just makes things a lot easier!

Honestly, if this show wasn’t so close to me, I don’t know if I’d do it, since my big pieces don’t really move well and there are a lot of things that distract people from the craft show part of the event. The hours are long and sometimes it’s really hot, and I don’t really meet a lot of what I’d designate as my ideal clients there (more on that in another post). However, since I’m building my email list right now and trying to get the word out to other vendors about this resource that I’m trying to build for my readers, it was still a really productive show for me, and we got some leads on a few custom orders for later in the summer. That’s another thing about doing shows–even if your sales are low, the cards you hand out and the emails you gather could lead to big jobs down the road, so even if you barely make your booth that particular weekend, you could still make a big profit from that show down the road a bit.

Stay tuned later this week for my review of the Shabby Sunday Vintage Market in Flint, MI. I’m excited to share that experience with you very soon!

Email if you’d like to collaborate by sharing a post from a show you’ve done, or leave a comment below letting the readers know what your experience at Summerfest was like! As always, use the #metrodetroitmaker on Instagram to connect with our community and keep everyone updated on what you’re working on!




One thought on “Craft Show Review: Auburn Hills, MI Summerfest 2017

  1. Pingback: Friday (Small Business) Favorites: September Edition | #metrodetroitmaker

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