Fest Recap – 4th Weekend 2017

Saturday – I went to see Stary Olsa a couple of times. My spouse and sister-in-law visited and brought L with them, in civvies in his stroller. We took L to see the lemurs at the Petting Zoo, which he loved.

Sunday – I watched Stary Olsa a couple more times. L was with me and I really wanted him to hear them play “Ob la di Ob la da” or “The Wall,” which are his favorites, but he couldn’t sit through a whole show and anyway, I don’t know if The Wall was in any of their sets. I never heard it. 😦 My parents also came to visit and came to our 11:30 set at Folkestone, which was nice. We went to see the lemurs and coatimundi and porcupine again. Then L took his first llama ride. At first he said he wanted me to ride with him, but when I said I was too big, he was fine and went by himself, with only a little nervousness. Afterwards he saw people riding the “war horses” and said he wouldn’t want to ride those because they don’t have a “blue safety thing” like the llama. ❤ Blue safety thing!

My parents left around 3:30 or 4 and offered to take L home with them, but I thought that was too early for him to leave. Supernanny B stayed until 5:30 to watch him during our 5:00 show at the Rock (which wasn’t rained out for once); she took him to the Fairywing Forest, which he loved so much they went through twice. Other L highlights were interacting with the Mechanical Man and Baby, the unicorn. We went to musician’s jam for a few minutes, but L wasn’t really having it so we left and went out front to say goodbye to people. Then it rained and we got wet.

A lot of people were feeling a little bit of a funk from the audience this weekend. Hopefully next weekend will be better!

 

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Fest Recap – 3rd Weekend 2017

I missed doing this last week because 3rd weekend– Labor Day weekend– is three days, with only 4 days in between to recover and get stuff done. Now unfortunately I am struggling to remember it. So here are some quick highlights:

Saturday – We were playing our afternoon (4pm) set at Queen’s Pub, which has been rather hit or miss in terms of audience engagement and tips, and a woman, seeing my bodhran, asked us to play a song with bodhran. I only play it on like 2 of our songs just to give me something to do when there’s no flute/whistle part, and I’m not great at it, but one such song was coming up in our set later so we told her so. When we reached that song, one of my bandmates said something to the effect of, “I have good news… the next song has bodhran in it!” And then I said, “But I also have bad news…. I’m not a very good bodhran player.” People laughed, as was the intention, and the woman said she didn’t care, she just likes the bodhran and wanted to hear/see me play it. It was a nice interaction.

Sunday – My neighbor, P, visited. P lives across the street in a group home. He had expressed interest in attending, so I gave him 2 tickets so he and one of his staff could attend. I was glad I was able to do that, but P also has a tendency to overstep boundaries and is sometimes not great at picking up on subtle cues, which made for some awkward moments. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Later that evening, as I was leaving, I happened across the proprietress of Queen of Sheba, who was dragging a box of succulents-in-glass thingies from her shop to B gate. It looked like it sucked and I wasn’t in a rush so I helped her carry it. We had a nice conversation and then she gifted me with a small succulent thingy. This was completely unexpected, but I was very touched.

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Monday – Everyone was tired. I drank a lot of coffee. It rained at about 5:00, so we skipped our 5pm set at Narrows Rock and hid out in a friend’s shop. The we tried to go to music jam but no one was feeling it so we gave up.

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!

 

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!

2015 Ren Fest Recap

Another successful year at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival has come to an end. This was a really, really great year– the weather was lovely (only one really hot weekend), and internal drama (the bad sort) was virtually non-existant (and usually there is a LOT of internal drama).

It was also a great year for me. This year, after 11 years as a participant (5 of those on cast), I finally got up the courage to implement my very first idea for something to do at Fest, which was performing as a solo flautist. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the (several) other ways I’ve been part of Fest, but I really, really enjoyed doing the solo thing.

