I hate to admit it now but my first craft show display was pretty lame. I didn’t have much money at the time so I didn’t even have an art tent (pop up tent). For my display, I pieced together some lightweight walls out of wood and wood fencing. I figured wood looked more natural than metal and would attract more visitors.
When the first windy day blew everything down, I recognized that money or no, I had to get decent fixtures and a pop up tent for protection.
Outdoor craft fairs can be brutal for several reasons, including exposure to the sun for eight or more hours a day. You have to have sturdy canopy tents to shade your pieces and your body from the sunlight or rain.
Equally important, a well-built display along with an art tent conveys a professional image and can help instill confidence in shoppers and show reviewers. The better juried art and craft shows require a picture or slide of your booth before accepting you into the event.
There’s a wide range of art show tents, ez up, pop up tents, or canopy tents and covers out there. I know you probably want to save money, but when it comes to your craft show display, you will not save money going cheap.
Of course, shop for the best deal, but realize there are other important factors to think about like appearance, size, sturdy construction, protection against weather, how ez up is set-up, durability, and weight of the canopy tent. Think of an art tent as an investment that will pay you back over time.
Some models of pop up gazebos like the ez up market themselves as “easy setup.” That’s fine except that the lighter and faster you can set it up, the easier it is for a strong wind to blow it crashing down. Wind is probably your biggest challenge when planning and building your show display.
Before you ever do a show, set up your pop up tent ahead of time in your backyard or somewhere where it can get exposure to wind, rain and sun to see where any weaknesses might be. Then fix the vulnerable elements before you get to your craft fair.
Some outdoor craft shows are on grass lawns, so you can stake down your pop up canopy tent. But those events held on streets mean you need some kind of weighted anchors to hold your tent poles down when the winds pick up.
A flat canopy will tend to pool rain in the middle. Go for a peaked or top center roof-like pop up canopy so water can drain off to the sides.
Sturdiness is important. But the whole pop up canopy must be light enough that you can handle loading and unloading it by yourself. You also need to be able to assemble it by yourself (unless you have a partner.) Unless the poles contract and expand, you need to measure your vehicle and make sure all the poles will fit easily.
The more well-built ez up canopies may take a little longer to set up but if you consider how much time and money a weather disaster will cost you, it’s worth taking an extra twenty or thirty minutes setting up so you can enjoy a safer fair experience.
Choose a white canopy tent or tarp. Handmade items sell because of their colors. I don’t want a blue or green tint from the canopy shading my work.
Depending on where in the country you are displaying, sunlight and heat will play a role in your personal comfort, not to mention your customers. Some canopy tent covers are vented to let heat rise up and out of the tented area. Some canopy tents come with attachable sides, which you can remove for hotter days and let nature blow the heat right on through and out.
A pop up vendor tent with attachable side walls also provide protection overnight if you want to leave your display materials completely covered. Look for side wall extras, like straps you can use to fold or roll the sides up and attach the walls out of the way during the day and roll down at night.
When doing indoor shows, I’ve almost always been required to use flame retardant materials in my booth display. Outdoor events, not so much. But be prepared ahead of time by getting a canopy or pop up tent that comes with a label clearly stating it is flame retardant according to the national fire safety code (NFPA 701).
I know addressing the above factors add to your final cost. But as I wrote earlier, look at your vendor tent and display as an investment rather than as just another expense. A well-thought out display and canopy cover can pay you back many times over through the years.
Here’s an interesting thread on Etsy about ez up canopy tents and people’s experiences
Directory of Art Tent and Vendor Tents Suppliers
Canopies by Fred – Vendor Tents
9229 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115
Creative Canopies – Art Tents
3896 Long Beach Rd
Island Park, NY 11558
FIrst Up Canopy – Vendor Tent Supplier
International EZ UP – Pop Up Vendor Tent Supplier
1601 Iowa Avenue
Riverside, California 92507 USA
Flourish Company – Vendor Tent Supply
3640 Highway 23
St. Paul, AR 72760
Hutshops Canopy Tents
P.O. Box 1003
Arlington, TN 38002
3755 W. 69th Place
Westminster CO 80030
John Mee Canopies
Light Dome Canopies and Art Tents
1805 NE 19th Avenue
Ocala, FL 34470