Field Notes

Entries Tagged as 'Field Trip'

Field Trip:

Field Trip: Monona County Fair (Part 4)

July 19th, 2010 by Bryan Bedell

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monona“These are great, but I’m not a farmer.” We’ve heard this more than a couple of times tonight. Another was “I’ll have to send my husband is, because he’s a farmer and he’ll understand.” So we’ve come 502 miles to find authentic, rural Americana, only to find that it’s we who seem to rural and authentic. If movies have shown us anything, it’s that a road trip always leads to getting to know yourself better, and this must be our third act denouement, where we learn that our memo books look like (or really are) the real deal. But we’d tell people, “You don’t have to be a farmer. You can use them for anything,” and that’s seemed to work pretty well.

The demolition derby got started a bit late, with the announcer getting on the PA system every once in a while to tell corny jokes and let everyone know that they were still getting some kinks worked out. What kinks you need to work out at an event where the point is to forcibly disable things, we’re not sure, but the wait wound up being good for business, as much larger crowds started filing in around 6:00. Like throughout the day, most of the people who stopped by our building were there for the 4-H vegetables, but they’d swing by after checking out grand prize winning stalk of corn to see what we were all about.

Once the derby finally kicked off, the arena being directly behind us, the building started rattling and sounding like you’re sitting next to a couple of 747’s engines going at full bore. Strangely, we never heard any distinct car crash noises, though at one point something big and loud smashed into the side of our building, maybe something flying off a car, and that put us on edge for a while.

Another volunteer for the Friends of the Onawa Library showed up for her spot to run the booth. She talked to us a bunch about the area, explaining the Loess Hills and how no one over 65 has to pay state income tax in Iowa, which is why so many people like her have retired here. She told us that they were planning to close their booth down early, so if we wouldn’t mind watching after it once they’d left, they’d appreciate it. We told them we’d collect any money for book sales (25¢ for paperback, 50¢ for hardcover) and drop it through the mail slot on our way out of town.

After the burly man carrying (and regularly using) a backscratcher came in to chat and Daniel spotted a farmer in overalls who had large diamond earrings in both ears, our friend the 4-H kid, showed back up again. “So you sold anything yet?” he asked. “Yep,” we told him. Then he talked to us for a while about why he didn’t want to exhibit meat goats and why he prefers to show sheep. Sometimes it would get bit technical and he’d lose us, but we tried to keep up.

Around 9:45, the sun nearly all set, we started packing up. It’d been a long day, but a fun time. We’d met a lot of great people, learned some about the town with the widest main street and the birthplace of the Eskimo Pie, and sold a few of our new County Fair books along the way. By 10:15, the fair was all shut down, we’d loaded up the car and were heading to the one restaurant still open: the BBQ place next to the interstate attached to the truck stop. Covered in a mix of bug spray, sunscreen, and sweat, we were exhausted, but very happy we came. After a well-deserved night of sleep and 10 hours on the road tomorrow, we’d be home.

Video soon.

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Field Trip:

Field Trip: Monona County Fair (Part 3)

July 19th, 2010 by Bryan Bedell

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mononaIt looks like we may have survived the heat. The building we’re in has two open doors, but configured in such a way so that no breeze can come in. Instead, however this works scientifically, it seemed to trap the heat. We started taking turns going outside to stand in the sun to cool off.

Throughout the afternoon, we had a number of people pass through and say, “Man, they gave you the hottest building!” One of regulars is a boy of 9 or 10, wearing a 4-H shirt and boots, who would come in and ask us pointed question about what we’re selling. “Why does your sign say ‘Iowa and Nebraska & 48 Other States’?” He’d leave, but be right back with more questions in 10 minutes. Last we saw him, he’d made friends with a handful of girls slightly older than him. We figure we’ve been replaced.

The other regular is the small, lawn tractor-driven train that passes outside the door every few minutes. It pulls empty, halved oil barrels on wheels that have been converted into single cars for kids. Every once in awhile its conductor asks them to wave at us and they do.

Every now and again, we’ll take turns wandering, mostly around the animal pens. Had no idea there were that many different kinds of rabbits.

So the sun is dipping now and the clouds have come in, so it’s much more comfortable. We’ve both had our Knights of Columbus meal deal (hamburger, chips and a drink: $3.50) and we’re gearing up for the demolition derby crowd that should be arriving shortly.

More soon.

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Colors · Field Trip:

Field Trip: Monona County Fair (Part 2)

July 16th, 2010 by Bryan Bedell

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mononaWe started the morning at the Onawa Cafe, which only takes cash, but you don’t need much of it to get giant plates of hash browns and perfectly-cooked bacon.

Once the County Fair gates opened, we hauled everything in and began setting up. We’re maybe the first overly design-conscious vendors in the whole of county fair history. As such, we spent way too much time tweaking and adjusting and saying to each other, “Does this look centered? We need to make sure everything is symmetrical.”

However extra time it took us didn’t seem to matter much. Most of the action at the fair right now seems to be down at the 4-H building, where the animal competitions are going on. We’ve had just a few people come, bit they’ve all been here to either check out the winning vegetables or talk to the librarian manning the booth next to ours. Understandable, because she’s very nice. She came over to say hello after we were set up. “So what’s your booth all about?” she asked. We told her and showed her some Iowa editions. She said, “That’s neat.” so now we have our first official endorsement. I think her name is Nancy.

