Summer in Montana is the time when a lot of art and craft shows are happening. After all, we want to catch all the tourist traffic we can get during our short summers, and show the visitors what we, Montanans, are capable of. This is also the time when county and regional fairs take place. So, what would happen if the two types of events were combined?
I'm sure that's what the organizers of MADE Fair Marketplace at Western Montana Fair had in mind when they started the show in 2018. What could be better than showing off the talents of regional artists and crafts people during the time when a lot of regional ranchers and farmers descend on Missoula?!? Turns out, not all good ideas work well in practice.
Although Buckaroo Bling didn't participate in the first MADE Fair Marketplace in the summer of 2018, we decided to give it a shot this year. After all, the organizers have more experience, renovation of the Commercial Building at Missoula Fairgrounds had just been completed, so it should be a great opportunity to bring Buckaroo Bling to Missoula, we thought. Boy, were we disappointed!
We spent three long, long, 10-hour days at the beautifully renovated Commercial Building at the Fairgrounds in early August with not much to show for it. Although the building renovations were substantial with even an elevator put in to take visitors from the first floor to the second floor wrap-around balcony, one major thing was missing: a cooling system. With 94+ degree days and thousands of visitors filing through (normal human body temperature is 98.6 degrees), the building became sort of a heat torture chamber. Two ceiling and two portable fans, one of each at each end of the building, couldn't do enough to move the air, and the unreasonable request by the "higher-ups" to keep all the windows and doors closed made being in this space a stuffy, suffocating, health and endurance taxing experience. Like that wasn't enough to put the poor vendors on edge, the visitors mostly didn't even bother to look at the vendor booths, but instead filed back and forth mindlessly through the building, treating us as just another Fair exhibit they weren't particularly interested in. When they did stop to look at something, they prodded and pulled on the items with one hand while holding a precariously tilting cup of ice cream or a plate of greasy funnel cake in another, which threatened to spill over the vendor's display at any moment. Not to even mention the "sticky-fingers" who walked away from our booth without paying for their items, or unsupervised dog companions (no, NOT service dogs but pets) who threatened to lift their legs at the vendors' table drapes or, even worse, at items on low display shelves. The only saving grace to this whole ordeal were the friendly fellow artists and crafts people we had a pleasure of meeting during the event, and a couple of new customers.
Yes, in this mass of zombie-like humanity, there were some visitors who truly wanted to find out about the ins and outs of jewelry making, and who appreciated the quality of handcrafted, Montana made items, and for that we're thankful. Unfortunately, they'll have to keep in touch with Buckaroo Bling through our online channels and maybe even invite us to their respective communities as our experience at MADE Fair Marketplace in Missoula made it a total no-go for next year. So, April, Donna, Rose... if you'd like to see us in person again, make sure to keep in touch, or check out our website periodically to see what's new. We shook the dust off our feet when we left Missoula.