Tips For Setting Up Your Booth Canopy

We have a Trimline Canopy by Flourishabout, with lower StaBars and a small (30″) front awning. Although we’ve also heard good things about the Light-Dome canopywebsite, I don’t know how many of the following tips would apply to other manufacturers. Not all of these concepts are brand-specific, however.

Booth at ArtsFest in Stuart February 11, 2017
Our booth at ArtsFest in Stuart on Saturday, February 11, 2017

This will not replace the setup instructions provided by the manufacturer. I refer to the latest information on the Flourish website as appropriate (I’ve noticed they have made a few changes since we bought our canopy in 2010), and suggest you read your instructionsFlourish and even watch their video (For ours it would be TrimLine Canopy Detailed Setup Video With Chris) before starting.

Storing Gear

We don’t completely disassemble our poles after each show. Since we carry all tent gear and art in our van, we follow something very similar to the “Fastest set up” on Page 8 of the “Trimline Canopy 10′ x 10′ Instructions for Assembly” (373.pdf). Specifically:

Illustration of roof poles with rafter hardware attached
Figure 1: How we store our Rafter Base Poles (from Page 3 of the “Trimline Canopy 10′ x 10′ Instructions for Assembly”)
  • The rafter base poles have rafter base joints and corner joints attached, as shown in Figure 1 above.
  • The Ridge Pole has Ridge Support Joints on both ends. The Riser Poles get stored with the Rafters.
  • The Awning Ells are attached to the long awning pole (described as the no-color 116½” pole in the “Trimline Awning Assembly Instructions” (394.pdf). The short poles for the side of the awning are stowed with the Rafters.
  • The legs are stowed in the “Rest-Stop position” with the top half against the Rest Stop Button. The StaBar Ell or 3-way is attached, as is the foot and the LD (a.k.a. Awning Support) Ell (as appropriate). All of these attachments are locked in their base positions.

We store the tent walls and other small parts in a large tote box (outside dimensions 32″L x 20″W x 18″H).

Setup

We set up our canopy with the heat/wind vents on the sides instead of front and back so that I don’t have to reach over the awning to open the vent. The downside of this is that if the tents are too close together, I may have to open the vents from inside the booth.

Illustation showing map of tent and offset for raising roof
Figure 2: Sample Booth Setup Scenario

When placing the roof in position, either while assembling or afterward, place the wall that will go up first exactly 24″ inside (toward the center of the booth from) its final position.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.

This is assuming a ten-foot tent with legs in the Rest Stop position (roughly 79″ long). It is based on the Pythagorean Theorem (Notice that in Figure 3 below, the roof poles, legs, and ground form a right triangle with the ground being the hypotenuse since the legs connect to the roof poles at a 90° angle. The general formula (in case you have longer roof poles and/or longer legs) would then be

Offset = \sqrt{(PoleLength^2 +    LegLength^2)} - PoleLength


Its two adjoining walls should be in line with their final position. Which side of the roof goes up first may be dictated by the placement of neighboring tents and other obstacles. For example, if you are in a line of booths that are being set up with their back wall against the curb and both of your neighbors have already set up, you should place your back wall two feet from the curb, meaning the front wall will be 24″ further out in the street but the sides will in their correct plane (see Figure 2). As you tilt the top up and attach your back legs first, their foot will land against the curb (see Figure 3).

Illustration showing how much canopy moves when raising tent
Figure 3: How the roof creeps as you install legs

When attaching the roof to the frame, we connect the straps and buckles on the vent sides and the wide Velcro on the rafter sides. But if we were to connect the thinner corner Velcro straps at that time, they would get in the way of hanging the weights.

Leveling The Tent

Roof Poles

We don’t see many other artists do this, but we use a small level to make sure our walls, and subsequently our panels, are vertical (and our roof poles and StaBars are horizontal). As you can see in Figure 4, it is important to have your framed pieces against the wall and straight. With all four legs in their lowest (“Rest Stop”) position, find which corner is highest by placing the level along your roof poles on all four sides (and “follow the bubble”). Since the poles sag over time due to the weight hanging from them, you should take measurements at more than one location along each pole. The leg in the highest corner will remain in its lowest position. Lengthen the adjoining legs as appropriate. Since one can only raise a leg in 1¾” increments, it is possible that the ‘true’ adjustment will fall between two holes. Pick one.

