Monday, February 27, 2012

Midlands A&S Fair Report & Afterwards

I got a bunch typed out yesterday, then Safari on the iPad crashed, and I hadn't saved, so everything I had written was gone. So I pouted and didn't start over.

The Midlands Arts & Sciences Fair was decent, for the attendance. Unfortunately, that seems to have been fairly small. It was 2 hours west of Palatine, so I suspect that some of the greater-Chicago-area people didn't go (a suspicion reinforced by a couple comments on the Ayreton list). We didn't expect it to be a huge event, but were hoping it would be a little bigger than it was. Oh well, it's hard to predict going in.

Lunch was not a disappointment, however. $5 for orange slices sprinkled with cinnamon, dates, hummus, pita, Moroccan semolina bread, seasoned/spiced olives, beef tagine with apricots or chicken tagine, some kind of drink (I think lemonade), and orange cake.

Even though I skipped the olives (I just don't like olives), they looked like they'd be good. The hummus needed salt, but wasn't bad. The pita was decent commercial, and only suffered in that Friday night we had multiple kinds of fresh hot Indian/Pakistani flatbreads with dinner. The meat in the beef tagine was a tad chewy, but Ron said the chicken wasn't. Whoever made the tagines should be congratulated, they managed to spice them enough so that they weren't bland, but they weren't so spicy as to risk turning people off. That's a tough balance to get. The servings of the semolina bread and orange cake were huge, and they were both good. The cake wasn't too sweet, either. All in all, one of the better SCA lunches we've had. I need to go check and see if there are recipes on the group's website - drat, no.

Loading the trailer Friday night was a bit rocky - Ron had backed the trailer too close to the gate, so there wasn't really a flat landing pad between the two sets of ramps; and Robin was working with more enthusiasm than discretion (considering the trailer ramps don't have side/guide rails to prevent road cases from rolling off sideways). Unloading/loading at the event site went well. Even though lifting is still required, Ron much prefers the two road cases to umpty bins. We still had three bins (garb, fiber/stringy bits, and assorted last-minute-ish stuff), but they just got wheeled in and out on top of the green tool case.

We did have some shifting of the load on the way to the site, we think in part because of some of the hills involved in the drive. On the way home Ron packed and put the load bars in differently, and the result was much less shifting of the big cases. We'll only be taking 2 of the 6' tables in the future, 3 don't really fit. But we can take 2 of the 4' tables instead of just one.

The big green case is a definite improvement for belt storage - it is very easy to find the right kind of belt when one is needed. Ron did change how one drawer was packed, but that's minor. The case worked fine as a tabletop for receipt books, etc. Ron fought a bit with Numbers at first, but it looks like having him do the record-keeping on the iPad is going to work out.

Wireless coverage was a problem. Ron had only intemittent weak coverage, I never noticed I had any at all (ATT). Fortunately, Xap had coverage, and the Intuit app is available for her Android phone. They did try to set it up so merchants could use the local WiFi network, but we had login/connection issues. Our neighbors had a Virgin Mobile WiFi hotspot widget, but the building WiFi was interfering. Their plan is pay-as-you-go, we may investigate something like that as a backup - they say it's also nice at conventions when the hotel networks get busy. On the third hand, we haven't had any problems with cell/3G coverage at hotels.

Unloading the trailer yesterday morning went much better than loading Friday, even without Xap's help (which we had Friday). We had space between the two sets of ramps to get the big cases parked and do things in stages, instead of having to off of one and straight up the other. We told Robin we needed him to pay attention to steering and not just be strong like ox and smart like tractor, so he did. And next time there will be a winch to make it easier yet.

Yesterday morning, after dropping off the trailer, we looked for winch mounting plates at Cabela's - they have a bunch that can be ordered, but nothing in stock and no pictures. In the afternoon I checked the winch manufacturer's website (, and 4 pages of mounting plates for all the different models of ATVs, with pictures. We found one that looked good for adaptation to a fixed stand, and Ron ordered it. The company is Connecticut, so hopefully we'll have it before the weekend, so Ron and Robin can work on building a stand.

That isn't quite the end of our accomplishments for the weekend, but I think I've nattered on (and on and on) quite enough. So I'll leave you with a panoramic view (taken with and stitched together on Ron's phone!) of our setup Saturday. Click to embiggen. The yellow road case is against the wall, between the two displays of belts. The big green case is behind the gridwall that's behind/between the two tables full of pouches.


  1. While not an inexpensive option, if you are highly dependent on wireless coverage at events for credit card processing, or other needs, it might pay in the long run to have a backup connection on another provider.

    Verzion and Sprint both offer "MiFi" devices which create your personal hot spot. While I've never run into issues with either of ours (I upgraded recently to take advantage of Verizon's LTE coverage - which I was finally able to do when we were in Anaheim), I believe that it is possible to change the channel it is working on which should get away from interference.

    1. Er, that's exactly what I was talking about in the end of the paragraph about WiFi/connection issues, although I didn't clearly specify on another network than ATT - investigating WiFi devices, particularly ones that are pay as you go.

      It isn't a priority need, we just started taking credit cards again via the Intuit app, but it could be a convenient thing to have, both for ourselves and for MuseCon parties, etc.