Well folks, here's another one for the archives. Summertime in Florida is a peculiar time for festivals, or at least it can be. True, folks are looking for low-cost things to do and a festival sounds like a few hours well spent. Walking around, looking at the food and craft booths, or watching entertainers on one of the stages at large venues. That said, summers in Florida can also produce quite a bit of heat and humidity, which make walking around and looking at whatever not so enjoyable. It was with these variables in mind that I thought about whether or not my brother and I should apply for events in June through the end of September. Well, along came the opportunity to participate in the Mt. Dora Seafood Festival. We both love Mt. Dora and really enjoy working with the city's festival committee for their Blueberry Festival. Therefore, we considered applying for the August seafood festival knowing that it would probably be pretty warm. However, when we received the vendor packet of information and application, I blanched when I read the terms. It seems that the city committee was in partnership with a vendor/promotor from the Tampa area and that this Florida west coast promotor was in charge of all vendor requirements for participation. The first thing that caught my eye was the $850 application fee for a 10x10 vendor booth. The second thing I saw was that vendors must pay to the "un-named" promotor, 25% of their gross sales after taking off for the $850 space rental fee. Thus, if a vendors gross sales are $4000, he/she would deduct the $850 from $4000, leaving a balance of $3150. From that $3150, vendors would then deduct 25% and give that to the promotors--an amount of a little over $750. And as if that were not enough, the promotors would not allow vendors to sell drinks (sodas and water) at their booths. Cold drinks and water are a significant part of a vendor's overall profit as well as being a marketing component. For example, we quite often offer a meal deal to include a drink. It is also a good selling point for festival goers as they do not have to stand in multiple lines just to purchase a drink to go with the food that they had just purchased.
Now for the results: for my part, I chose not to participate. In my opinion, we would stand to either lose money or work like "dogs" and make nothing but expenses, while we gave up a weekend of relaxation to do so. My brother and business partner decided to give it a go in order to show support for the folks on the Mt.Dora festival committee. My brother did agree with me that the contract as written was an example of greed and lack of concern on the part of the promotors (not the Mt. Dora festival committee) for their fellow vendors, all of whom work very hard to bring quality food products for the enjoyment of festival goers and for their own financial rewards as a food vendor. The month before the actual event was interesting as my brother received weekly emails lowering the price of the space rental fee. Week by week, the price dropped until it reached $350, which is a fairly average price for a decent festival. However, the 25% of sales still stood as did no drinks or water sales. I still said that I would not attend because someone had to take a stand on behalf of vendors. My brother proceeded and attended the festival along with his nephew. After one day of preparation, including filling propane tanks, pulling the corn roaster out of its storage unit, loading up a truck, driving three hours roundtrip to purchase corn, then two days of sitting in the heat selling roasted corn and a couple of other food items, my brother and his nephew came away with $10 in sales and a lost weekend. The lesson here is to proceed with caution each time you (the vendor) reviews a contract. If it screams "greed" then it probably is. We vendors, while usually a cheerful lot and willing to help the next guy when possible still hope to make a little money. If those who have never experienced what means to work until you're ready to drop, try tagging along or shadowing a food vendor and you will quickly find out what hard work is all about.