There are two was by which I measure success at Fest– audience engagement (measured partly, but not entirely, by tips) and how much I personally engage with fellow participants. I wasn’t sure how the crowds would receive a solo flautist. I honestly didn’t go into it expecting to make much in the way of tips, but I think I did fairly well. (I set a goal for myself to do a $100 hat the last weekend, and I’m proud to say I achieved that goal. That may not sound like a lot to some performers, but I was quite happy with it.) And I had many, many people indicate their appreciation in ways besides putting a tip in my basket, which is completely fine– in some instances, a kind comment or smile from a child can mean more than a tip.

The other way in which I measure a successful Fest season is how much I interact/connect with my fellow cast members and participants. It was a great year on that front, as well. One of the main reasons I had been reluctant to be a solo act in the past is that I worried that if I wasn’t part of a group, I wouldn’t talk to anyone and would just be alone all the time. And even after working/performing at Fest for 11 previous years and knowing plenty of people, I was still worried about that this year.

Well, I needn’t have worried.  I’ve noticed in other situations that if I go to things (like receptions at international education conferences, for example) alone, I actually do somehow step up to the challenge and talk to people I don’t know, or don’t know as well. That proved to be the case at Fest this year, too. I talked to several people I didn’t know or know very well (Jennifer, Marco, some of the Scots, new Terps, Peter, Anita, Manna and Manna, Dennis, Saskia, Stephanie, Penn, Cornelius, random people on the Fest bus) and reconnected with lots of people I did know (Jon, Chris, “old” Terps, some Scots, Randy, the Alein’ Whalers, Too Broke Blokes, Kate, etc). Of course, it seems every year that somehow I don’t get around to seeing all the people (or shows!) I intend to–notably Jamie (I barely made it to Queen’s Gate this year!) and the Bloodwake (whom I never seem to get over to visit any more). I only made it to like 1/2 of a Four Pints Shy show this year. Doing my own thing, I feel, for some reason, a lot more pressure to be performing all the time between my scheduled sets.

This year, I took a few days off – three Sundays and Fest Friday. One of the Sundays I attended with Gerard and the brother who were visiting, and I brought the kiddo out for a couple of hours Fest Friday afternoon, but I had two Sundays completely off. I also ended up working at the Fest booth at the State Fair on the Saturday of Labor Day (because they really needed people and I can’t sit around while someone needs help that I can give), so that’s three Fest days I wasn’t there at all and 2 others I wasn’t working. Consequently, I’m not really burnt out this year. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, I probably enjoyed Fest more because I had a few days off, even though the days I was off, I missed it. But now I’m not really ready for it to be over, whereas when I’m burnt out by the end of the season, I’m really ready for it to be over for awhile. I’m not sure which is better– to want it to be over before it is, or not want it to be over when it is!

I’m already looking forward to next year, of course, which will probably be the last year on the current site. That will be bittersweet as well. There is a lot of history imbued into that site, and a lot of magic that lives in its walls. I feel a great attachment to many of the physical spaces themselves, especially the Bakery stage area where I spent my first 5 years at Fest, Mac’s Pub, and The Estate (Terp’s green room area). I will truly miss the actual, physical space when the Festival moves.

But, as many have said, it is really we who make the Festival– the performers and participants and patrons who love the Festival, who created the magic that has seeped into the Festival grounds and structures. We will create new magic and memories at the new site. And the new site brings opportunity, as well– better parking and traffic arrangements, up-to-code buildings, flush toilets (maybe), ample camping (maybe), electricity (maybe) and less dust. I will miss the current site, but I am excited about the opportunity to be a part of building and baptizing the new one.

I also look forward to bringing my son out with me more regularly next year, when I think he’ll be old enough to mind and stay near me while I perform. I often envy those who were raised at Fest (and those whose spouses are Festies, too), and I look forward to giving my son the experience of being raised in the Fest family, with the help of, literally, a village.

 

Fest 2013 (Very belated!)

It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted. Life got in in the way. Part of that was Fest. Part of it was finding out I’m (finally!!) pregnant. Part of it was laziness. 😉 I will address the pregnancy in another entry, but this post is about Fest. (I will not dedicate a post to the laziness.)

This year was my 10th year working at Fest. It was also very different. And my best year yet!

