Tuesday, April 22, 2008

4th Ave. Tucson, AZ

What a contrast between Tempe and Tucson, AZ. A casual observer might make the obvious comparisons that both are southwestern dessert towns but that is about all these two towns have in common. 125 or so miles separate these cities but in reality they are universes apart in style and culture.

The festivals I attended in both places were just as different as the towns themselves. For artists that usually do the Festival of the Arts in Tempe and are thinking about to applying to The Fourth Ave. Merchants Association show in Tucson, (which is held the very next weekend) I have one warning.

Don’t expect the same Tempe vibe in Tucson. Although both are college towns, the hip nightlife scene and upscale lifestyle of the Tempe venue is contrasted with a more laid back, funky, almost 60’s retro feel on 4th Ave. If young street people that might ask for spare change concern or offend you, don’t waste your jury fees on this show. If the last time you saw hippies was on the cover of Time magazine when it covered the Height Asbury movement in the 60’s and you feel that that was close enough for you, pass on 4th Ave.

If alternative lifestyles, people of color, interesting body piercing and sexual orientations that don’t mimic your own bother you, this show isn’t for you.

Now if you’re cool with all of that or can at least set aside personal prejudices for a few days, you’ll be in for a treat in Tucson.

The layout for this show is that of a typical street festival. Back to back booths set up down the middle of the street. This is a large show. 6 plus blocks long bisected with food booths and entertainment stages on some of the perpendicular side streets. The one knock on 4th Ave. is that they allow commercial, buy/sell vendors into the show. This is not true. The promoters and fair board alike reject buy/sell artists but unfortunately cannot stop property owners along the sidewalk from renting space to these other vendors. That is a harsh but true fact you need to take into consideration when doing 4th Ave.

I took an informal survey of people who walked into my booth about the un-official artists on the street and everyone I asked knew that they were not part of the juried event and most didn’t seem to mind one way or another. I’m sure that some of the money that might have been spent in juried members booths was spent with these un-authorized vendors but because I can’t control that fact, I just don’t let it bother me. I have enough to worry about that I can control so I let this one slide.

A more attentive, courteous event staff could NOT be found. With temperatures reaching into the 90’s all 3 days, the ice-cold water and munchies that the volunteers brought around every hour or so was a pure delight. All I had to do was ask for a booth sitter and one was provided for me. Kurt Tallis, the event director is one of the coolest promoters on the circuit. Kurt was on the street for the entire show, from set–up to break down. He was constantly checking in asking how the show was going and if there was anything he or his staff could do for me. That’s a welcome change over the show promoters that stay behind the scene.

One thing to note about move in day is that 4th Ave runs north and south. Even numbered booths are set up on the east side of the street and odd numbers on the west. Because the east side is reserved as an emergency fire lane (dictated by the fire department and not the show) artists with booths on that side are not allowed to use awnings. The morning dessert sun is very hot and if you are like me and have a crowded booth to begin with and rely on sitting under your awning on the outside of you booth, prepare for 3-4 hours of pretty intense heat.

Also, artists are only allowed to park on the west side of the street during set-up. Cars left parked on the east side will be towed. Again, this is per the fire marshals rules not the promoter. So if you want a parking space in front of or at least close to where you booth is you’ll need to get there very early on Thursday. After 9:00 AM, all available parking spots are already filled. Take that into consideration if you are traveling to Tucson on Thursday. Set-up usually begins around 2:00 PM but through the efficiency of the staff this year, the street was readied for us to begin setting up about 1:00, good job guys.

Even though I heard some artist say that their sales were down from previous years, I didn’t experience this down turn what so ever. My sales were on par or better than other shows of this size. The street scene doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I rather enjoy it. I thoroughly enjoy this show and will keep it on my festival list as long as the jurors allow me in. Kudos 4th Ave. You deserve it.

Here is a link this show. FAMA- The Fourth Ave. Merchants Association

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