Over the course of the previous 27 National Arts and Crafts Conferences at the Grove Park Inn, we have experienced a wide range of temperatures, most of them hovering between forty and sixty degrees. That’s pretty typical for Asheville during the third week of February, as we generally are beginning to see the tips of our jonquils about conference time.
Last year, in fact, we set a record: 72 degrees.
“Proof,” I announced from the podium, “that there is a God — and she likes Arts and Crafts.”
Which makes last week’s 4 degrees above zero all the more difficult to explain.
Not only did we have record-breaking arctic cold, but along with it came snow on Wednesday, followed by freezing rain on Thursday, which is our set-up day.
And so it didn’t seem promising when two of the first three exhibitor’s trucks could not even make it up the hill to the loading dock.
As more than one dealer muttered, just loud enough for me to hear, “This doesn’t look good.”
About the time that we got the last exhibitor into the Grove Park Inn on Thursday, a main water pipe froze and burst, sending a twenty-minute long waterfall cascading down onto the foyer where we had just hours earlier been loading in scores of exhibitors.
Just about when it looked like we might get all of the exhibitors in, as well as the majority of our conference attendees, another water pipe inside an exterior wall froze and burst, sending a plume of steam into the air between two booths, and water rolling down the carpeted hallway.
All of this, quite naturally, occurred at seven o’clock at night, long after everyone had left and just minutes before the first seminar.
Fortunately, a hotel security officer spotted the plume of steam and called everyone into action, including my crew. Within four minutes we had nearly 20 people with towels, mops, and shop vacuums attaching the water, while one engineer had the good sense to rush downstairs and turn off the main supply valve.
And so on Friday the odds didn’t look so good: record-breaking cold, snow, ice, blustery wind, and bursting water pipes.
I wondered if this was going to finally be the year when we just couldn’t pull off another record-breaking conference and show.
But just as I had boldly predicted, the people still came, and they came, and they came, and they came some more. They stood in line not just before the opening session on Friday, but for the opening of the doors on Saturday and Sunday, too.
And like Julius Caesar said, “Veni, vidi, vici.”
They came, they saw, and they bought. (New translation.)
We beat the odds, as it was a fantastic conference and an outstanding show.
All of which concluded with a celebratory breaking through of the sun on Sunday afternoon, sending temperatures back into the fifties and everyone home smiling.
A week for the record books.
Until next Monday.
Mark the dates: February 19-21, 2016