Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, art, travel, make-up, cooking and the occasional rant!


Festival + rain = BIG MESS

I spent this long weekend face painting at Grizfest in Tumbler Ridge, B.C.  This is the fifth year I’ve painted at the festival and it is always, um, “interesting” weather wise.  We load the car with outfits for -10C to +40C… wet or dry, as we never know what will happen.

Usually there is SOME rain… one year we arrived and then sat in the car for two hours waiting for the rain to stop before setting up, and usually there are showers… but THIS YEAR?!?!?!?!? 

A few years ago they hired me to face paint in Tumbler Ridge when they had the RCMP Musical Ride there – it rained SOOOOO hard that one of the Mounties slid off their horse…and landed SPLAT in the mud… the horse continued on in formation and other riders had to sort of corner him to stop so the rider could remount.  And driving in the torrential rain through the mountains is always fun… zero visibility and herds of deer don’t really go together!

This year we’ve been having a heat wave… records are being broken daily for maximums.  B.C. is having real problems with forest fires because of the heat. 

We were keeping an eye on the weather forecast and early last week the forecast was for the weekend to be +33C… which is bad.  Then, by Thursday it was supposed to be +31C on Saturday with a 30% chance of thunderstorms on Sunday.

So, off we go early Saturday morning to drive to Tumbler Ridge.  Forecast now said +29C with only a 30% chance of thunderstorms.  Grande Prairie was hot and clear… I had to pull over after about a mile as my table was making noise!  I flipped it over and it stopped – the legs were rattling against each other!  Then the styrofoam cooler with the water in it started squeaking as the lid rubbed against the base… Luckily Meatloaf  Bat Out Of Hell on volume mark 13 drowned it out!

We drove first to Dawson Creek (an hour and a half drive) which was close to +30C and very muggy, but clear.   Stopped at Tim’s for a coffee but the line was too long so just used the facilities and got back on the road.

Then continued onto Tumbler Ridge (another hour and a half)… once we turned south on the highway through the mountains it started to cloud up.  As we gained elevation we started to drive through rain.  The clouds got more and more ominous, and the rain got heavier and heavier.

We arrived in the town and checked in to get our passes and find out where they had our tent set-up.  It was still spitting rain a bit, but the clouds were moving away and a bit of blue sky was appearing.

I paint each day from 1-6 p.m.  The local Lions Club sponsors the face painting for the children’s activities so the face painting is free for all children under 12 years.

We parked beside our tent and made the decision NOT to use the table top display unit – it is fabric and would take weeks to dry out if it got soaked and a pain the a*s to put away in a hurry.  The rain had stopped, mostly, so we wiped off the table and chairs that were there (they were wet from the rain!) and got things arranged, unloaded the kit and got set-up.

By the time we were ready it had cleared up quite nicely… but still was cloudy and a bit damp.

It was a slow start on Saturday… usually I have a line-up before I open but I guess the weather was making people have second thoughts.  Painting was pretty steady though… then the sun took over and it was bloody HOT!!  I had to move around the tent to stay in the shade as I was beginning to cook.

Oh my, I almost forgot to mention the MOSQUITOES!!  There were swarms of them and they were HUGE… so big they had to file flight plans with NAV Canada!!  If you got bitten three times you had to lay down and have a cookie and juice!! 

The kids I was painting were wearing as little as possible, and were COVERED in mosquito bites… they pretty much all were scratching non-stop.  I quit telling them to be still as it wasn’t helping… they all were reaching down to scratch their legs non-stop.  The mosquitoes were all hiding under my table in the shade and were attacking them as I was painting.

I had covered all my exposed skin and clothing with Deep Woods Off – the pump kind.  I sprayed it in my hands and rubbed over all my skin… I was also weaing a long-sleeved white shirt and my pants had drawstring cuffs so I was able to tie off my legs! 

Occasionally one would land on my back and my mom would whack me without warning!!!  Not really the best idea when I have a brush in my hand painting a kid’s face! 

They really liked sucking Mom’s blood… even the palm of her hands are covered in welts!

Sometimes they landed on the kids’ faces while I was painting… I would pull them off with a tissue and kill them… one of the beggars was so imbedded in one kids neck I had to TUG hard to pull the bloodsucker’s nozzle out!  GROSS!!

