I had a week to make and label 70 festival camper sampler packs, a batch of skeeter skatter: natural bug repellant, and booboo balm: cuts and scrapes salve.
The money I made at the first festival, Campbell Bay, quickly dissolved into a car payment and downpayment for Atmosphere- a festival in August. With the remaining cash I filled my Delica van with $40 of diesel and bought $50 of food to hopefully last me two weeks in combination with the dry food I all ready have. It was a strange feeling, to start a road trip with no money. I had maxed out my safety net of credit cards and the line of credit for the business, leaving me scrambling for crumbs of funds in various personal accounts I have. I have been broke (a few times) in my life, but never with bills to pay and a van to feed.
With some loose change in my pocket, and a van filled with wares (I managed to make the samplers and skeeter skatter, but didn't have time for booboo balm), I zipped off to the Salt Spring ferry with my friend Faye visiting from Toronto, and headed west to Port Renfrew area on Vancouver Island.
We arrived around 10pm, to a long line of vendors who had been waiting for hours to head up Brown's Mountain, where the festival was to take place. In front were vendors who did body painting, behind was a thai food truck.
Parking was utter chaos, but we were treated like VIP with our post-it note with 'vendor' scribbled across it. We drove into the vending area, dropped off the market tent and bins, to set up in the morning. Since I was sleeping in my van, and Faye in a tent beside me, we scored a quiet camping spot on a side road, away from the small tent village erecting close to the stages.
It was amazing to see the different camps and how two thousand five hundred people got settled in for the three day festival. Prayer flags, tapestries, faerie lights, beer kegs, coolers, couches.
The vendor area was in a lane where people had to walk through to get to the main stage- a much more strategic spot than Campbell Bay. The view that surrounded the main stage was stunning, mountains and ocean, with rolling fog as if we were intermittently inside a cloud.
I checked the schedule and was happy to see a few familiar names including : Delhi 2 Dublin, The Boom Booms, Buckman Coe, Five Alarm Funk, and Oka. Plus one friend from high school that I've been following their success on Facebook, Sam Klass.
The music began on the Valley Stage, a beautiful violin player to playful techno beats called Beat Junky. Faye and I smiled at how we could hear the music, and how we wouldn't miss anything while at vending. Then the Tall Tree Main Stage began with Lady K. We were smack in the middle of the two stages loud enough to hear both but not close enough to enjoy either.
A friend Melanie who I had met the year before was vending at the Thai Food Truck across from us. She was there for the spark of the idea to have my business up and running to vend at festivals the next summer (said in a dreamy voice looking off into the distance). She said she was impressed with the setup and my full line of products, and bought some tooth powder and booboo balm.
The crowd slowly started to mill about, in their themed costumes; various onsies, glitter, top hats, furry animal costumes, spandex. The debauchery began around mid day on Friday and lasted through til Sunday night.
The weekend felt like a huge release for people. Freedom to dance, to sing, to scream, to explore. Make friends with people who would normally ignore them at a bar. Mostly the release was getting day drunk and half naked in a beautiful mountain range.
Sales were slow at first, a lot of people had the phrase, "You'll be here all weekend, right?"
My hand and face washing station was a hit though. The air was dry and dusty. The closest river was just under an hours' drive and water was scarce. Patrons used phrases of gratitude like, 'life saver,' 'game changer,' and 'hangover cure.' Someone left a five dollar tip just for the use of the soap sample.
On day two a couple pointed out my peppermint poppy soap and shampoo bar and said, "Hey, someone had this soap at the river and was passing it around- it was awesome, everyone was so happy!"
After I zipped up the market tent for the night, covered my products with a blanket and did a protection spell til the morning. With a pink sky and The Boom Booms singing sexy tunes I walked back to my van and lay down for a while. I was meeting Faye on the grassy dance floor at 11pm and knew even though I was tired I should see some acts while I was there. It's part of the festival tour, to be able to enjoy new music and festival vibes, right?
I've found myself to be much more introverted after vending all day and my night nap. I didn't find Faye in the sea of people until much later, Campbell Bay was small enough to walk around on your own and find your crew no problem. Add another two thousand people however...
The next day was similar to the first, but with a strong sun and heat, causing the day drinkers to rapidly decline in coherence. Even the volunteers were wasted. One was huffing nitrate from a balloon on the side road while taking a break from directing traffic, another stumbled up to my stall and mumbled about how they were done for the day and had to catch up, at 2pm.
Sales on day two were better, but not great. I began to stress about the cheque I had to clear for the labels. I did a bulk order for the amount of products I saw myself making this summer, which was a tad over kill but I felt prepared for future stock. With the downtime between sales Faye and I began our mini production line at the stall of labelling, stamping, cutting, folding- preparing all the products I had made. It felt better to keep busy instead of staring out to the crowd trying to beckon paying customers into the stall with my mind. That day I had discovered a new favourite band called Shred Kelly, and at night I danced to Delhi 2 Dublin, found Faye early on and embraced the festival madness, even in a sober state (have I mentioned I'm not drinking at the moment?)
Day three finally eased my anxiety. The people who had been washing their hands, sampling the moisturizer, easing their sunburns and bug bites, finally came back to purchase some wares to bring back with them.
Every time I left my stall I had a nagging feeling that I was needed, or that I'm missing out on sales since I'm the one who made the products and can talk about the herbal medicinal properties. It's like having a child. Always fussing over it, wondering how it's doing, being called back instinctively. After a busy flow of people Sunday morning I got to dance to one of my favourite bands OKA without worrying about sales, and just enjoyed the festival (Oka's CD is now stuck in my van's stereo and the only one I've been able to play all summer). The drunk people weren't aggressive, just letting loose with a weekend outside of their daily life.
A bonus, since there was no service there people weren't glued to their phones, but present and going with the flow- Saying, "i'll see you if the stars allow it." instead of "I'll GPS your location in an hour."
Faye and I went to the wishing tent where there were rows and rows of little wishes people wrote down and put into a glass jar before being strung around the tent. They were heartbreaking, heartwarming, funny- most were about wanting to find boyfriends and girlfriends. We both wrote down a little wish and stuffed it into the jar overflowing with pieces of paper. We then picked a paper out of the jar as a little message from The Universe.
Mine was very accurate, about trust and living my passion. Faye started to read the one she picked out of the jar.
"To live with my eyes open, to the beauty and the joy and the people around me." She paused with contemplation.
I couldn't contain it any longer (or wait for any hint of potential mocking)- she had picked my wish! out of hundreds jammed into the jar...
That wasn't the only strange and wonderful synchronicity that happened that weekend with Faye helping me out. Just little unplanned things worked out over the week. I happened to double check the ferry times that was an hour earlier than expected, arriving just in time that the line up was moving up the mountain, scoring the only quiet place to camp, finding each other at the very moment we had both given up looking in the crowd, stumbling upon a fancy and affordable restaurant then a wicked hippy community later on in Tofino.
The first large festival of the season was a mix of laughter, wonder, beauty, awesome bands, a feeling of importance, money stress and release, which was just a matter of getting used to the flow of sales at a festival. I was tired but happy, a feeling that will continue throughout the summer. The cheque for the labels cleared and I had just enough to get me to the next festival. Luminosity Gathering on the Sunshine Coast.