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!

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