Somehow, probably by living under a rock for 4 decades, I totally failed to learn what a "cake walk" is. For those who, like me, have managed ignorance, here's the scoop: It's a fundraising activity, largely aimed at parents of school-aged kids. People buy tickets for a nominal price (50 cents, in the case of the one this weekend), and a sort of roulette wheel is painted on the ground. When enough people have bought tickets to fill a wheel (31, in the case of this weekend, and there were 3 wheels, so up to 93 people could participate in a given round), there is music, and everyone walks around the circle. When the music stops, everyone gets to the nearest number, and a numbered prize wheel is spun. Whatever number is selected on the spinner wheel, the person standing on that number wins. A cake. The cakes are donated, so the organization hosting the cake walk gets (in this case) $15.50 for every cake given away.
I think the Artesia school bands probably played through something like 150 cakes, to the tune of about $2325. Plus, in between sessions, they auctioned other donated cakes. Maybe 2 dozens donated cakes, auctioned away for between $25 and $150. Maybe another $2000ish there. I have no doubt they also sold a lot of spirit kit (hats, shirts, etc), and also just collected straight up donations from folks who wanted to support the banks without the cake or wardrobe ramifications.
This is what I thought about in my booth yesterday, as I listened to the Artesia school bands rock out. They are, I admit, pretty darn good. Or, in the case of the beginning band, enthusiastic dirge players. I thought about it non stop, because there was never a moment when I could not hear the band, the MC, or the click click click of the prize spinner. (Which, by the way, seems weighted to land on 14. Make a note of that if you're ever involved in a cakewalk in Artesia.)
In the listing for this festival, the cakewalk is listed as "Other Activities". As ... coincidental.
From where I sat, it looked pretty freakin' central. There were a LOT of vendors. There were a LOT of visitors to the festival. But I think my customer base in this situation put all their spending money into cake futures. I got lots of compliments, and lots of "I'll come back and get this before I leave!" which no one ever did. I even got invited to two other shows, one is Carlsbad and one in Roswell. What I did NOT get was sales.
Here's the financial breakdown of this show, for curious folks.
Entry Fee $50 <-- this is a low/average fee
Gas (500mi) $42 <-- figuring 30mi/gal
Overnight $37 <-- more about this later
Sales Tax $0.77 <-- at 7.6875%
CC Fee $0.29 <-- because the person had donated their cash to the band
EXPENSES TOTAL> $130.06
Sales $10.70 <-- my CC gadget is preprogrammed for my local sales tax, which is slightly lower
INCOME TOTAL> $10.70
So, when you do the math (here, I'll do it for you), it cost me $119.36 to learn what a cake walk is.
Am I happy about this? No. Am I angry about it? No. Frustrated, annoyed, disappointed, sad? Yes.
To the best of my ability to do so, I estimate that the funnel cakes and face painting booths did best. As it happened, the face painting was right next door. I thought the 10-deep line she had would maybe bring me some incidental sales, but it mostly seemed to bring compliments and nothing more. I don't know if I had the lowest sales of any booth there, but I am willing to believe that is the case. Strips of fleece with NFL team logos sold well. $10 bow and arrow and crossbow kits did well. Paintings of purses done on corrugated sheet were ... apparently popular.
A few times I left the booth, and always found that people went in when I was not there. It is possible that I am somehow intimidating, but I think it was more the case that people wanted to look at the things, without the perceived pressure of it being a potential sales situation. I seriously considered just leaving a box with a note that said, "If you take anything, please leave a couple of bucks in the box" and then just pissing off to a bar.
Oh! Right. The Overnight expense. Past events to which I traveled, events held in parks, allowed me to camp nearby or even in my booth. Sometimes free, sometimes for a nominal fee. In this case, that was not an option. And hotels in Artesia cost $70 and up. Very far up. I figured, being equipped for truck camping, I would just slide out to the nearest campground and overnight there. Nearest campground turns out to be 20 miles outside of town, costs nearly $40 just for a tent site, and with the office closing just as I arrived. By the point, having already driven 4 hours to get down there, I was too tired to figure anything else out. I thought about just sleeping by the side of the road, but that seemed like an invitation to be awakened by a patrol officer. Probably repeatedly. My original plan was to camp in a state park for $8, but it turned out the park was 35 miles away, and it seemed like adding another hour-plus of driving to my life was a terrible idea.
I admit I was a bit resentful at paying nearly $37 to sleep in my truck, but I also admit that part was entirely my own fault. I should have parked in town and then snuck into my booth to sleep when no one was looking. Or, just not gone. I told Don that next time I think about an away show, he needs to tell me to calculate the cost of attendance, and then go buy lotto tickets with that money. And he might also need to give me a swift kick as a reminder.