Pam braiding in the front of the truck
Lovely little nests of split bamboo, ready for braiding
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.