Part two of my first trip to the Houston Quilt Market begins with the infamous Sample Spree that takes place on Friday the night before market opens. I did not know what Sample Spree was when I planned for my trip. I wrote it off thinking that I didn’t need to stock up on samples since my physical shop wasn’t yet open.
When I finished the Schoolhouse Series on Friday, my plan was to go grab something to eat and walk back to the BnB for some rest after an exhausting day. Upon arriving at the lower level main floor, I saw a line from one end of the building (Hall A) to the middle (past Hall B). I asked a seasoned bystander what was going on and that’s when she proceeded to tell me about the chaos that was about to unfold 2 hours from now. I learned that the reason so many people wait in line to attend Sample Spree is to be the first to get their hands on pre-released fabrics that they can take home same day at wholesale price. No waiting, ordering, or shipping costs. I was intrigued and decided to skip dinner, pay the entrance fee, and stand in line for the next two hours.
While waiting, the line eventually elongated like a snake through the main lobby back past Hall C at the other end of the convention center. Thirty minutes before the doors opened, people started inching forward little by little to get any advantage that they could near the entrance to Hall A where the Sample Spree was to commence. Rob Appell from Michael Miller was present with his camera and running the distance of the lobby amping up the crowd. There was live jazz-like music while the crowd waiting and lots of reps handing out flyers as well as junk mail.Still, others were running back clutching a quick bite to eat while their party was holding their place in line.
Fifteen minutes before the doors opened people started squeezing the front of the line like a rebounding Slinky. The noise in the hall was increasing and plans were being finalized as groups of friends hashed out last minute strategies. Then from a long distance away, the eight doors of Hall A burst open as I watched a scene unfold in front of me similar to a Black Friday event gone bananas. Women from behind me jumped the line and ran towards the front, yelling back to their cohorts where they were running to first. The bottleneck at the doors was a bodily gridlock of yelling and squeezing.
Once inside I was at a loss of where to go. I just saw masses of people flooding the tables… assuming the tables were there since I couldn’t see them. I had to keep moving or I would be caught up in the stampede and lose my sense of direction. I was being pushed from behind, literally. Fat quarter stacks, kits, jelly rolls, and bundled items were piled so high on the tables at the Moda booth that couldn’t even see the people working behind the counter. Hands were in the air grabbing anything they could reach above the three persons in front of them. Multiple people were yelling (sometimes screaming) back and forth from the booths to the “waiting area” along the side of the wall. “How many!?” one yelled. “Uh, which ones do you have!?” as the other jumped in the air with the fat quarter stack as high as possible. “Gimme 10!” she yells back.
I eventually was able to walk down every isle but it took twice time to get through the gridlock of human bodies. I never stopped at any of the tables because I simply couldn’t get to any of them. I ended up along the wall by the entrance where there were chairs and a line of men guarding the empty roller bags that were ready to be stuffed full of purchases. They were smart to not involve themselves in the pandemonium unfolding right in front of them. Some were just standing there just shaking their heads. I stayed in the Sample Spree for maybe 30 minutes before I just couldn’t handle being in there any longer. I had to escape. I couldn’t breathe under the thick blanket of anxiety created by the marginally disordered affair. However, many of the ladies in the thick of it all seemed to be having a thrilling experience.
I left Hall A and didn’t look back. I thought to myself never again and proceeded to walk back to the BnB where I quickly dumped my backpack in the corner and fell on the bed. If I were a bee, then I had just abandoned the beehive. I started thinking to myself, “How was I ever going to explain this to anyone and would they even believe me? Oh! I know! I’ll take a video of it next time! Wait, I don’t really want their to be a next time! I’ll check online to see if anyone else had the same experience I did. Yep, I’m not alone!” The Sample Spree video at the end of the page was made by Maywood Studios at the 2014 Houston Quilt Market. Turn the volume up to hear the neat sound effects and enjoy being part of Quilt Market without even setting foot in the convention center!
P.S. The opening moments of this year’s Sample Spree was alot worse than in this video.