Business should pick up later, once the sun goes down and the demolition derby starts. Right now it’s hotter and stickier inside the building than out in the sun. We found a fan and plugged it in and that helped. An older guy wandered in, the guy who apparently the fan belongs to, and said, “This thing shorts out, so watch it.” It just shorted out a second ago, so we’re back to sweating.

More later.

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Colors · Field Trip:

Field Trip: Monona County Fair (Part 1)

July 16th, 2010 by Bryan Bedell

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FIELD NOTES’ Steve and Daniel left yesterday for Onawa, IA, home of the Monona (IA) County Fair. Here’s their first report from the road:

mononaWhen Google maps tell you that something is 8 hours away, you’re usually safe to assume that 8 actually means 10. We left Chicago at 9:30 and got in just after 8:00, with just a couple of stops in between. Along the way we saw a rainbow (obligatory rainbow video) and we stopped to take a photo of the Monona County sign along the interstate.

We checked in to the hotel right alongside Interstate 29. Onawa seems like it’s located just smackdab in the midpoint between Council Bluffs and Sioux City and is somewhat larger than you’d expect. Of course most everything closes early (we barely got in for dinner at Suds & Jugs), but even though their lights were out, the storefronts on Onawa’s main street (the widest in the country!) are almost completely full, something that seems like a rarity in the rural Midwest these days.

Before we both dined on Suds & Jugs’ exquisite chicken fingers, we stopped by the Monona County Fair to find out all the details of where we’ll be set up. We parked in the grass and wandered through the rides and the carny-staffed games of chance and into the thick of the fair, bitten by the occasional mosquito along the way. The fair is about a block and a half long. On the side opposite the rides and games, there’s a display of tractors. In between, there are permanently-installed exhibition buildings that house both 4-H projects and vendors. There was a fairly sizable crowd milling around, but most everyone was watching the Outlaw Tractor Pull behind the buildings.

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We scoped out the spot they’ve put us in and we think it’ll be perfect. We’ll be sharing a fairly large building with two other attractions: the winning vegetables in the 4-H vegetable growing contest and the Friends of the Onawa Public Library book sales table (which didn’t seem to be staffed). We’re right in between the two, and just across the main thoroughfare from where it looks like they’ll be selling hamburgers, so it’s prime real estate and you can’t miss us. We’ll be setting up early tomorrow and will be there until 10pm, so stop by and say hello.

Steve will obviously edit together a flashy video of the trip once he gets back, but here’s some rough footage if you can’t wait.

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Field Trip · Retail Additions:

A Road Trip and a Rock Show

July 15th, 2010 by Bryan Bedell

We’re packing and shipping County Fair FIELD NOTES as we speak (man, there are a lot of orders, thank you!), but here are two exclusive opportunities to beat the mailman and pick some up in person this weekend:

Just got a call from FN travelling salesmen Steve and Daniel, on their way to set up our extravagant trade show booth at the Monona (IA) County Fair. Right now, they’re getting gas near John Wayne’s birthplace outside Des Moines. Tonight they’ll reluctantly take a pass on Monona’s vibrant nightlife to get an early start at the fair tomorrow. If you find yourself in eastern Nebraska or western Iowa on Friday, stop by our booth and say “hi,” we’re predicting long lines so come early.

Also, if you’re going to the Pitchfork Music Festival here in Chicago to see eight thousand great bands including PAVEMENT and LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, be sure to visit 826 Chicago’s The Boring Store booth for County Fair FN goodness.

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Field Trip · Retail Additions:

FIELD TRIP: Brooklyn

August 11th, 2009 by Michele Seiler


View Michele’s Brooklyn Ramble in a larger map

So a few weeks back, I was in NYC for the fab Capsule Show. FIELD NOTES had a booth there and we met a ton of really cool people and are now carried in a bunch of new stores. So long as I was there I decided to take a trip over the Brooklyn to visit some of our retailers as a follow up to a trip I made in May to stores that carry Field Notes in Manhattan.
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Field Trip:

FIELD TRIP: French Paper Co., Niles, MI

August 6th, 2009 by Bryan Bedell

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A FIELD NOTES memo book just isn’t the same without its Dur-O-Tone “Packing Brown Wrap” 80-pound cover, from French Paper Co. To date, all our FIELD NOTES, including the special editions, have featured French Paper covers.

French Paper, located on the St. Joseph River in Niles, Michigan, is a tiny mill by industry standards, but a big name in most designers’ hearts. French’s whole aesthetic (largely based on their long-standing relationship with CSA Design) and their always-up-to-date variety of papers and colors has made them very popular, and their environmental policies have brought them even more attention lately.

With a few generations of paper mill workers on my father’s side, and a designers’ lust for quality paper, I’d been hoping to visit French for years, and last week, while vacationing ten miles away with my in-laws, I decided to give them a call. I was immediately transferred to Brian French, who welcomed me to stop by the next day.
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Field Trip · Retail Additions:

FIELD TRIP: Manhattan

May 28th, 2009 by Michele Seiler


View Michele’s New York Ramble in a larger map

FIELD NOTES at TekserveLast week I headed off to New York City to check out the National Stationery Show. The show is huge and takes two days to really walk the whole thing, which of course, led to terribly mangled feet. But what’s a little pain in the search for knowledge, right?

Since I was in town, I took some time and set off on a tour to meet some of our FIELD NOTES retailers and get some shots of our products in the wild, on store shelves. (You can follow along on the map above)
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