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Young Guns- 2011 Season opener

We wrapped up the conference in Missoula, Mt drove the 1300 miles back to Tucson on Sunday with a overnight stop in Salt Lake City. It was long hours and a lot of work but fruitful.

If you wanted to take a short 4 day vacation and spend $400 on hotel and another $175 on meals, I don’t think you could have a better time than spending it at this conference. During the lunch and dinner sessions, different acts “showcased” for the crowds (and potential booking agents) after these sessions the buyers would tour the halls and visit the different attractions ranging from hypnotists, jugglers, magicians, illusionists, and musicians (and us) to stop and chat , maybe have a cocktail or two, before moving on down the hall to another entertainer. All told, the conference was one big pub crawl for the buyers.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a good time too. There was no shortage of characters. Entertainment is a field where standing out is a good thing and there was no shortage of odd balls and quirky people (I probably fit in there somewhere).

At times, it seemed that we stepped into the world of the surreal. With jugglers in costume balancing on large medicine balls while juggling knives down the hall next to the reptile exhibit and the strolling robots all the while bluegrass or country and western music blended with conversation from the bands jamming in the rooms. Our lowly little Wild West children’s entertainment attraction seemed relatively lame in comparison.

Things started off slowly for us, but by the last day we were looking at 4 solid contracts and up to 8 seriously potential contracts from the show. We are very happy by the results as we were warned we might not get any contracts the first year.

It’s a brave new world in the fair and festival entertainment industry for us, but we are learning fast. Apparently mid July through the Mid August are the peak fair season and many many fairs overlap. In order to capitalize on the demand, we decided to build two complete setups and break up at different locations to satisfy the demand for those dates. Logistics is the key and routing becomes super important. It makes no sense to drive 600 miles for a 4 day event then turn around to drive another 400 miles to the next event. With gas prices what they are, the costs are too high. We are trying to route all our events within a 6 hour range from each other in order to minimize the travel costs. This is not always so easy.

This year we will still work the donut booth. We have three solid shows that are good earners. We might try to add one or two more big shows to work the food concessions. But the fact that Hil and I can both work the entertainment attraction means my workload goes down dramatically for a similar income is very appealing.

There are downsides. You don’t get to pick your events like you can in the food concession business. If someone wants to contract you for entertainment- you go! That can mean a lot of traveling over the summer. We were warned that it takes about five years to build a name for yourself in the entertainment business. It can be pretty dry until you develop a good name and some good contacts.

Hil is naturally a people person. She does really well talking to complete strangers and I’m much better negotiating contracts. It’s a good arrangement that she meets the folks and does the initial talking and then I do the numbers to nail a contract. In the mean time we take turns watching the kids, but I admit Hil is more valuable talking to people so I try to ‘manage’ so she can get some get some time in the meet and greets. The upside, Charley and I really had a good time this week and really bonded.

Having the kids with us was a challenge but all said, they are attention magnets. I don’t mean to pimp out my kid but if you have to bring them to the show it doesn’t hurt that they are cute and friendly. We stuck a name tag on Emma because we didn’t want her to get lost and by the end of the show almost everyone knew Emma.

We leave for Las Vegas for our next convention the end of November and I’m a little nervous about the potential results. It’s a national conference and I would feel real bad if someone wanted to book us from Maine and we had to turn them down. We really only want to work the rocky mountain states and west since they’re close and cool during the summer months.

Potentially we could work 18 shows for a total of 90 days per season. That would be great. It would mean we could get back on our feet and start savings some cash in short order without sacrificing our prime directive of living on a boat. A lot of entertainers want to work the whole year, we really only want to work June through October.

We met a lot of great friends at the event that were very kind and helpful to us as we jumped into this amazing industry. Some interesting people to lookout for at your next fair or festival:

Paul Isaac the Funny Juggler
The Super Science Company (thanks Tammy!)
Pippi the Clown
TC hatter and Marcianne
Washboard Willy and Wishboard Wanda

We’ve had the pleasure of working with them at a few events and seeing them at the convention. They are truly wonderful people!

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