Summer Festival & Market Etiquette.

The world's smallest living green roof. My miniature garden display at the Sorticulture Garden Festival in Everett this weekend, where I was reminded of the 'how to's' of festival etiquette.
The world’s smallest living green roof. My miniature garden display at the Sorticulture Garden Festival in Everett this weekend, where I was reminded of the ‘how to’s’ of festival etiquette.

A Garden For All: Summer festival, market etiquette

“My sister is coming from Issaquah to see you!”

Those were the first words I heard from one of the vendors at the Sorticulture set-up in Everett yesterday. A twinge of regret rippled through me. I’ve been vending here for five years now, or has it been only four? It’s all a blur.

“I’m not vending this year, I’m only doing this display.”


It was hard just going to this show and simply setting up a display. Or, maybe I should say, it was easy setting up the display, but hard to hear that my customers will miss me.

And, I will miss them.

It takes a certain kind of person to be able to put it out there, to meet and greet a whole bunch of people, all day long – for days in a row sometimes. I didn’t realize this until I hired a helper for the big Northwest Flower and Garden Show one year. She really wasn’t able to handle the busy-ness and commotion, she kind of wigged out and became manic – I had to fire her on the third day because she was scaring me.

A good portion of these vendors that sell at the summer festivals travel from city to city and drag their wares from show to show ~ set up, tear down, move on, set up, tear down, move on, the modern day American gypsy. (Try doing it with living plants.)

It gets hard, it gets stressful and it grows tiring after a few years. But “the toast falls butter side up just often enough to keep us interested” and that’s why we do it.

So, on behalf of my fellow vendors, here are some pointers for you festival-goers – from the other side of the table:

– Realize that the vendors at these art fairs and garden festivals are more than likely creating the product themselves. Many of them have full-time jobs, on top of doing everything else for their business: the marketing, advertising, product development, bookkeeping, etc.

– Don’t brag about how much you do their medium in your own way. They really don’t want to hear it unless you are buying a bunch of things from them.

– Ask before you photograph anything. Yes, there are copyright laws and besides, it’s only polite.

– Don’t hog their time unless they look completely bored. And, if that is the case, then pleasant, entertaining conversation is always welcome, but be wary of other customers coming into the booth that do want to buy – vendors need to eat. too.

– Don’t zero in on the plastic garland they use for decoration and ask how much it is.

– Don’t put things on hold and then don’t return for it like Ciscoe Morris does. It’s rude.

– Don’t kick the tires (hum and haw) for too long – it’s irritating. Either you like it and want it, or not.

– Don’t barter for peanuts. Normally things are priced to sell. It’s insulting to barter for $5 off and then pull up in your new Jaguar to pick it up.

– If you break it, you should buy it.

– The vendors have “show-brain.” It’s what happens when you’re completely worn out, overworked, not eating right, short on sleep and generally running on adrenaline. Testing their knowledge of obscure information, or names, is just downright unfair.

– Don’t just walk by and complain loudly about the vendor to your friend. Be an adult and complain directly and quietly to the person that sold you whatever it was that you killed/broke/let go bad or didn’t water correctly.

– Don’t disturb them, or take up their time – unless you’re buying something – when they are setting up or tearing down. More than likely, they are short on time and need to focus.

– Make a point of noticing the person behind the table. Acknowledgement of their efforts would be the minimum appreciated contact. If you’re not spurred on to buy, then a pleasant smile and a compliment is great. Then move on…

Fairy Gardening with Two Green

3 thoughts on “Summer Festival & Market Etiquette.

  1. This is great advice for all shows! I have helped out behind the vendors’ tables more than once and find it amazing that some people seem to assume there is a glass wall between you and them. Wonderful etiquette list!


  2. Teresa M Brause 31/10/2021 — 1:04 pm

    So right on!! I have done vendor art shows for over 30 years. And have had every one of those remarks or experience. It is so hard to be polite when dealing with “those” people but like most of the other vendors, we just grin and bear it because it is all part of the shows. Shows take alot of energy and after 30 yrs, my family just wore out. I miss the people. Thank you for the post.


    1. Hi Teresa, Always glad to hear from you! ❤ I had to say, "I know, right?" Lol! 30 years is a long time for the gypsy lifestyle – ugh. I burned out after about 16 years. Most folks don't know what it takes to do a show or a market unless they do it themselves. It's hard work. I have a friend that always said: "The toast falls butter-side up just enough times to keep us hooked." So true!


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