Fair’s Fair… Right?

Fair’s Fair… Right?

By

Rob Smales

 

You picture a high school craft fair, you picture a small event, the kind of thing you go to and everybody just sort of has fun. Maybe you sell stuff, maybe you don’t, but there’s a kind of friendly atmosphere, vendors keeping each-other company all day, checking out each-other’s wares, and there’s a general feel-good kind of atmosphere. At the end of the day everyone goes home with a good feeling inside, having made promises to get together with the other vendors for coffee sometime (intended at the time, but will almost never happen) and looking forward to seeing them all at the next event.

At least, that’s how I pictured working the day at a high school craft fair.

Then I went to the  Tantasqua’s Holiday Craft Fair, held at the Tantasqua Regional Sr. High School  in Fiskdale, Ma, with the New England Horror Writers. Read ‘New England Horror  Writers’ as Jason Harris, Stacy Longo, Tracy Carbone, Rob Watts and Scott  Goudsward.

I may never be the  same.

Here’s the  story: I may say I’m not  mentioning names to protect the innocent, but in this case it’s really to protect myself. I was with a group of people who think of terrible things  for fun, then write them down, and have probably done at least a little research  into forensics and police procedures.

It’s all about self-preservation.

The event was larger and more well-organized than I’d imagined, with a shuttle-bus driving vendors to and  from the student parking lot up the road to allow customers the closer parking and better access to the building. Yup. A shuttle bus. I went in and located the rest of my NEHW brethren setting up at the twin 8-foot tables that had been secured for us by our esteemed Director of Publicity. Tablecloths were shaken out and draped, book stands positioned, and stock unpacked. I set my stuff up at  one end of the tables and watched the event’s Santa walk by, ‘Ho-ho-ho’-ing as  he went. Then he walked by again. He hadn’t yet made his third pass before  someone in our group decided they’d had Ho-ho-enough, and announced their intention to kill Santa.

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I’ll not say who it was,  (see above note on self-preservation) but suffice to say that though I look  nothing like Santa, I was afraid.

I may have said too much  already. I think she could find me if she tried. Moving on.

We set up, the crowds  started moving through and the fun began. Here are some high points:

  • Every time customers perused the NEHW table, the man with the newspapers on the  table across the aisle (and thus behind them) would call out “Want a free   paper?” I always thought the magic word was ‘please’, but apparently it’s   ‘free’; at its very utterance the marks would peel off like a pack of zombies who’ve scented a woman wearing improbably high heels and have decided to give chase. Said marks never returned to our table.
    • We were not amused.
  • There was a man roving about the venue hawking coupon books filled with deals at   local establishments. He would suddenly appear in the area, bellowing his   pitch in full voice — and what a voice! If the System ever breaks down due to Zombie Apocalypse or plague, and you need to get a message to the next town,   just have this guy shout: they’ll hear, trust me. “Excuse me, sir? Hercules   called, and he’d like his lungs back.” The man was actually frightening   people.
    • We were not amused. From the moment this guy’s voice made the scene, Mr. Claus was safe. Our potential Santa Slayer had acquired a new  target … and we were all behind her, 100%. Safest place to be, actually…
  • One of  our writers purchased a sandwich from the students running the cafeteria for   the event, and was charged $4. Ten minutes later a pair of students walked by offering people the last of the sandwiches for just $2. The writer in question felt somewhat ‘rooked’. Questions were asked. Glares were offered. Anger abounded.
    • We were not amused.
      • Well, actually, most of us were amused, but were afraid to admit it. All I can say is those students are damn lucky it wasn’t the potential Santa Slayer who bought a $4 sandwich — they may have wound up right back in that cafeteria. On the side of a milk  carton.

Okay, so I lied. Those weren’t high points. By the next day, though, they were pretty funny. Some actual high points,  for me anyway, include:

  • As soon  as we set up, a woman stopped in to buy Rob Watts’s book, Crabapples,  have her picture taken with him, and then … abscond with him for a time. I had heard talk of Rob and his ‘Groupies’, but this was my first experience with them, and I have to say I was not disappointed. I shave my head, tip the scales at about 200 lbs, and have been told there is a slight resemblance to Stone Cold Steve Austin… but without the muscle-mass. Kind of like ‘Stone Cold the home game’. I’ve offered myself up as ‘Rob Watts Security’ for future events, but have yet to hear anything definite either way. I’ll keep you posted.
    • Who am I kidding? I want groupies of my own. Maybe, someday, when I grow up…
  • At one point a woman none of us had ever seen before simply appeared out of the crowd   to accost Rob (he had been returned to us by this point) and offer him a small   charm on a necklace. “Hey,” she said leaning down over his shoulder. “I just   found this stone, and you see this mark on it? Right here? This is a mark of   Protection. You should have this!” The rest of us all looked at each-other.   Someone, I believe it was Scott, voiced the question that was on all out   minds: “Who the hell was that?” No one knew.
    • I don’t have words. I’ve looked for them, but I can’t find     them. No, that’s not right, I can find one of them: ‘Groupies’. ‘Nuff  said.
  • After   eating a snack, I was collecting the group’s trash to take with me to the waste bin. When asked for trash, our Director of Publicity offered me two of hose ‘free’ papers from the table across the way, showing all the large-motion flourish with which one traditionally throws down a gauntlet on the field of battle. An obvious challenge had been issued, and I worried that fisticuffs might ensue, but there was naught but the dangerous narrowing of eyes in response from the paper vendor as he sat impotently behind his table across the way.
    • The honor of the group had been defended, Jason Harris     emerging a hero in all our eyes.
  • And now,  summing up the highest point in the day for me, I have just two words: Bacon Fudge.
    • I  should say something pithy here, but I think I need to step away for a     moment to collect myself. … so good … it was so good … thank you Tracy…

Sorry, where was I? Right! Tantasqua’s Holiday Craft Fair … right…

As I said,  the venue was larger than I had anticipated, and we had plenty of space (thanks  to the foresight of our hero, Jason Harris) to spread out our wares. The sheer  amount of people who walked by our table should have worked in our favor, and  might have if not for the machinations of the Evil Newspaper Man. There was  food, there was caroling, and the people hosting the event seemed to do  everything they could to make both the customers and the vendors as comfortable  as possible. As far as I could tell a good time was had by all.

A few of us even sold  books, and any day when that happens is a check mark in the ‘win’ column in my  book.

I’d never worked a Craft  Fair before this, and I didn’t know what to expect. Now that I do know  what to expect, would I do one again?

You bet your Bacon Fudge!

…mmmm…. Bacon fudge….

Talk to you  later!

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