It was amazing being part of a small musical group– for the first time I really felt like I had a place I belonged at Fest. My first 5 years at the chocolate cart were fun, but I didn’t really get to know anyone except the other chocolate wenches, which left me no one to hang out with when I was off shift. I met a lot of really nice, cool people when I was a beer wench with the Shakopee Jaycees, but I never really felt like I fit in there, either. And with Terpsichory I had a bit of a community and I really liked (and still like) the other Terps, but being one of the few musicians in a dance troupe, I always felt like I was a bit on the outside. This year, with Hardtack Jack, I was with a small group of people who shared the common interests of music and nautical things. The small group size enabled me to feel comfortable and really get to know the other members of the band during our weekly rehearsals, and especially at our out of town gigs before the Fest season. We are very lucky in that we all get along really well– we even got through the entire Fest season without driving each other crazy! Not that we never get on each other’s nerves, but generally we get along great and (I think) really enjoy each other’s company. I’ve been able to open up to them much more than most other people I know at Fest. I still probably have some opening up to do, but we’ll continue to rehearse in the off season, which means as we continue to grow as a group and learn new material, I can continue getting to know them and letting them get to know me.

Oh yeah, and I sing in public now. Like, in front of people. And solos too– not just as part of a chorus. And I’m perfectly comfortable with it. I’ve been comfy performing on flute for years, but singing is relatively new.  Surprised a few people, I think. 😀

Festing Through The Ages

This is an exciting year at Fest for me. Not only am I part of a brand new musical group, Hardtack Jack, but it’s also my 10th year as a participant! That means I’ll get my first service award– pretty cool! So I thought it might be appropriate to take a look at how I got into Fest in the first place, how I started working there, and what I’ve been doing all these years. Fest is a family tradition. Not in the way that it’s a tradition in some families, who participate together, in which the children grow up at Fest. But my parents started the tradition of taking my brother and me there once a year, starting I think in 1986. It was always my favorite summer/fall activity and I remember looking forward to our trip to Fest every year.

Early Fest experience… 1991Image

In 2002 or so, my brother started working at the chocolate booth at Fest. He got the job through a friend of his who worked for the chocolate vendors outside of (and at) Fest. In 2004, I started working at the chocolate booth, too. I worked there through 2008.

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Aside from the Minnesota Renaissance Festival (MNRF), I’ve been to a few other faires.  Here’s me with my dad in 2006, when the Olde World Ren Faire in Twig, MN was still open. I’ve also visited the Bay Area Ren Fest (BARF, haha) in Tampa, FL, and the Iowa Renaissance Festival in the Amana Colonies.

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Luckily my spouse enjoys Fest too– not as much as I do, but he comes out a couple of times a year, sometime in garb. This is 2008.

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Somewhere along the line while working at the chocolate cart, I started playing Charlotte Rowan, my pirate persona. But after 5 years selling chocolate, I decided it was time to try something new. In 2009, I worked as a beer wench at Mac’s Pub through the Shakopee Jaycees. Mac’s is known as the pirate pub, so we usually hold our annual pirate invasion photo outside of it:

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(Photo Credit above and below:Jamie Piekkola)

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Slinging beer didn’t really turn out to be my thing, so in 2010 I joined Terpsichory Courtly Dance Troupe as a musician to provide music for the dancing. I had to curtail my piratical nature a bit, as with courtly dancers it didn’t make sense for me to be a pirate… but I was still a pirate at heart! I was with Terpsichory for 3 years. Unfortunately I don’t have a record of who took the following photo… I know it was one of the pros. I love it though! Image

On days off I got to be incognito!

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2011: Still with Terp, slight costume change.

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Cool HDR photo by Majikboxman:

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Pirates in 2011: Image

Terpsichory, again by Majikboxman: Image

2012: My brother came to visit, all the way from Vegas! (It was also my parents’ 40th anniversary.)Image

Now, in 2013 I’m back to at least being a sailor. Under a new name, Callista Seaborne, with my band, Hardtack Jack. (Sadly in this pic we’re missing one member.) Image