I was painting away when all of the sudden my toolbox fell over – for no reason!  I had my wipes, tissue, mirror and a plastic tray containing all my OPEN powders and Fardel liquid paints sitting on top of it!  They all went flying… my mom got covered in glitter powder, all the purple was gone, some of the other colours were salvaged… all the Fardel bottles were covered in it.  LUCKILY the bottles were all closed or it would have been a Jackson Pollock all over the car!!

Somehow I got green and blue powder on my elbow… probably from when we sat it back up where it had been.  I didn’t use the powders anymore that weekend.

There was a lull mid-afternoon, then I got slammed towards closing time… Typical.  Mom got up and acted as line manager and told people the line was closed. They kept coming up and doing the usual “are you still facepainting” question as I was putting things in the car! 

We never leave anything out overnight – the festival goes till the wee hours with bigger acts in the evening and the beer garden is open until 11 p.m.  Any furniture left there ends up across the field!  And with the weather… you may not find anything left out ever again.

We loaded up and headed over to our hotel (two nights accommodation is also provided for us).  It was new – really new!  The parking lot wasn’t paved yet and was full of puddles and they had booties at the door to put on over your muddy feet!

We took in my kit and our bag, stuck some bottles of water and my bag of grapes in the fridge. Then went to one of the two restaurants in the town for dinner, then back to the hotel to wash sponges and relax.

Next morning it was sunny… HOT and sunny.  Looked like it would be a great day.   We had our free breakfast at the hotel – a nice leisurely one.  It was a hot breakfast too which was a nice surprize – make your own waffles, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage and all the rest.

I went to get our water and grapes out of the fridge only to discover that everything was frozen… I really should learn to check the settings on hotel fridges!  But, frozen grapes are actually pretty good!

We loaded up the kit and headed over to the grounds, flashed our passes at security and drove over to our tent.  Only one chair had actually been moved and we saw it right away so went and got it.

We decided not to use the display unit again… although it attracts attention and shows off what I do, if it started to rain I didn’t want to have it get wet. 

I also really missed having my RAV4 there… [sigh] poor baby is in the body shop as some twit side-swipped me and caused $7,000 damage!  I was driving a grey Nissan Versa rental… which while it was completely capable of carrying everything did not have the impact of my wrapped RAV4!

My RAV4 - Wrapped with images of my work

My RAV4 - Wrapped with images of my work

On the plus side I didn’t get asked for 200 mutant skulls this time! 😉
It was getting very hot as we had a stroll around before putting out the kit – checking out the vendors… Would you believe that NO ONE was selling COFFEE????  Absolutely bizarre.
We went back and started to unload the car and people starting coming – it was still about 45 minutes until I was due to start but the line started to form.  We had put two extra chairs out in a line and people were lining up behind them, sitting on the grass (the wet grass)… I starting painting early as the line was already about 20 deep and, since we had actually not started painting on time the day before since there was no one to paint, I figured I owed it.
Painting away as usual… most popular this weekend: Girls – unicorns and butterflies, Boys – blue dragons and skulls.  Sometimes I think I should just make a sign and say “Today we are painting Pink Butterflies and Blue Dragons – your choice of glitter colour”  and they would all still be perfectly happy!! 😉
I did do a sweet Hulk face on a little guy with a great mohawk! 
In the trenches... quick and dirty Hulkster

