GREENFIELD — Like little kids to the ducky derby, the state’s craft vendors flock to the Riley Festival. From every corner, crack, crevice and underpopulated berg, Hoosiers with wares to hawk line the streets to sell everything from pottery to pot holders.
Vendors, many of whom sign up each festival to participate in the next, arrive early and stay late to make the most of the four-day festival’s selling hours. But the trip home isn’t a short one for all.
Though the vast majority of the nearly 500 booth spaces are occupied by Indiana vendors, about two dozen out-of-state merchants are participating this year. For the furthest traveling, hailing from locales like Arizona, Florida and Virginia, the weekend is about having a good time and at least selling enough to make the drive worthwhile.
“As long as I make enough to make the trip, I’ll come up,” said Elvin Floyd, owner of The Butterfly Guys booth.
It’s the third year at the festival for The Butterfly Guys. While it may not be the most profitable festival they attend, Floyd said he at least sells enough to cover the entry costs and gas for his 12-hour drive from Sutherland, Va.
Floyd started coming to the Riley Festival three years ago, after being talked into it by a friend. Tony Hardwick lives in Greenwood and scoped out the festival for Floyd the year before.
“I said, ‘I think we need to be here,’” Hardwick said, attributing their attraction to the festival’s large size and good crowds.
Three years later, it’s one of Floyd’s favorites.
“I’d come to this one just to see the excitement on people’s faces when they see the booth,” Floyd said.
The walls of Floyd’s booth are covered in framed glass boxes. Each holds anywhere from one to 24 jewel-toned butterflies. More than 1,000 different species of butterflies are farmed in Peru, then collected and preserved after they die.
“Most only live a day or two,” Floyd explained.
Floyd said the good crowds, friendly people and continued excitement over his product keeps him coming back.
“I told him about Hoosier hospitality,” Hardwick said.
“It’s not just a saying,” added Floyd.
Kay Williams knows all about Hoosier hospitality – she was born and raised here. Now a resident of Ocklawaha, Fla., Williams and her husband Ray made the 16-hour trek last weekend to do a three-show stint in her home state.
Williams said both the Duck Tail Run in Gas City and the James Dean Festival in Fairmount were successful last weekend.
She’s hoping for similar results selling her handmade, pet-themed home décor at the Riley Festival this weekend. Williams said she doesn’t know what to expect, but is so far impressed by the festival’s set up and its host city.
“It’s really big,” she said. “We’ve always heard good things about this festival.”
For the jaunt to the Hoosier state to be worth it for the Williamses, Ray said they need to sell about $900 worth of merchandise – about a 100 of their moderately priced signs, frames and wall art.
With tens of thousands expected to visit the festival over its four-day run, the Williamses are hoping that shouldn’t be too difficult.
The streets were already starting to fill when the festival officially opened at 5 p.m. Thursday. By the time the opening ceremonies concluded at 7 p.m., the festival was in full swing. Picnic tables were full and the first band of the weekend was warming up.
Events will continue throughout the weekend, as the festival opens back up today at 9 a.m., and continues through Sunday.