29 October 2010

SAFF 2010

Ahhhh SAFF.  Just the word brings a flutter to my heart.  The excitement, the comeraderie, the hugs, the buttons, the handknitted items everyone proudly wears, the inspection of each other's newly aquired stash, Asiana for dinner, meeting of new friends and reuniting with old ones.

And not to mention, the constant, non-stop hum and thrum in my booth.  People coming and going, touching, feeling, oohing and aahing, lining up patiently with their new treasure in hand while waiting to pay.  Last year I shared space with Cozette from Cozy Cove Farm, this year I shared space with Pam from Sweet Home ALApaca.  Last year was crazy... this year was even craziER, to the point where Pam and I decided the hell with it, we're paying for a double booth before we leave.  Which we did, and you can find us next year in yet again the same spot, booth 20 in the arty Sales Arena (breezeway).  No more sucking in the belly as you squeeze past other bodies in the booth, no more embarrassing accidental brushing of butts and bossoms.  Well, I say that NOW, but who knows, the double booth next year may be just as crowded.

Pam and I have found that it's immensely helpful to have an extra pair of hands available at the busier festivals, so we chose to bring along Augusta.  When the excited teen agreed to come and be our helper, little did she know (nor did we, for that matter!), the adventure she was about to embark on.

Our intention had been to pack the trailer and truck on Wednesday night, spend the night at my house, and leave for Asheville, NC, first thing in the morning.  On Wednesday morning Pam's poor husband managed to step on the metal divider in a garden bed while carting heavy buckets of soaking fleece in bare feet, and cut himself a nasty gash that required a visit to the ER.  To allow Pam to regain lost ER time, we decided we would meet first thing in the morning on Thursday and be in Asheville around noon.  To cut a long story short, we arrived in Asheville around 10:30pm due to a horrendous traffic jam on I-26 when they closed it for several hours after a semi trailer left the freeway, taking a car with it, and tumbled over the guardrail and down the side of the hill.  We spent that time braiding bamboo while sitting stationary for an extended period of time.

Sitting idle on I-26
I went to the trailer and grabbed the bamboo that Pam was
drying back there so that we could braid it.
Might as well, we weren't going anywhere fast.

Augusta braiding in the back of the truck

Pam braiding in the front of the truck

Lovely little nests of split bamboo, ready for braiding

Setup was much faster than we anticipated and we were excited that we could still get a couple of working hours in at the hotel before catching a couple of hours of sleep to welcome opening day.  You see, although we had product ready, not a great deal of it was bagged or tagged.  With life getting in the way it was something we resolved to do once we got there.


The welcome at the hotel was a very hospitable one.  The manager was on night on duty and he gracefully reversed our trailer out of the reception area when we realised there was no turn around.  Due to the size of our truck and trailer, we had to park it around the side of the building.  Not a great biggie, for there was a side entrance door that you could open with your hotel cardkey, it led into the stairwell which had a small door that opened into the long, neverending hallway of the ground floor (we were at the complete opposite end, but so be it).  He opened doors for us while we carted several luggage carts full of product and fiber from outside to our room.  The hotel itself was incredibly nice - it looked and smelled new, there was nonstop coffee available in the breakfast area, and the guests were very respectful of others, there was no excessive noise.  We settled into our room and pulled out our equipment to begin work.

At around 3am I realised that the tub with bags had been left on the trailer, and I pulled on my wrap, grabbed the keys, and commenced on my way down the looooong hallway towards the other end where I could step outside via the side entrance.  Shortly after walking down the hallway I saw the manager come into the hallway ahead of me and walk inthe same direction.  Awesome, I thought, he's heading the same way so I won't be alone.  He opened the door into the stairwell and it closed behind him.  Not even a minute later, I swung open that same door to follow him, and was startled for a moment when I saw the manager and another person standing in the small stairwell space.  My instant thought was that he was talking with a member of hotel staff, until in the very next instant I realised the second man was wearing a bandana over his nose and mouth and then, to my absolute horror, noticed the barrel of the gun that he had pointed right at my face.  For a moment I thought it was a joke... yes, it's amazing what goes through your mind when you are confronted with a situation you only ever hope to see on TV.  And then my instinct kicked in as I realised that in that faltering moment he could have shot me in the face, and may still very well do so!  I backed out into the hallway as fast as I could, letting the door slam, turned, and with complete panic setting in, ran down the hallway back towards our room.  All I could see was the immensely long, narrow hallway, with locked doors on both sides, and I knew that if the gunman was to open the door he'd have a clear shot at me as I was thundering down the hallway, zigzagging as they tell you to do when someone is about to shoot at you.  I thought of my son, my family, Pam and Augusta in the room, all the while with my ears peeled for the sound of that hallway door opening.  When it did, I had reached the reception area and could turn to see what was coming through the door.  It was the manager, completely calm, saying 'it's alright, he's gone.'  It's ALRIGHT?  I took no notice of what he was saying and sprung immediately back into deer mode and continued my sprint down the other half of the hallway, frantically knocking on the door when I reached our room, never being so relieved to be let in.

