Soooo....here I sit after loading up my van for my next show, and with it being the month of April, we all know that April showers bring Mayflowers, and of course, Mayflowers bring pilgrims. No matter what you do, the weather is bound to go south at spring shows and the earlier the show is, the greater the chance that it will be a bigger surprise than you have prepared for. That's because here on the east coast of the United States, we get very big cold fronts that meet very big warm fronts and the two weather systems collide and form powerful, damaging winds of all sorts along with the possibility of tornadoes too! Let's not forget about the lighting and hail, two of my favorite weather friends!
I am pondering this carefully because last year there was virtually no warning in the long term and even short term forecast of what was to come, and come it did, in the form of straight line winds in excess of 85 mph! Almost 40 tents went into the ocean that evening shortly after I had put my last painting into my van, and mine was one of them. It was loaded down with hundreds of pounds of weights on each corner, ratchet cabled to the boardwalk rail, and I even had 4 buckets of sand on each of the front legs in addition to the 4 cement weights per leg. Each of those was 75lbs each! One of the main reasons mine and others went flying through the air with the greatest of ease was that I chose an end corner in a wind tunnel so I could have more room to paint at the show. Wind tunnels are nasty banshee beasts that gobble up tents with malevolent forces that exceed any violence you could possibly imagine!
You can prepare for this nightmare experience and weather the storms by doing some very simple things. Listen carefully for the weather and if it appears to be rather ominous, then simply lower the tent or take it down altogether. My wife and I have gotten pretty fast at setting these things up and it's a lot easier than buying a whole new rig. It also helps if you have art insurance like I do from RLI at USAA. They were wonderful and supportive after I sent them the before and after pics of my tent. You also need to prepare your work in plastic bags you can easily make for large pieces like my 40 X 60 works of art, from plastic you can buy at home depot. I put them in the plastic bags and then create a large white envelope from 1/4" foam sheets that come in rolls from ULINE. Great stuff. I now make those envelopes for all of my work. The rolls come in a wide variety of widths and lengths too. Have lots of tarps on hand, plenty of ratchet straps (rope is fairly useless in the wind), lots of extra clear plastic, and have a foul weather plan with a list. I keep this in my trailer so that I don't forget anything. You can also avoid a lot of this buy selecting the space for your tent that is centered on a big building and avoid the side street openings/wind tunnels. We also keep a lot of "sham Wow's" in the van for cleaning up all the time. Have a table handy that you can put in the middle of the tent and put the work on to wrap it up during foul weather. It's pretty hard to wrap up things on the ground when the wind and rain are coming at you from all sides under the tent. Higher up on the table, you avoid that altogether.
What's truly remarkable about disaster is the tremendous amount of support you get from total strangers and friends. People came out in droves to help me salvage the parts of my tent and get it back home where I could later determine what was usable or not. It totally gave me a new outlook on my fellow man/woman. People really are pretty great and they come to your aid when you least expect it, which is one of the reasons I find doing art shows such a joy. We always seem to meet some of the most wonderful people we would never have met otherwise. Good luck out there doing your shows, and stay the course, regardless of the weather and all will be fine.