Guys, I love Sterlingfest. This is the biggest show that we do every year, and it’s always really fun, even when it’s super hot out (thankfully, it wasn’t too bad this year). Sterlingfest is Sterling Heights’ big summer event, and it’s held the last weekend in July. We’ve been doing this show since 2014, and as long as we’re doing shows (and they accept our application), we’ll do this one. The traffic is great, there’s good food and good entertainment, and it’s organized really well. It’s far and away my favorite show to do.
Sterlingfest is also held at the Sterling Heights city hall, which is right around the corner from my mom’s house and only about 15 minutes from where I live in Rochester Hills, which makes it super convenient for us. It also happens to be sentimental for me for a couple of reasons—it’s right by the library where I grew up checking out armfuls of books every week, and it’s also the same property where the historic Upton house is located, which is where Dan and I took our wedding photos. I get all the feels when I come back to this area, and it’s super awesome to be able to bring Charlotte here now that she’s old enough to really enjoy the food and the fun.
All month long, I’ll be breaking down the shows in a similar way, discussing cost, location, advertising, crowds, and vendor perks as we move through the reviews of the shows I did in late July/August. I’m stoked to let you know how these shows went, and I’m hoping that the information is helpful to you as you plan for events in the coming year. As always, if you were at this show and would like to leave a comment or question, please feel free to do so in the comments below.
Price: At $230 for a 10’ x 10’ space, this is definitely the most expensive show that we have done thus far. I’m not going to sugarcoat it—that’s a lot of money, and it’s a huge consideration when you’re just starting out. It is a three day event, so if you divide it up, it’s about $75/day. That’s a little bit better—I regularly go to shows that are $100 for one day, so I try to think about it like that. I’d be more nervous about signing up for Sterlingfest if I knew I had to make back my booth with a lot of little pieces, but because I have large pieces of décor and furniture, I’m not usually too worried about making my booth and then making a profit.
Location: Just because I have a sentimental attachment to the location doesn’t mean that it’s not a great spot. The show is situated up and down the front of the city buildings, and then along part of the west side of the buildings as well. The tents in front of the buildings set up on the pavement, but we’ve always been on the grassy strip between the police station and Utica road. The application gives you space for any special requests, and in that space I always ask to be put on the grass, since it’s usually a bit cooler, and we have easy access to our booth just by pulling out onto Utica road, which makes it really easy for us to offer delivery all three days. It does seem like the traffic in the front of the buildings is always a bit heavier—I’m not sure that people come down the grassy area quite as much. This year, there were a lot fewer tents over on the grass, apparently because the organizers accepted a lot fewer applications than they usually do. This is actually a good thing, in my opinion—I like the fact that they are serious about keeping the quality of the show high.
Right behind the grassy spaces, across Utica road, is Dodge Park, where the food vendors and carnival area is always set up. There’s enough space between these two areas that the sound from the games doesn’t carry so much that you can’t have a decent conversation with your customers, and the real music doesn’t start until after the craft show portion is mostly closed (hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day). If you’re up closer to the corner of Dodge park and Utica road, which we were this year, since there were fewer spaces on the grass, it can be a little louder even during the day, since the smaller stage is set up right across from the tents up there.
Advertising: Sterlingfest is a big deal in Sterling Heights, and beginning in July, you start to see signs for it everywhere. It’s so well established that there would be huge crowds even without the signs—since it’s a city event, it’s also advertised in the newsletter, city paper, neighborhoods, library, parks, and local businesses. Over the three days, it feels like almost everybody in the city comes and brings their kids, friends, and families from all over. It’s a very popular event.
Crowds: Like I said, tons of people come. Not all of them are shoppers—like with the Auburn Hills show, there’s a lot for kids to do, there’s a beer tent, and there is entertainment throughout the day, so the craft show portion is not the only thing going on.
Thursday and Friday are always a lot slower, especially before 5 p.m., as you can imagine, with a lot of people still working the last two days of the week. That being said, we can usually still make our booth fee on Thursday night, even with the slower weekday crowd.
