Fest Recap – 2nd Weekend 2017

Another great weekend of the 2017 Fest season! The biggest thing, of course, was that it was the first weekend my new band, Sycamore Gap, performed together. We’ve been rehearsing together for about a year, but that is definitely not the same as performing. It was a little rocky at times, but that’s to be expected, and for the most part people didn’t seem to notice or care. We got some really nice comments from several patrons and fellow performers, and in general things went well.

Because this is Minnesota, weather was another big thing. There was a lot of rain this week, and rain predicted for both Saturday and Sunday. That, combined with the State Fair, kept the patrons away on Saturday, but it actually turned out to be a fairly pleasant day. It was overcast and there were a couple of bouts of really light rain/mist, but nothing terrible, and the temperature was comfortable. Mosquitoes weren’t even too bad (this seems to be more of a bee year).

Our first show wasn’t until 11:30, so after opening gate we all took care of some things and eventually met up at the Leaping Frog Pub, which has a nice little place that musicians can play but for some reason isn’t gridded. It’s pretty quiet in the morning and the proprietors are kind, so it’s a decent place to get in some practice. We played through a few songs and then headed over to our first gig at Folkestone Pub. Which went pretty well. People laughed at my joke about learning “The Minstrel Boy” from Star Trek (which is true). Later I tried it out more subtly saying I learned it from Miles O’Brien, but only Trekkies will get that joke. Will have to work on it.

The rest of the gigs were fine too. Then I went to the music jam at Troubador in the evening, which I hadn’t attended since my days with Hardtack Jack. That was fun. Went outside to closing gate for a few minutes after that (jam didn’t end until 6:45) but came back in right after cannon to fix L’s wagon in preparation for Sunday. That was a pain in the butt, but I did it. And none of the wheels fell off Sunday, so I guess I did a decent job. 🙂 Had to wait awhile for the bus and didn’t make it to my parents’ house until after 8:30, but L was still awake! I snuck in and showered so as not to disrupt bedtime, and it was fine, and I went to bed by 10.

Sunday was really great. It was sunny and temperate for most of the day. I had to wake L up but he likes “the Festival,” so he was pretty cooperative when I was getting him dressed and ready. Got to site in plenty of time for Cast Call, at which he behaved pretty well, then we went to opening gate. He was still a little overwhelmed by it, I think, but he didn’t require that I hold the whole time like he did last year. He sat next to the tree and played in the mud, sulking a little, and maybe about 3/4 of the way through he started crying and I had to pick him up and just sing instead of play, but I’d already played “John Ryan’s Polka” a dozen times, so it was fine. 😀 I don’t know what set him off… I think just a lot of activity while he was still kind of tired. I think next weekend he’ll do better, though. After opening gate we met up with B, his nanny, and went to Fest Friends (after stopping at Ratcatcher’s for coffee and a scone), and then he felt better once he was eating a scone at FF. I hung out for awhile and then went to the Leaping Frog and left him with B, and he did fine. After our 11:30 show, I took him to get something to eat, let him pick out some marbles (5 for $1), and met B at the Troub for our 1:00 show. After that L and I ate pickles and got the wagon out, which he loved, and B said worked out really well for the rest of the afternoon, too.

Before our 5:00 show, I gave L some money to put in the Mechanical Man’s basket. L was a little scared at first, but once the Mechanical Man threw the ball to him and had him give it back, he was good. It was so fun! During our show, L was was… okay. He sat nicely behind me for a song or two, then wanted to “do something else now” and kept asking me. I told him we’ll have to work on that. But as it turns out, we did get to do something else… because at about 5:15 it started to rain. Hard. S and I grabbed instruments (and I grabbed L’s wagon) and ran for cover (G continued playing in the rain for one devoted patron). Once we had taken refuge in a shop, L decided he wanted to venture out into the rain, so I put his cloak on him, and he had fun running out into the rain and then coming back in and making wet footprints on the wood floor of the shop. The cloak kept him pretty dry from the thighs up, so even though it was a pain in the butt to make, it was worth it. (There was, of course, no hope for his shoes, socks, or pant cuffs, but that was okay. My shoes, socks, and skirts were just as muddy!)

After about 15 minutes or so, the rain abated and as it was approaching 6:00, I tried to convince L to come with me to see if the music jam was happening. He kept saying he wanted to go somewhere dry and without mud, though, so I decided not to push it. And since I’d planned on leaving at 5:30 anyway unless he was holding out pretty well, it didn’t alter plans much. So, we put away the wagon, collected our things from upstairs at Bad Manor, and headed to the bus. On the ride, I asked what he liked best about Fest this weekend. He said, “being with you.” ❤ ❤ After my heart was done melting, I asked him what was his favorite thing he saw or did, to which he responded, “riding on the school buses.” Haha! Of all the things. 😀

Once the bus reached the Green Lot, there was one more adventure in store: a woman with Safety Services offered us a ride to our car in the golf cart! Of course we accepted and L thought it was awesome. A great end to the day!

 

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Fest Recap – Opening Weekend 2017

This weekend I began my 14th year working at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. For the first five years, I worked at Royale Sweets, a booth and associated cart that sell delicious chocolate treats. My sixth year, I slung beer at Mac’s Pub. The next three years, I was a musician in the Terpsichory Courtly Dance Troupe, then I helped found a band specializing in nautical-themed music, Hardtack Jack. We performed together for two years, and then I spent the next two years as a solo flautist. This year, I’ll be with a band again, joining forces with two other veteran Fest musicians. The new band’s name is Sycamore Gap.