In the trenches... quick and dirty Hulkster

As the day progressed the clouds started to move in… eventually, the mountains to the west were completely covered and we could see the lightening… ah yes.  I commented once the lightening starts hitting the valley I’ll be in my car!!
The cloud cover continuted to increase… as did my line!!  Then it started to spit rain… I kept painting.  The line up continued to grow…. the rain increased in intensity… people were putting up umbrellas and still the line continued to grow!
The wind then picked up…. so did the number of people in line!  Then the rain started to really come down and was blowing in on my table so I moved everything in closer to me along the inside and continued to paint.  Mom moved her chair in directly under the tent awning as the water was running off the top onto her…
Then the heavens opened up and the water was pouring off the roof into and onto my table, my kit, me … EVERYTHING!  I had just applied the base to a little girl so I had her stand up and I tried to finish her face as face as best I could but my paints were all full of water!!  I threw glitter on her and sent her on her way and mom and I scrambled to try to get things in the car as fast as possible. 
Amazingly the line of people were gone by then!! 
As I tried to open the top of  my tool box to get the lids of my palettes out it tipped over… ARGH… I grabbed it, trying to keep the lid angled so the rain didn’t get into it.  The palettes had to be dumped out to get rid of the water, which I managed to get all over both of us! I got the lids on, and got them packed…
Everything else that usually went in the toolbox just got thrust into the back of the car… mom’s chair had to be collapsed, which got us both soaked…. my signs were all soaked  AND my design book is completely toast.  I am so glad we didn’t put out the table top display!
We were putting the last of my stuff in the car – trying not to get the car flooded when the tent completely collapsed from the weight of the water on top… luckily were were clear and had all our gear out – JUST – when it happened. 
It was about 4:30 and I was suppose to paint until 6… but, the whole valley was socked in and the lightening was starting to strike in the valley around the town so we hopped in the car and headed to the gate.  I stopped at the RV “office” to give them my invoice and the chairperson’s first words to me were “Guess you’re done?”  She got my cheque for me and we headed back to the hotel.
When we got there I pulled in under their entry roof and we unloaded everything that needed cleaning and drying out.  Just as we walked in to the lobby the power went out…
So… no elevator.  We carried everything up to the second floor (thank god we weren’t on the fourth floor!) and then had to try to read the numbers on the rooms IN THE DARK!  The door locks were battery operated so we were able to get in… Only the bedside lamp worked.  No A/C, no TV, no bathroom lights…
I had to get all my kit out and cleaned up… so I worked in the semi-darkness with only the lamp from across the room and the bit of light from the window.  The room had a kitchenette so I had a sink that had SOME light to work at.  All my paints had to be rinsed off and sat out to dry over night, all my brushes had to be washed, and all the sponges needed to be cleaned.  We had soaking wet clothes too… but no A/C or way to dry them!  We hung things up and over chairs… and got into a dry change of clothing… right down to the skivvies cause we were dripping wet still!
Then we decided to head to the other restuarant for dinner (remember there are two and we ate at the other one Saturday night!) which was the Dragon Palace.  Every town in the world has a Dragon Palace, doesn’t it??  We walked in and they were telling people it was cash only as the power was out and their debit machines wouldn’t work… although the locals were all told to “come back tomorrow to pay.”
Luckily the kitchen was still operational (thank god for gas appliances) BUT they had no lights!!  We ordered Ginger Chicken, Mushroom Chow Mein and Sweet and Sour Boneless Pork – it was excellent!  We had leftovers which we took back to the hotel…
We stopped at Tags (gas station convenience store) to see if we could buy some puzzle books as we needed something to do for the rest of the evening… They also were operating on cash only for the same reason… Got some chocolate and looked everywhere for puzzle books.  I asked the cashier if they had any, she said, yes they are over here… and took me back to the rack I was looking at.  She said “I guess everyone must have the same idea you have!”
So, back to the hotel, up the stairs to an even darker hallway… mom couldn’t find our room, she was feeling along trying to decipher the numbers by touch.  Eventually we found our room and then it was fun trying to find the slot for the card key!!!  It is really hard to get something like that in the right place in the dark!
The room was really getting stuffy but we didn’t want to open a window as the rain was really beating in on the screen.
We read all the brochures, ate the chocolate, fussed around with items we were trying to dry out…
About 9 p.m. the power came back on!!!  And the A/C kicked in… thank goodness!  And BONUS Inspector Morse was on TV!
We got up this morning and it was cold!  Only around 10C and raining, still.  Our clothes were still damp and my shoes were a bit squishy still.  I wore my sandals down for breakfast hoping that sticking the shoes on the A/C unit would dry them out more.
We managed to get our stuff packed into the car during a small break in the rain… last thing I wanted was to get everything wet, again!!
It rained pretty much all the way home too.  The weather forecast for the weekend was about as accurate as usual… which means NOT!!
And the only wildlife we saw was a white-tailed deer buck taking a… nature break!?  🙂
We unloaded the car and I had a look at the damage …. have a lot of my signs to replace as well as my book.  And of course, the powders that got spilled… and I hope the paint comes out of all our clothing… we had to set-up the chair to dry… it was still dripping wet.
I decided to blog instead of putting together a new design book… All my pages of images – printed on brochure paper are saturated, the toner has dried to the inside of all the page protectors – so I have to redo my entire design book.  
We finished off the Chinese from last night for dinner and are watching Midsomer Murders while I type this.  I need to relax.