Vendors are feeling a financial squeeze with many craft shows on the chopping block or already canceled for 2020, and Marion’s canceled craft show is one more blow.
“I stand to lose a substantial amount of money by not having the fairs I go to,” rural Marion resident Candy Vinduska said. “I’m certainly not the only one. I just don’t understand why we’re allowed to go to Walmart or Lowe’s and support those big box stores, yet Marion City Council was afraid of this outdoor event, which is huge.”
While Art in the Park would have many people congregating in one place Sept. 26, they could socially distance and wear masks, said Vinduska, a beekeeper who co-owns Vinduska Apiaries.
“As vendors we would have to get creative with how we could display what we had so people would be able to see and purchase safely,” she said. “Once again, we are outdoors.”
Marion is in charge of Art in the Park, but deciding to cancel the event was about more than COVID-19 because there also were many costs that came with it, city administrator Roger Holter said.
“What we would lose would be the booth space rental amount,” he said. “At the same time, all our labor expenses for prep work, set up, take down, overnight security, all that stuff doesn’t exist.”
Peabody Fall Festival remains open for Sept. 26, however, and Vinduska showed interest in selling there.
The event’s committee is not canvassing for new vendors, but committee member Pandea Smith does see it as an opportunity.
“We’d be willing to accept some Marion vendors,” she said. “I don’t know that we want to pursue them because we want to have a manageable number with the space, but we’re still accepting vendors.”
Figuring out how many vendors the festival can take on is difficult, Smith said.
In addition to space along the city’s historic Main St., plenty of room remains at Peabody’s two parks.
“Right now we have six vendors, so we’re nowhere near capacity,” she said. “We could have another 10 and still be able to space them.”
While not seeking out specific vendors, craft booths and antique sellers are missing from the fall fest, Smith said.
The committee will provide hand sanitizer to all festival-goers, and scale back musical entertainment to one band. The festival’s hours have been shifted to run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Even if both events had happened, Vinduska expected to take a hit this year.
“I’m not saying sales wouldn’t be down,” she said. “I’m sure sales would be, because there are people who don’t feel comfortable getting out. I will say that every farmer’s market vendor I’ve talked to is amazed at how much business they’re doing this year.”
That doesn’t provide enough incentive for Marion, however.
Sales tax from craft shows comes back to the host cities but that isn’t immediate compensation. Marion already has few community programs that operate at cost, Holter said.
“The vendors and community benefit from the event,” he said. “Overall, recreation programs end up being supplemented by taxpayer dollars.”
Tonya Miller, who owns Custom Sewing by Tonya in Great Bend, has been attending Arts in the Park for five years.
This year she has just one show that is still scheduled.
“That’s probably 50% of my income during the year,” she said. “I don’t know what to say.”
Hillsboro Arts and Crafts Fair also was canceled recently, but Vinduska and Miller already preferred Marion’s event.
Despite the reduction in planned shows, it is unlikely Miller will attend a show she knows nothing about, like Peabody’s.
“I like to go to the bigger ones since that’s when more people will go,” Miller said. “I try to pick out the ones where I know I’ll do well.”
There is hope for the future, however, and spots already are being booked for Art in the Park next year, Holter said.
“It’ll be back,” he said. “We’re hoping the COVID situation improves dramatically, and I think everybody is.”
If there is a show next year then Miller plans to be there.
“I’d go back next year, yeah,” she said. “I don’t know about luck, but every year is different. As long as they have it one next year, I think it’ll be good.”