Pam said afterwards that she'd never seen me so white.  It took a few moments for me to gather myself together as I stood panting in wild panic.  Close the curtains!  The realisation that I could have lost my life in that split second that I opened the hallway door hit me very hard, and stayed with me for several hours, goosebumping and crawling across my skin, making me shiver.  We called 911 right away and within minutes there were police everywhere, calmly walking in and out of the lobby, taking statements from the manager and myself while Augusta stayed behind in the room, locked in the bathroom with her cellphone, and after it was all over I felt high enough to continue work without a wink of sleep.

The complete story as to how the gunman was able to get into the building, was one that could have easily been avoided.  Although doors are locked at night, there are no security cameras anywhere on the property.  The manager had received a call at the front desk from a man who claimed to be from room 135, had stepped out of the side entrance for a cigarette, then realised he had locked himself out.  Could someone please let him in?  The manager had left the front desk and walked down the hallway (I saw him at that moment), entered the stairwell, opened the door, and was confronted by the gunman who demanded that he step outside.  The manager had just declined to do so when I suddenly and unexpectedly opened the hallway door, startling them both.  As I closed the door and ran, so did the gunman, in the opposite direction and into the safety of darkness around the back of our trailer.

I never did get my bags, that would have to wait till the safety of daylight.

After that eventful night we breakfasted quietly and made our way to our booth where it was nonstop action until mid afternoon when I could finally step outside of my booth and breathe.  Our shelves were empty, as though we'd been rampaged.  After SAFF was over I discovered that there were so many people inside on opening day that the people at the front gate had to wait for people to leave before they were allowed in.  Wow.

Augusta, our 'sticker' girl, took to wearing different
stickers and tags throughout the festival. Other vendors
were bringing her extra barcodes to wear :)

Fascinated by the braiding, a young girl
stops to help Augusta as she preps the bamboo

A lady who won a bag of 'Candy Girl' moonbeams
at the Southern Select Alpaca Show's silent auction
earlier in the year stumbled across us and went running
back to get the nuno felted scarf she'd made with them.
Modelled by Augusta.

Closeup of the beautiful scarf - what a treat!

One very relaxed customer set herself down in the corner
of our booth and proceeded to untangle and organise a bunch
of dyed silk pencil sliver that I'd thrown in there straight off my
drying rack.  She scored herself some free silk! :)

Kim Gay from Woolie Creations stopped by to drop off
Pam's new bunny (meet Daisy!!), and she gifted us each an
amazing felted scarf. I loved mine so much that I pinned my
buttons to it and wore it every single day! (Thanks Kim!!)

And this pretty much set the pace for the remainder of the event.  Crazy during the day, strange at night.  We discovered on Saturday that someone had messed with the trailer, attempted to steal it off the back of the truck, actually.  In the parking lot of the hotel we are assuming.  They jacked it up using the wheel, realised they could not release it from the hitch, then left it sitting like that so that when we pulled away in a great hurry to get to the booth (we ran late two mornings in a row!) we snapped off the wheel and bent the entire jack almost right off it, not noticing this until Saturday evening.

It was funny and heartwarming, we would arrive at the booth half an hour late and find that people had jumped the barricade of barstools and set aside the products they wanted along with a note that they'd be back later.  There is something about fibery folks that makes them trustworthy (for most part, I can't claim that all are), and it felt like friends had visited while we were out.  This year we actually had to CLOSE UP the booth for half an hour in the afternoon to escape the nonstop crowds and allow us a moment to breathe and go in search of lunch.  In this very small time frame I could catch up with Otto and Joanne from Strauch Fiber, such a dear, very dear couple who I just adore to death.  I love them and the Strauch products so much that I've negotiated with Otto to become a dealer, but that is a whole other story :)

In the early hours of Sunday morning we arrived at the hotel to find that the luggage cart had been swiped by someone and there was no other available.  We really needed the cart to bring our carders in after having worked at the booth for most of the night.  I was astounded that for a 2 story hotel of that size, there was merely one cart.  The girl behind the desk offered little apology nor did she offer an alternative idea.  Not surprising really, this was the same girl that was bitching about the level of noise coming from hen's gathering in the lobby earlier that evening when spinners and knitters met and chatted and worked.  Pam ended up requesting a laundry cart and at 4am we finally had all of our equipment safe and sound in the room.  Seeing we'd be up again in 2 hours, we called the front desk to see if we could keep the laundry cart until then rather than unloading it all.  For 45 minutes we tried to get through, all we got was a busy signal.  We went to bed.

