The weekend of June 10th and 11th we spent in Excelsior, Minnesota for Art on the Lake. It was our second year and we were very pleased to be back. This was the art show last year that really made us feel like we might be able to make a go of it. We were 1 of 4 winners of the Debbie Hart award. So we were very excited for our second time back.
Like last year, Saturday was once again HOT! Most of the day was spent chugging water, staying in the shade between customers, putting my feet in the cool waters of Lake Minnetonka and maybe napping behind the tent. The people still came out though and we had a great day. Very relieved that it did not get quite as hot as the forecasted, which was good for the encaustic! We may have melted, but it did not :)
That evening we went out to eat at Maynards and enjoyed a very good meal and cocktails. Gave us time to cool of in the A/C before heading back to our camper parked in the parking lot. With no electricity. It was not cool in there. Before heading to bed, which was actually pretty early for us, we did check the weather forecast. Looks like storms were inevitable for the next morning. Never a good thing when you have your livelihood sitting in a tent out in the weather. We have one that is designed for what we do, but it is still no match for severely strong winds. Up until this point, we have been pretty lucky and have avoided anything to terrible. We have heard stories, and went to sleep hoping for the best. We were awoken at 5 a.m. to someone in the parking lot hooking up their trailer. Hmmm. Odd. I checked the weather. Nothing horrible on the radar. But some storms starting in the west. There is an email from the show director to please wait till 8 a.m. before deciding on packing up or not. She was going to make the call at that time and continue to watch the weather. Its a tough call. Here we are risking our art by staying, but by leaving we are also guaranteed to make no money for the day. It's a gamble either way. We go back to sleep. A little before 7 we wake up again. Skies are darker. Storms to the west are definitely going to hit us. Decide to get up and close up the bed up that we were sleeping on before the rain hits. No watches or warnings were out. We go back to lay down and wait for 8:00 and the email. I startle awake about 5 minutes to. I immediately check the weather. Yup, there is a warning now for us. We are definitely going to get hit. Says potential for 60 mile an hour winds and golf ball size hail. My heart drops. Well, the last place I want to be for that is our camper. The art and tent are on their own at this point. I wake Randy up to tell him I would maybe prefer to go elsewhere. I do not like storms. I do not like being somewhere unsafe in storms. I need to go somewhere safer. I hear a noise in the parking lot. It is one of the shuttle drivers. I decide to go chat with him to see if he has heard any news. It is 8:00. Is there a show or not? He says that they have postponed the show and have asked people not to go down to the park. That they are evacuating everyone to the elementary school. Well, alrighty, sounds good to me. I inform Randy, we throw on clothes and get a ride. By the time we get to the school, this is coming at us. Yeah...not ok.
I don't think I have ever seen a sky that green. And green like that usually means one of two things, hail or a tornado. Please lord let it be hail. There was maybe a group of 20 of us in the school. Nervous laughter and conversation commenced while we waited. Our two tent neighbors were there and we chatted. Then the rain started. We went to the windows. The wind started. It was a good wind. Yup, we agreed that it would probably take out a few tents that were not properly staked. But most of us were pros and I think spirits were still a little high. Then a gust came and it became very quiet. In that moment I knew it was probably gone. I prepared myself. My eyes teared up but I kept myself from crying. We know the risks and this is part of it. My heart hurt. So we waited. A man told horribly dumb jokes and we laughed. The tension was palpable. We shared mini donuts and listened to tales of other storms from the veterans. Laughing and trying not to think too much about the current situation. But it was there, the wondering. The waiting. Stupid storm just get over with! The wind died down and it was mostly rain. We started to get antsy. People just wanting to leave and go see. A call came over the radio. Some tents were down, but some were still up. Hope. Hope ours was one of them. A group of people ran out and they were off. We didn't have a car there so we waited. About another 10 minutes passed. So wished we had our friend John's number so we could get an update. Another call. They said that while they wanted us to wait until the lightening stopped, they could not stop us. But that the shuttle drivers would not be running until it was all clear. Randy and I looked at each other and decided to go. We walked to the camper and threw on differnet clothes and piled into the truck. Quiet we were. The anticipation. As we got closer we could see the outside row of tents that were sponsors. Many were down and twisted. I tried to see ours, but there was no way. There was no place to park, so Randy dropped me off. I made my way. Tents were down everywhere. Twisted. Flipped over. Caved in. I prepared myself. Hoped, but thought the worst. I weaved my way in and out of the destruction. It was so random. My heart pounded.
And there it finally was. Our row. Our section. Where was our tent? I couldn't find it. I was confused. There was an extra one. And one not where it should be, but where was ours?
And then there it was. I was literally standing next it. It was still standing. Unharmed. Ours is on the left in the above picture.
I let out a sob. Relief. Joy. Guilt. Sadness. All the feelings. We were o.k. I couldn't believe it. I immediately text Randy. "We are ok!" I looked around, tears running down my face. I started to figure out what had happened. The woman next to us's tent was hit by another and pushed back about 20 feet behind ours. a different tent in its place. Next to them were oil painters and their tent was destroyed, painting strewn about. To the other side of us, all those tents were standing. Randy made it to where I was and we walked around. Quiet. Taking it all in. Feeling sadness for our fellow artists. Spoke with a couple others we knew there. Two friends were packing up to leave. Her jewelry blown everywhere and her neighbor/friend who's inventory of clothing was soaking wet. They would both dry out and recover, but definitely done for the day. We had not eaten yet, so we went to go find food and coffee. I felt like a zombie walking around the store. Wet and relieved and sad. Ate back at our camper, changed clothes again and headed back down to the site. We helped neighbors pick up, take a part tents, hauled the remains to the "pile". Business people came out to help. The Boy Scouts and random people all came out to help. It was heartwarming. Happiness filled my heart. It was announced that the show would go on. The wreckage was quickly removed and other artists were given the choice to stay or go. After about 2 hours, about 50% of the grounds was cleared. Half of us stayed. Us being among that half. The rest of the day went on pretty much like a normal art fair. Customers came out. More so than we expected. For us, our weekend was saved.
What started like any other art show certainly did not end like any other art show. We lived through a big fear. We came out ok on this one. Watched others not so lucky. Realizing how important staking and weighting is, we have looked into revamping and making sure it is done even better. We had to get insured before this show, and I am now glad we forked out the money. Just another lesson in life. Another thing to make us appreciate all the good that does happen. Sigh...
Onto Lanesboro next weekend. 50% of chance of storms. Fingers are crossed.