Vancouver Folk Fest Bazaar

I was looking forward to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival Bazaar, not only because it was to draw thousands of people, but because I actually knew some of the line up of bands to play that weekend. My focus on small festivals has opened my ears to many new amazing artists, but none that I had actually listened to before. The Vancouver Folk Fest was hosting some of my favourite artists like Frazey Ford and Rising Appalachia.

The Bazaar was situated just outside the festival at Jericho Beach, and the parking for the bazaar was at the sailing club. We weren't able to drive right up to the stand to unload gear, like I had become accustom to. I was warned about this and brought my tiny dolly with wheels that were most likely from a skateboard.

In a stale heat vendors with sweat beading down their faces and disheveled hair passed me by with precariously placed manikins, coat hangers, baskets, towers of plastic bins and foldable tables. The walk was about five minutes and it took me six heavy trips with a sturdier dolly that a man selling small solar panels had lent me (after seeing me struggle).

Once everyone had set up I had a flashback to a flea market in India, with colourful tapestries, scarves, baggy genie pants, and incense at every corner.

The flow of market goers was steady, although slower than the previous year I was told. A lot of people didn't even have wrist bands to the festival, but mostly came for the bazaar outside and would sit on the beach to listen to the music. It was a good reminder that when vending at a festival, people are there for the music and would by chance pass by the vending booths, but people who are at a bazaar or market, are there to shop.

I did some 'street level marketing,' where I stood in front of my stall and offered samples of handmade moisturizer, to start a conversation and lure people in to check out the other products. I noticed it was quite effective. People are sometimes intimidated to enter stalls, but with a free sample offering they're very willing to start a conversation and most of the time buy.

I managed to watch Frazey Ford play, who I've been obsessively listening to since last summer. Her soulful voice inspired by Ottis Redding and coming from The Be Good Tanyas, has built quite a following, opening the main stage on the first night.

The Saturday was hot and sunny with lots of Vancouverites cooling off in the ocean. The city of Vancouver has a major advantage over Toronto, with access to a sandy beach and a mountain backdrop.

That night I discovered Trampled By Turtles, an impressive stamp your feet bluegrass band, and then wandered over to a drum circle happening outside the festival grounds. I met a fellow vendor, Sherry, who told me it was her first festival vending her leather work.

"Actually this is my fourth this summer. It'll get easier," I replied as if a pro.

She was enthusiastic about the weekend but worried about lack of sales and exhausted from packing up all of her leather work and lugging it back to her van that night.

Before the season I also was hesitant at the idea to leave my products in my tent overnight, with only nylon and zippers as protection- but I took with me the cash from the till, covered the products with blankets, put a protection spell on the tent, and hoped for the best. So far (knock on wood), nothing has been tampered with.

The weekend was successful, but it felt once again that everything I made went to things I had previously purchased. The cash seemed to sift through my fingers like sand and be redistributed towards car batteries, ferry costs, vending costs, and some supplies for my upcoming trip. I came to accept the idea that I would be living from festival to festival that summer- which isn't the worst thing in the world, but requires a lot of planning, prioritizing costs, and organization.

I went back to Salt Spring to prepare that week for my month long festival circuit of Texada Island, Northern BC, Haida Gwaii and back to Vancouver Island, with just enough cash to make it to my first stop, Diversity Festival.

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