This weekend, however, my two bandmates were out of town, so I opened this season as a soloist for one last weekend. Turns out I wasn’t put on the schedule, probably due to confusion about whether the band would be present or not, but it was fine. It gave me a chance to get all my affairs in order and say my hellos without a lot of other obligations on Saturday. I did take over one slot for a friend who had too many, and I found places here and there to play, but mostly I didn’t have to be anywhere specific at any given time.

The first cool thing that happened was that I sat next to a turtle on the bus. For those of you who don’t know, participant parking (the Green Lot) is pretty far away from the actual Festival grounds, so those of us who drive in daily instead of camping on site take a shuttle bus (okay, a school bus) from the Green Lot to the grounds and back. The bus is usually quite full, with people all arriving near the same time, so we pack as many people in as we can. Festies travel with all sorts of interesting things, including but not limited to sets of armer, swords, snakes, and other reptiles. Since it was opening day and I don’t camp, I had with me a large bin full of stuff I leave on site for the season– picnic blanket, music stand, bug spray, sunscreen, non-perishable snacks, Gatorade– which took up 3/4 of a seat. I occupied the other 1/4 of the seat. I happened to be first onto that particular bus (having passed on the previous bus when it reached the “standing room only” point), so I got a front seat. When this bus was nearing capacity, a woman from the Royal Herpetological Society got on, carrying her bag and a big bin containing a turtle. I offered for her to stack her turtle-bin on top of my bin, and she did, and that is how I ended up sitting next to a turtle on the bus.

The rest of the morning consisted of catching up with people at Cast Call, opening gate, and afterwards. Hot topics of conversation included the eclipse and how to integrate the cast patches we had been given at Cast Call that morning into our costumes. I played music here and there and it was cool and all, but I’m looking forward to playing with my band next weekend.

A high-level summary of Sunday is that it was effing humid and my son L was with me. In the morning, L and I met at B, the woman who will nanny for him at Fest this year, at a gas station near the grounds so I could give B her pass and show her how to get to the Green Lot. After a fairly uneventful bus ride, B and L settled in at Fest Friends, and they played, visited some of the animals, and sailed his wooden boat in Folkestone Well while I went to Cast Call and opening gate. After opening gate, I stopped at Ratcatcher Coffee since I had neither eaten nor had caffeine yet due to getting L ready and settled. I got a scone and ate it while they made my coffee… and when they gave my my coffee, I set it down momentarily on the counter of the wine booth next door… and it slid off. 😦 😦 😦 (PSA: That counter is curved!) So then I had to get another coffee and wait for it to be made, but in the end I had my caffeine and all’s well that ends well.

After that, since I wasn’t gridded anywhere in the morning (I had agreed to take over a friend’s schedule in the afternoon), I hung out with L so B could go say hello to people she knows and enjoy the Festival. Since it was so humid, we didn’t do much– first we went upstairs in Bad Manor and had an early lunch, then L said he was tired so we found a shady spot where he could lie down for awhile. He didn’t nap, but he got cooled of, which was important. Then we went to get his wagon, which he happily rode in for awhile, until one of the wheels started falling off (even though I’d JUST tightened the bolts on Saturday). Then he decided he wanted to watch a show– not a life, Fest show, but a TV show– and was not going to be talked out of it, so we went backstage and he watched an episode of Octonauts on my phone while I put the wagon away and stripped down to my bloomers and chemise to cool off for awhile. I will have to bring tools next weekend and fix that darn wagon better.

After that, we met up with B again, and she took him to get some ice cream while I played a set. They found me again after that set because L was getting sad and wanted to see me, so I went with them to Fest Friends for awhile and got him situated on his cloak so he could lie down and maybe nap. First I got him some Gatorade and he drank it all up, which was good, and then I snuck off to play a few more sets.

Typically, when I am playing by myself, the people who most often stop to listen are families with young girls, presumably because for some reason flute is seen as a “feminine” instrument and little girls are attracted to it. On Sunday, I was playing at the Wine Booth near the Bear Stage, and a family with a young girl stopped, listen, and tipped. When I ended the piece I was currently playing, I thanked them and asked the little girl, who was maybe around 5, if she had any requests. The first song she named was something I didn’t know, so I asked her if there were any other songs she liked. Her dad mentioned the Legend of Zelda, which is a tune I play out there, so I thought he’d heard me play it before and was naming options for her to request, so I said, “I do know that one.” Her reaction surprised me, partly because she’s a girl, but mostly because she was so young. “YES!” she said, “that’s my FAVORITE EVER!” So I played the Legend of Zelda for her and I could tell she was so happy. It was amazing! Little moments like that, when I can make a child smile in that way, make all the busing and heat and humidity worth it. ❤

I played one more set after that, and then went to meet B and L to get ready to leave. L had not napped, again, but that didn’t surprise me too much, since he doesn’t usually nap anymore and I never had luck getting him to nap at Fest even last year when he did nap at home. I was happy to hear from B that L had been really good for her, even letting her change his diaper nicely (which is usually a huge struggle with us). L was in a really good mood. On the shuttle back to the Green Lot, I asked L if he’d had fun. He said yes, but “the best part was coming here with you.” Awww! My little sweetheart.

All in all, I’d say it was a pretty successful opening weekend. Even with the awful humidity I didn’t feel too beat. I had Monday off to rest a bit and recuperate, and now I am antsy for next weekend so we can do it again!