The Merchant Village at the WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest....
.....was a surprising success!
The GOOD: TONS of people! The last time I saw that many people was at a Rock Festival in Charlotte! It was an insane number of people. My guess is 90,000 on Saturday. When you put your are in front of a fraction of that number, you WILL do well. Friday I did ALL of my sales in ONE HOUR: between 7:15 and 8:15 PM when people had seen the balloon glow and were stopping by the Merchant Village on their way home. On Saturday sales were strong until about 7:00 PM, when they cancelled the balloon activities due to weather. This show currently ranks at #8 on my Top Sales list! Another GOOD aspect was the flexibility of the show organizer (Erin Ramsey). She let me use an open booth to store my back-stock. Also she let vendors move to spaces that were in higher traffic areas. That was a win-win for everyone.
The BAD: Were things largely out of anyone's control. The visitors had to be bused in with shuttles/trams/UBER/ bicycle... any means necessary. They had to pay for parking and sometime for the trams. This may have cut down on the number of visitors. Also the long lines for the buses had a lot of complaints. Also many of the balloon activities had to be cancelled because of winds and/or rain. Many people felt 'ripped-off'. I think this may affect attendance at next year's event. Another BAD was that I don't think may visitors knew the Merchant Village was where it was. A large sign/banner would have been helpful. Something to distinguish us from the other tents in the area. From a distance we just looked like a mass of white tents.
The UGLY: LOAD-IN was extremely stressful! It was the same day as the start of the event. Vendors had ~ 3 hours to dive in, set up and then move their vehicles to a vendor lot 1.5 miles away. From there we waited for a bus to bring us back to the event. We should have been allowed to set up the day/night before. This would have led to a smooth load-in and first day of sales. I sweated through 2 shirts the Friday, it was hot and I was so stressed out. I much prefer a day-before setup. Another UGLY is the fact that out vehicles were far away. That meant we had to bring ALL back-stock with us on day 1 or restock in the morning when we first arrived each day. All vendors would have liked to have our parking lot closer to our booth.
In conclusion, I WOULD do this event again. I would only change the load-in/setup be the Thursday before the event and let the vendors park within walking distance.