One of the best things about doing a show consistently for several years in a row is that you see a lot of the same customers over and over, and it’s amazing for me to hear that my customers are still loving the pieces that they purchased from me. I sold Alyson and Matt a china hutch in 2016 that they used as the centerpiece for their nursery—it was the first piece they bought after finding out that they were pregnant (with twins!!), and she was only a few weeks along when I met them last year.
Later, they ordered two custom dressers for me, and I saw them again that fall when I delivered them. It was so fun to see their twin baby girls this summer after doing those special pieces for them last year. I also caught up with Maria, who ordered a custom painted rocking chair last year, along with several others who purchased smaller things and came back to tell me how much they looked forward to seeing what we had each year and how much they loved our booth. I even customers who had bought pieces from me at other shows, and recognized the style and some of the designs, which just goes to show that this is a huge show that makes it onto a lot of people’s radar, even outside Sterling Heights.
Vendor Perks: The only downside to this show is that there isn’t much in the way of vendor amenities. During the day, the library is open and there’s an indoor bathroom available, but for the evening hours you’re stuck with the Porta-Johns.
There’s no food or water available for the vendors, either—you have to bring everything that you think you’ll need. We always bring a big cooler full of water and snacks. There are a lot of great food vendors open all day—somehow we always end up across from the toasted almond tent and have to buy about a hundred bags of them, they’re so good. The Sterlingfest organizers also host a breakfast with coffee and pastries on Thursday morning, but I’ve always been too busy with set up and last minute prepping to be able to go.
The staff is always around when you need them, and they send volunteers by regularly to see if anyone needs anything. This year, they even provided two cell phone numbers that you could call if you needed a quick break, which was really nice. Like in Auburn Hills, there is security overnight and all throughout the day, and it’s not unusual to see officers walk by the tent at least once an hour.
Because we have some extra space over on the grass, we asked if we could set up an EZ-Up behind our tent for some extra shade, and they were totally fine with it, which was great. It’s the first year that we did the extra little tent, and it really helped out to have the extra shade and space to hold furniture that people had purchased. I don’t know why, but having a sold pile back there always makes me so happy. There was some concern that it would rain on Thursday (thank goodness that didn’t end up happening), so it was also nice to have a little extra piece of mind that we could put things back there if we needed to. It’s also so fun, now that Charlotte is old enough to do the rides and games, to have a little hangout space for her to come back to and have a snack and a drink with Dan before they head back to the carnival rides.
It can be hard to get a read on Sterlingfest from the point of view of the other vendors. There really isn’t another booth like ours at all—there were a few selling signs and one really great booth selling reclaimed wood art. Check out Ironwood Fab when you get a chance—I usually don’t buy a lot at craft shows, but I bought two wall sconces from them for my bathroom in the Bellaire house.
We’ve had years where people get so frustrated with the traffic on Thursday that they pack up and leave that night, or, what’s worse, they wait through Friday and then leave right before the crowds start to get really good on Saturday. The jewelry category is always saturated, and there are a few soap/lotion booths, but other than that it seems to be a good variety—some clothing, kid’s items, fine art, and sculpture round out the show really well and make it worth it for the people who come to shop. I don’t think anyone left this year, but that could also be because it was the nicest July weather we’ve had in a while—on Friday night we were wearing jeans in the booth, it was so breezy and cloudy.
To sum up, I can’t see a scenario where we wouldn’t do this show. It’s close to us, the crowds are good, and, even though the price for a booth is obviously higher than we pay anywhere else, we usually make back our booth fee the first night, and always have a great day on Saturday when the crowds are the biggest.
Please leave a comment below if you’ve been to this show and have anything to add from the perspective of another type of vendor. If you’d like to submit a review of a show you’ve done, a Meet Your Maker interview, or a DIY post, please email me at email@example.com and we’ll make that happen!
Thanks for reading.