I was the first one up and hit the shower, taking my time to finally relax a bit under the hot water.  However, no sooner was I enjoying the hot water when I heard the sound of a man's voice in our room.  I froze.  Are you KIDDING me?  I turned the water off, wrapped a towel around me, and stood at the locked bathroom door, wondering what to do.  I heard rummaging and muffled voices, and then, right before the door slammed shut hear the manager say very clearly "I feel sorry for the person that has to clean THIS room!".  Instantly my anger flared.  How DARE he say that?  Yes, there was fiber all over the floor from our carding sessions, but I have never left a room without cleaning it well, and I found this comment extremely insulting, especially seeing I made it clear to him when we signed in that I would be carding in the room and there would be 'hair' on the floor, and not to think we had pets in there and hit us with a pet fee upon departure.

Stomping out of the bathroom, I discovered Pam and Augusta still sound asleep.  You mean to tell me that people came into our room without permission?  While I was showering and the others were sleeping?  I noticed the laundry cart was gone, our stuff sitting on the floor.  I was beyond furious.  Calling the front desk I was told that they thought we had already left (huh???) and they needed the laundry cart.  Oh geez... you mean to tell me that you only have one laundry cart too?

We dressed and entered the lobby, asking to speak with the manager in private.  He confessed that yes, he had entered our room for he was told we'd already gone.  He had called the room first but no-one answered.  Not surprising seeing I was in the shower and the other girls were sound asleep.  He then knocked on the door repeatedly, and after receiving no answer entered the room and took the cart.  He didn't even see the girls sleeping, nor did he hear the water running in the bathroom!  We were very angry with him.  Note:  There are no latches on the inside of the room doors to prevent this from happening, either!

Due to the numerous events at the hotel over the weekend, the manager wiped our bill.  Would we stay there again?  No.  Absolutely not.  The place is a disaster waiting to happen unless they start taking the safety of the staff and the guests into serious consideration.

All in all, hotel aside, we had a wonderful time at SAFF and can't wait to meet up with everyone again next year!  I think we'll stay at the Fairfield though... :)

Oh... Oh!  And did I mention that right before we hit Huntsville on the way home we drove right underneath a forming tornado???  I mean, seriously.

As we came around a bend in the freeway and the valley stretched out below us, I noticed immediately that the clouds we were about to drive under were NOT safe.  Sure enough, as we drove, we saw a huge gap opening up immediately above us, and clouds began began being sucked up into them.  As I floored the truck, Pam hung out the window with her video camera to film it all... an adreline rush to end our adventure.

Thank goodness we are home.  And all we need to worry about now is taking the kids to the pumpkin farm this afternoon.  Sheesh...


  1. Holy CRAP, Roo! I'm amazed that you were in such amazingly good spirits during SAFF, after all that. Can you tell me what hotel that was? I never ever want to stay there. I'm so glad you and the ladies are okay!
    *hugs hugs*

  2. Holy flippin cow. We don't know each other but I was a vendor and stayed at the same place. I'm so sorry you had such a horrible stay and experience but yet held it together to have a great show. I heard some knocking and some voices one nite but thought it was a pretty quiet place (for once). I think you were in the room next to us. My husband even made metion of keeping the truck close to the trailer so no one would take it and I thought, who the heck would want it, ha!
    Your a stronger person for making it thru all of that, like to meet you next year!!

  3. Oh, what awful hotel trauma! I'm so glad you all are safe home! (And that they didn't charge you for the experience.)

    Usually I get a few crazy annoying things happening, but this year they all happened to you, no question.

    I stayed at the same place, only upstairs, also noticed the new smell. A few odd things were missing, like a soap holder in the shower, but we did have a door latch. For the price, it was the best place I've ever stayed. But I saw no guns!

  4. Oh yeah, for the record, the cart was so wobbly that you might not have been able to use it anyway!

  5. wow...wow...and wow. I'm believing that SAFF next year for you will peaceful, prosperous and will be a more enjoyable experience without the chaos.

    hugs...and more hugs... you deserve it.

  6. Wow this sucks!

    Take me with you next year and I'll find us somewhere both safe and cool to stay! Still cracks me up that you are just down the road and this is the only way we communicate!!