Illustration comparing leveled and unleveled canopy frame
Figure 4: Leveling the tent

StaBars

Since the lower bars are only held by thumb screws, positioning is continuous (no 1¾” increments), so we could do an even better job of leveling them than we do with the top bars. But because of the way our panels hang from the horizontal bars (see www.beehappygraphics.com/panels.html), it is more important to get the lower bars parallel to the top bars than it is to get them level. After measuring the change in length of the leg (which should be in agreement with the formula

HeightDifference = AdjustmentHoles \times 1.75" ,

move the StaBar joint up accordingly. After measuring each leg for each festival for about nine years, I came up with a shortcut.

Top and bottom sections of canopy leg, showing added markings
Figure 5: New markings on canopy legs

Notice in Figure 5 that I labeled the holes in the top section of the leg and pre-measured, marked, and labeled the correct adjustment distances on the bottom of the leg. This has already saved me much more time than the time I invested in making these improvements. The figure also mentions my suggestion for Version 2. Although the important measurement is the distance from the bottom edge of the StaBar Joint to the top of the foot, it would be better to have the markings and labels on the top edge of the StaBar Joint so you can read them without having to bend over so far to look under the joint.

Weights

Trimline canopies come with Ground Screws and 10” Steel Spikes for anchoring the canopy to the ground. These are almost never allowed at the art festivals in Florida that we attend. We can use weights anywhere. Flourish has their GreatWeightsabout, heavy-duty vinyl bags that will allegedly hold up to 40 pounds of sand or pea rock, at an additional cost. We built our own from parts readily available at any hardware store, namely a 30″ section of 4″ PVC pipe with a flat endcap, a bag of cement, and an eyebolt with nuts and washers. Ours weigh 34 pounds; some festivals want more, but our panels and art hanging from the roof make up the difference. Construction details for the weights will have to wait for another day (in the meantime, email me or comment below if you need details). We hang the weights from the canopy with ratchet tie-downs and strap them to the leg with a bungee cord at the top and bottom. It is very important not just to have them dangling but to have them held firmly in place (so they don’t turn into wrecking balls in heavier winds). If you look closely, you can see our weights in action in the picture at the top of this article.

Our Skirt

Typically, the bottom of our walls are less than three inches from the ground, so we were amazed to see how far up from the ground our panels (and art) got wet after a rain. To solve this, Nancy got some clear plastic sheeting to wrap around the bottom of the tent before the walls go up. The plastic should come at least 24″ up from the ground, plus a couple of inches extra on the ground. Ours is at least 4 mils thick. We need about 42 feet to go around all four walls. We use the clear 2″ shipping tape to attach it to each leg (which works much better if you get the skirt up before it starts raining). Start with one of the front legs, and then go around past the back legs to the other front leg. At this point, there should still be about eleven feet of plastic to go across the front, but while the tent is open we roll up the extra and stow it behind the nearest weight. When we close up, we pull out that last bit of skirt, stretch it across the front, and tape it to the last/first pole. Then we lower the front wall and secure the tent according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Instead of using the skirt, we recently considered extending the walls about 18″ and including straps to keep the bottom of the wall lying on the ground under all circumstances but Nancy decided it wouldn’t keep the walls as clean as our current method does.

The Awning

Occasionally awnings are not allowed, but we usually put up a front awning. It doesn’t go up while setting up the tent, and it is the first thing to come down after closing on Sunday afternoon so that it is out of the way of other artist vehicles coming in to drop off or pick up their supplies. We also take it down Saturday night so that we don’t have to lose sleep over the weather or other artists driving to their tent. The awning zips to the same zipper the front wall would use, but there is another zipper on the bottom edge of the awning for attaching the wall.

Daily routine

Our procedure Saturday and Sunday mornings would be to unzip and roll up the front wall, unzip it from the roof and set it aside, attach the awning poles, zip on the awning to the roof, and attach it with the bungees to the awning poles. Then we would zip the front wall back up to the awning and leave in the rolled position (on immediate standby in case of sudden severe squall). Finally, we would reconnect or adjust the Velcro at the top edges of the front walls and the corners of the canopy. Saturday and Sunday evening we would reverse this procedure.

In Case Of Rain

During light rain, we would stay open and continue working with customers. I would move the LD or Awning Support Joint on one side, which is normally at the top of the leg as described in Step 3 of the “Trimline Awning Assembly Instructions”, up as high as I can get away with and lower the joint on the other leg a couple of inches or as much as it takes to stop the water from forming a puddle in the middle of the awning that would ultimately spill over onto unsuspecting customers. If the rain became too severe, we would drop the front wall and hang out with whatever crowd needed a dry place in the middle of a storm.

In Closing . . .

That’s about everything we’ve learned so far. I hope it helps. If you have a better solution, or a solution to a different tent problem that could save our readers some grief, please explain in the comment section below. Thanks!