If it's raining, it must be June and Three Rivers Arts Festival time. Isn't that what we always say here in the Burgh? Well, we say it because it's true! I know. My hubby Ron and I displayed and sold our Pittsburgh photographs in the Artists Market for over 20 years consecutively. And true, I can't think of any Festival when it didn't rain…well, not just rain, but it always stormed–thunderous tornadoes, horrific, watch-out-for-that-flying-framed limited-edition-print storms. Oh wait! There was one year when it didn't rain–that was the year of the big drought. I believe it was 1998. Point State Park was a vast field of yellow hay instead of plush green grass.
The drought also offered up hot, hot temperatures. I remember being seated next to a stone pillar, that combined with concrete buildings and sidewalks made for the most comprehensive reflecting heat screen ever. I sat painfully still to stay as cool as possible. Even lifting a finger made me hotter. No need to move though, since our customers were wisely at home during the heat wave and didn't need us. We stayed in our booths, however, being the professionals we are. If they say there's going to be a Festival, then we're there, no matter what. It's the right thing to do. We're professionals.
But wait! There was one year hotter than that! A big ball of hot air rolled in at Festival time one year, orchestrated by the most humid conditions ever. Temperatures soared to 102+ every day. Factor in the humidity and you've really got something straight out of Miami. I remember we brought in spray bottles of water to spritz ourselves for regular cool-downs. And don't tell anyone, but a few of us went to the Hilton fountain and stood in front of its cooling spray. I remember giggling like a kid when the icy droplets hit me–reminiscent of that shock when you first jump into a swimming pool of frigid water on a hot day. So much for the big, fancy formal hotel! Squealing ragamuffins out front playing in the fountain tend to chase away the glamour.
Speaking of giggling like a kid, do you have any idea how insane you can become living in a 10 x 10 ft. booth, in the middle of a busy downtown area for 11 days? I developed a new empathy for the homeless while hovering under our canopied, concrete home, a constant emptiness in my stomach that craved a warm comfortable meal while dreaming of upholstered furniture and TV. Yes, TV! Something else to think about besides hordes of gawking people. TV! Plots, drama, comedy! TV had it all.
What can I say? It takes a toll on the body and the mind. The sensory deprivation of booth-sitting is numbing. How long can you sit watching people walk past like a never-ending movie (Did you ever see Groundhog Day?..But I digress…) hour after hour, day after day before they all turn to gray-scale and you turn numb.
And hungry! Warm comfort food is all you can think of while you force down hot dogs, gyros and all those other carnival delicacies…for 11 days–that's lunch and dinner, lunch and dinner–hot dogs, gyros…need I say more about how wonderful pot roast and mashed potatoes with gravy would seem.
Okay, I've said a lot about the misery of doing an extra long outdoor festival, but there is a perk that keeps artists coming back. The people. Because the people are the ones who see your work and, in spite of themselves, smile in delight. They tell you your work is wonderful; and most importantly, they submit their approval with their hard-earned bucks by buying your product. The smiles, the words, and money…it doesn't get much better than that…and all those bucks buy a lot of pot roast for the family.
So support your local artists and go to the Festival. You can help hold down their booths when the big winds and rain come, compliment them, and maybe buy a little something–to make both you and them smile.
Ron and Jo haven't done the Festival in recent years due to other commitments.
Copyright 2006 JO Janoski