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October 24-26, An Affair of the Heart, Oklahoma City, OK

October 24-26, An Affair of the Heart, Oklahoma City. Contact: An Affair of the Heart, PO Box 890778, Oklahoma City, OK 73189. Phone: 405-632-2652 or 800-755-2654. Fax: 405-632-2654. E-mail: Web site: Space fee: $375-$1,000. Space size: 10x10 to 10x40. 100% indoors. Exhibitors: 850. Hours: 9-6 Friday and Saturday, 11-5 Sunday. Attendance: 35,000 (2007 gate). Admission: $6.

By Kristina Briggs
Kansas Reporter
Medium: Mixed media

If you are an artist or a crafter, there's a good chance you have heard of An Affair of the Heart (AAOTH) shows. In an area where art and craft shows are fading fast, AAOTH seems to be going strong! The company produces four shows every year, with the biggest being the October event in Oklahoma City, which came in at #30 in the crafts category of SA's most recent 200 Best.

While this is a juried show, there is quite a bit of buy/sell. Keep in mind that AAOTH doesn't really advertise itself as an art or craft show, but as a "unique marketplace"¯ offering crafts, antiques, collectibles and more. While the amount of buy/sell tends to be overwhelming, the crowds seem to appreciate the high-end fine art just as much as the low-end collectibles. In some ways, no matter what is being sold, all the booths seem to flow together almost seamlessly. And with over 850 exhibitors (from a reported 26 different states), this event attracts a variety of different shoppers.

The crowds were wall to wall at the 2008 event. I was lucky enough to have a booth very close to an entrance door, where shoppers waited in line every day of the event. On all three days, the lines started forming more than an hour before the doors opened to the public. I have to admit, I was surprised there was a line of customers waiting to get in the door on Sunday. I usually view Sundays in general as the get-to-know-your-neighbor days, as they are notoriously not busy. Not so for this show!

Shoppers paid a $6 fee to get in the door, but that was good for all three days and all seven buildings. Yep, this show fills seven buildings of the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds!

As soon as we arrived in Oklahoma City, we heard the show being promoted on the radio. The advertising was amazing. Ads or editorials were in nearly every area magazine or newspaper you could find. Whether it was radio, print, or even television, word was spread throughout the area about this event!

Load-in and -out could be a little chaotic depending on which building you were in. This was in no way a fault of the AAOTH crew; it just was the way the fairgrounds were laid out. Volunteers were willing to help you dolly in your merchandise if you were lucky enough to find one who wasn't already busy helping someone else. I have to mention that I did witness, on more than one occasion, exhibitors who did not previously know each other helping one another back trailers out of some pretty tight corners. And I was lucky enough to have a fellow exhibitor help me carry a heavy piece to my trailer. I guess you can say that Midwestern hospitality is alive and well!

The AAOTH staff was very efficient. In my area, there was never a spill on the floor a few minutes without being cleaned up. The staff was all very friendly and helpful. There was also a great security team, which I had thought was the fairgrounds' security, but then I realized their badges actually said "police officer."¯ That was a nice gesture from the city government.

AAOTH provided exhibitors with snacks everyday (including setup) consisting of cinnamon rolls, cheese, fresh fruit, crackers, coffee, tea, water and the best apple cider! They also provided special exhibitor areas, which were basically places exhibitors could eat or sit down for a bit behind a curtain and out of the public eye. AAOTH also provided a few special restrooms for exhibitors, which really came in handy! And they offered a church service on Sunday morning for exhibitors who chose to attend.

If you were lucky enough to venture from your booth, there were several food vendors from which you could purchase nearly anything your heart desired. From beef Wellington to gourmet cookies, it was all there! And if you had any energy left after leaving the show, Oklahoma City was a wonderful city to explore. A variety of nice motels was available not too far from the fairgrounds, and if you were traveling with an RV, the fairgrounds did allow camping.

Most of the exhibitors I talked to seemed satisfied with their sales. There were a few, of course, who weren't so happy. One exhibitor of buy/sell merchandise experienced a slight decline from the 2007 show but did plan to return. An exhibitor of handmade children's clothing was disappointed with sales but still happy she did the show. I was able to make exactly 10 times my total expenses, which I thought was pretty good considering the state of the economy. The average price of the items I sold was only $15, though. On Sunday afternoon, a stroll past a booth brought a smile to my face. Only a sign remained. It read, "RECESSION? Don't think so! Thanks, Oklahoma. SOLD OUT."¯

An Affair of the Heart of Oklahoma City is really a top-notch show. I will definitely be attending again.

Sunshine Artist

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