Craft fair fun – trying to beat a frontal storm system (and failing)

We exhibited at UT Arlington yesterday. The fair was supposed to finish at 9pm. All afternoon we had been monitoring the progress of frontal rain and thunderstorms, moving South East slowly from the North and West. As the front moved South East, it was sucking in Gulf Air, a classical meteorological feature of the mid-West which in the Spring and Summer leads to unpleasant events like tornadoes. This time, we saw a steadily deepening line of red on the weather radar. I went for a drive to pick up some lighting bits and pieces at 7pm and saw lightning to the North and West, and an outflow cloud formation ahead of the storm moving slowly South over us. It was only a matter of time before the storm hit us, the main question being, would we make it to 9pm?
The decision was made for us at 7.45pm when the organizers declared an early close. We immediately began to tear down. Unlike many exhibitors, who have a modular rig with a smaller number of exhibits, our set up is more labor intensive, and we bring a lot more stock to an event. It takes us at least 1 hour to break down the whole rig. I wish we could go it quicker, we will look at that this Winter.
We set to work as fast as possible packing up. By 8.35 pm it was starting to rain, and we had a great light show above us. We left the E-Z Up fully configured and broke the displays down and put everything away. By this time, it was raining hard with gusty winds starting to pick up all around us. Normally, in a row of exhibitor tents, there is mutual wind protection, but once enough tents are broken down, that protection diminishes. More of that in a minute.
I set off to get the first car. When I arrived back at the exhibition area, Mary was trying to break down the tent, but then a gust of wind started to move it. We have 200 pounds of custom weights that we use to secure the corners of the tent, but once those are removed as the first part of the break-down, the tent is vulnerable to wind gusts. It took 4 people to hold it down and prevent it from going walkabout, while we loaded the car with the tables, exhibits, chairs and other paraphernalia. Then I moved the first car out of the way and set off to bring up the second car. By the time I got back to our pitch with the second car, it was bucketing down. We loaded remaining clutter into the second car, then, after I consulted the radar and determined that there was no let-up in the rain, we set (I think) a new record for collapsing an E-Z Up and loading it into a car trunk. It’s amazing how fast you can move when you are being rained on. By this time it was really raining hard (the red zone on the radar had hit us), so we set off out of the AT Arlington campus, driving carefully along suddenly-sodden roads. In Texas, a lot of people either fail to slow down or tiptoe along the road as if expecting imminent doom, we saw both behavioral pathologies on the way home.
We made it home, still wet. The cars are being unpacked on Sunday morning, with some stuff being put away for the Winter. Back to cyber-sales…

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