Peschel Press at Art on Chocolate

It took the purchase of a canopy and the acquisition of a screen, a week’s worth of preparation and the soothing of rumbley nerves with portions of alcohol, but we made an appearance at Art on Chocolate in downtown Hershey on Saturday.

Art on Chocolate Booth

The event, which attracted more than 130 vendors, marked a promising beginning for what the sponsors hoped will become a regional event. There were juried and non-juried artists, food vendors, musicians, and plenty of attendees.

Issac Moyer

Guitarist Isaac Moyer provided beautiful music twice near us.

The organizers had a brainwave when they spread the booths out among several locations. We were in the middle, in Chocolatetown Square (actually a small park with a brick patio for the musicians). On one side, across the street, was a field with booths and food vendors, and on the other side in the blocked-off street were two lines of tents where the juried artists hung out. We easily had a couple thousand people walk through, but it never seemed crowded.

Spreading out the vendors spread out the crowds as well.

Spreading out the vendors spread out the crowds as well.

Art on Chocolate also marked another milestone for Peschel Press. It’s the first event where we had a proper booth set-up. For the Derry Twp. Historical Society’s Artisan and Authors Fair in 2013, we made do with a cardboard table, three books, and a patio umbrella. Now, we’re up to seven books, a line of tote bags, and professional-looking banners.

Fortunately, we sold enough books and bags to make our booth rental and pay some of the expenses. It wasn’t much, but events like these are valuable in other ways:

* We got to talk to potential readers, not just to spread the word about our offerings, but about their reading habits, what they liked, and in general anything that might be of interest. If nothing else, readers love to talk about books, and that’s always a worthwhile chat.

* We spread the word that we’re a Hershey business. People like to see something interesting that’s local, and we can provide that.

The duo the Jayplayers showed how to collect emails for a mailing list, and distribute cards and stickers, and sell their CD.

The duo the Jayplayers showed how to collect emails for a mailing list, and distribute cards and stickers, and sell their CD.

* We also got to see how other artists set up their booths, handled themselves, and sold their works. We’ve been to several of these shows, and vendors — when they had time to talk — were incredibly generous with their advice.

Art on Chocolate Everlasting Images

Photo by everlasting images of Hershey.

We also discovered Everlasting Images, local photographers who were taking free photos of the attendees. Fortunately, they were willing to risk their camera on myself as well.

* We got to meet and talk with people who love Hershey and work to make like here better: the board of supervisors, the volunteers (some recruited from the First United Methodist Church) who helped keep the festival going smoothly, the sponsors such as the historical society and the downtown association. We get to learn more about Hershey, and they can see us as valuable partners.

Finally, it was just plain fun to talk to the customers. There was the woman who has visited the William Gillette Castle twice up in Connecticut. She described the beautiful house, with its door handles all handmade, all different, and the little devices here and there that the “Sherlock Holmes” stage actor used to entertain himself. Then there was the South African who looked through the Agatha Christie books, and the BBC Sherlock fan who was happy to talk about shipping and JohnLock stories. I’m now happily into reading “Light of Pure Reason,” a popular pastiche she recommended at Fanfiction.net.

And I think that was the most important lesson to take away from the event: worrying about your sales is fruitless (that’s for after the event). What’s important is to make your booth look the way you want it, make sure everything’s there, and then once the customers come in, focus on enjoying the moment. If you can do that, then you’ve won.