It’s coming October 4 through 6 weekend, the annual rite of Fall in Louisville: The St. James Court Art Show. This is such a momentous occasion that Jefferson County Schools made it a holiday. The only other Friday on the calendar with no school is Oaks, if you need some perspective.
I’ve been to this show every year of the seventeen years I have lived here. I’ve been in the wind, the rain, the sun, with kids, without kids: every known configuration.
Today I’m going to give you my insider track on going to this show. How do you not let the over 200,000 people you are sharing a small space with overwhelm you? How do you navigate over 750 artists? Where do I park? What do I wear?
You can do this in two hours, sometimes in one hour if you follow these ten tips:
1. Go alone or with a partner who shares your focus.
SB Note: If you want to go with a group, or make a day of it, or go with your kids, skip down to tip #10.
Going alone lessens your time of seeking approval on every item. But, going with a partner means you can divide and conquer, with each of you scouting out what and where the good stuff is. So a two-person maximum limit applies here.
2. No kids.
Imagine being in a place with 200,000 people and thousands of pieces of art to see, feel and touch. Then, imagine being in a cage on wheels for that experience, stuck at ground level. That is a young child’s experience of St. James. Or, imagine that you are mobile, agile and school-aged. And, that painting of dreamy mermaid frolicking with the fairies would look great in your room. “What, it’s $2500? But, I want it, MOM.” That’s the perspective of an older child at the show.
Get a sitter, leave them home.
3. Wear tennis shoes, possibly workout clothes.
We’re not here to look cute people, we are here to shop. Remember though, you will see several people you know, so put on a little mascara and brush your hair. But, this is not the day to show off your new wedges. Comfort is king.
4. Before you go, write down your gift list.
Write down everyone you buy Christmas and birthday gifts for in the upcoming months. Write down weddings, teacher gifts and any other instance that you would need to purchase a gift. Read it and tuck it into your pocket; you can buy so many of these gifts here that are unique and not expensive.
5. Valet park by 610 Magnolia or find a space nearby.
My valet experiences have been cheaper than paying the parking lot rates. And, I’ve been known to squeeze my big SUV down many an alley to park in random places. But for some reason, parking on the west side of the show allows for easier exit and less pedestrians. I know the TARC runs a shuttle, but that confuses me and means I’m just waiting on someone else’s schedule.
6. Be sure to pack a water and a snack.
The lines for food, oh … the lines for food. I’ve waited 30 minutes in line for a pork sammie and an elephant ear and I’ll never do that again. Pack a snack and a small water. The food is great, actually, but all that waiting in line takes away from your shopping time. We’re not here to eat; we are here to shop.
7. Walk the entire thing once before you buy.
Do a lap before you buy. If you are completely moved by the spirit and have to buy it now, you can do that; but, remember that you will be carrying that lovely item for the rest of the time though. I always make a mental list of the things I want on the first lap and then spend my time marinating on that item. Do I need it? Will I use it? Do I want to schlep it all the way to the car?
8. Do NOT get overtaken by the ethereal world or the animal world.
After 40 booths of mermaids, fairies and Tinkerbell’s land, you start to think those paintings would look great in your house. They don’t. Period.
As for the animals, I went through a big cow and pig phase a few years back. When your home begins to look like a barnyard or Noah’s Ark, it’s time to stop. One or two is cute, but pump the brakes after that.
9. After your first lap, decide what to buy and go to the furthest booth first.
Decide what you will buy and walk out to the furthest booth and work your way back, heading back to your car. Anyone who has bought the big painting or sculpture and is heaving it through the crowds will understand why.
10. Have no expectations.
This art fair is always top-notch, but that does not mean you will be buying every year. I’ve had years of feast and years of famine. Just enjoy the ride.
Let me know if you go and what you bought. If you see me there, maybe you can help me carry my things to my car? I’d sure appreciate it.