Life Under a Circus Tent

Jj Black Hole Tent Cover 2
Summer Millie

Today the much-anticipated Spring Green Art Fair is in my rearview mirror.

All I can do is smile.

Did it go smoothly?


It all depends on what your definition of smoothly is.

The heavens were predicted to let loose the Friday Eve when Jefferson Street would be closed to traffic.

But then, this is Wisconsin.


Along with ninety percent of the other artists who preferred not to set up their tents in the midst of gale force winds and thunderstorms, I asked Siri to wake us at four am.

My sweet Sven's truck and my car were both loaded and ready when we laid our heads upon our pillows.

Decades ago, Sven made some bat houses. We have one hanging on our garage. It is located above and between the two garage doors.

I hear squeaking in there most days and sweep away the bat shit underneath it a couple times a week. But never do I spend time in this vicinity at such an ungodly hour as that morning. What I did not realize was that I was walking down the same runway that happened to be in use by about a thousand blind mice with wings returning from their nocturnal lives.

Due to the high volume of bats in a concentrated area, they were forced to keep circling in the air waiting for the air traffic controller to give them their signal for a safe landing.

Well, I about lost my shit, screaming, arms flailing and running to the side door of the garage, holding my breath and eyes closed, while Sven sat smugly behind the wheel of his truck with a big grin on his face.

An hour later we met my Spring Green next-door neighbors, John and Margaret, two glass artists who have been married fifty some years.

John moved his van out of our way and parked it around the corner, but not before scraping the whole side of his van along the rubber bumper of another van parked next to it, which happened to belong to my other next-door neighbors, John and Rebecca.

"Did he just hit my van?" said a woman with short hair except for one side of her head.

"Um, well, I don't think there is any damage to your van," I said, with arms full of supplies.

"That doesn't matter. He should be more careful!" she said and stomped over to inspect the situation and to give him hell.

Three hours later on that beautiful morning about two hundred booths were all set, a trumpet sounded, and shoppers began to appear.

That is when Sven said, "Well, see you later, Millie. Good luck. And I love you."

To my right, beautiful copper sculpted garden art was being wrapped and bagged and money was exchanging hands.

On my left glass vases and hanging stained glass pieces were flying off shelves and hooks.

And me?

Well, I sat in my chair behind and between the busy booths and sipped on my cooled off coffee watching it all.

My heart pounded loudly whenever customers entered my shop. I would see eyes light up and I would receive a thumbs up sign, or I would get a, "very nice stuff." And I would beam whenever I witnessed someone taking one of my cards.

And then along about one-thirty a huge gust of wind came out of nowhere and blew the bejesus out of my tent.

Display racks of framed pictures came crashing down.

Not all of them. Two at first. And then another. The matted pieces all took a dive.

Artists and shoppers sprang into action, holding on to my sinking ship while I quickly cut ropes and tied racks to the tent framework.

The emergency was over. People went back to their own lives while I let down the now constant flapping tent sides and back and I fought with Velcro for another twenty minutes.

At five pm I untied and dragged everything to the very middle of my tent. I was zipping down the walls as tightly as possible accompanied by my downward thoughts and constant wind.

The photographer across the way who I'd met earlier stopped by.

"Hey, I heard about the crash," he said. "Did you lose much?"

"Just a few frames," I said.

And my pride, I thought.

At six-thirty I was home pouring myself a glass of wine.

My sweet Sven popped in some fancy ass frozen dinners and then we sat out on the back deck facing the pond to watch our regularly scheduled green heron show.

"So, did you sell anything?"


On day two around seven am, I came around a bend on a smooth black deserted country road. An eagle lay dead in my lane and just over the bright yellow center line was its dead prey rabbit.

My art was intact and undisturbed inside my zipped-up tent on Jefferson Street.

I went about the business of resetting up shop behind my closed white walls listening to the rest of the chatter. The familiar voices of my neighbors John and Margaret who I grew to love, and Rebecca and John, who I grew to like. Musicians tuning up. Birds chirping. Umbrellas rising. Muffled announcements and the aroma of sizzling brats and burgers thanks to the Lions Club.

A sense of belonging swept over me as I rolled up the back of my shop and then pulled up the street side.

This was my world.

I was ready to seize the day.

So, I sat down with my now very cold Kwik Trip dark roast and my second no longer warm hash brown stick and took a bite.

Well, the dang part of the hash browns that was left in the sleeve slipped out of my hand and landed in my coffee splashing my ankles.

"Son of a bitch."

Good news.

Hash brown potato sleeves are coffee resistant. I was able to save those last two really not worth it, bites.

The photographer came over to give me a pep talk.

"You have to give it three years," he said. "That is what my mentor told me. And it turned out to be true."

"I will," I promised. "I am no quitter."

"Good," he said and walked away.

Well, three hours in I finally donated my first drawing to a woman looking for art to sell in an event to raise money for stage four breast cancer patients this coming September, in Paoli.

"I was stage four," she said. "I had just retired, and I had done all the right things. Most breast cancer research goes to prevention. This money is strictly for those of us living with the disease."

The display rack that was secured in the middle of my booth after my remodel job, was blocking a guy in a wheelchair with a long-haired small dog on his lap. I was trying to move it out of the way for him to no avail since it was tied, when I realized they had been in my shop the day before. He and his pooch and the woman with the British accent who has hair down to her ass. The same gal who taught me how to flip someone off the proper way, "like they do in the old country."

"It is like this," she had shown me. "A backwards peace sign."

"Hi there," I said, letting go of everything,

"This guy can never make up his bloody-fucking mind. That's why we had to drive all the way back here. Ninety minutes."

"So, sue me," he says. "I woke up and could not stop thinking about your drawings."

"He does this all the time," she says, rolling her eyes.

They were clearly a real live love story.

Next thing I knew I was taking down pictures and pulling over matted bins for Rick to pilfer through.

"Kerry, can you bring me that red one?" he says.

"Yeah, yeah. What about this one?"

Finally, after much deliberation, lots of laughs, and a little bit of sharing our histories, they strolled out with two framed pictures, wrapped and bagged by yours truly.

My first Spring Green Art sale went to two talented artists. Painters who own their own art gallery and five dogs.

I will never forget them.

And yes.

I did sell some more pictures that second day.

And no.

I still cannot make change and talk at the same time.

And yes.

My card reader works. But I do not. I really don't see that ever changing.

And yes, I am all thumbs when wrapping and bagging my art.

Thank you, friends and family, for stopping in to show your support.

Missy, you will forever make me smile.

And you little girl with the blonde hair who came in my shop that last half hour of that very long weekend just to tell me that you love my art. I wish I would have had my wits about me and had you pick one out.

I will be watching for you next time.

Because since everything went so smoothly, I am hooked and proud to be a part of this traveling circus community.


Swiffson Gallery - Baraboo Wisconsin

Swiffson Gallery
SG Art Fair

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