This weekend at RenFest kinda sucked: rain, hot & humid weather, no Jeremy, not much of Azalea, no pictures, canceled demos. But it sounds like next weekend should be better. Here's hoping! Plus a brief tirade on listening skills.
Saturday started out cold and humid in the morning, and then heated up during midday to become hot and humid. Rain threatened all day and we had some scattered sprinkles during the day.
This was really an unremarkable day by RenFest standards. Eric of RoS was in kind of a bad mood, though he was now recovered from his cold, and I think it may have rubbed off a little. I didn't do any worthwhile improv with patrons and the bunny fencing was dull.
Our revered and semi-retired fencing coach Fred Freiheit, who is 71 years old, showed up today! I was running the fencing demos for the day and invited him to help out. He did, indeed, at the 11:15. I still ran the thing, but botched the job, nervously looking over my shoulder after every statement to check that he didn't disagree. He gave a lot of his own comments to the crowd. He fenced the épée and sabre bouts, even, against Allie and Sean (from Schoolcraft Fencing Club).
As an aside, it is truly amazing to watch Coach Fred fence: he can fence against you in slow motion and still have total control. He has a way of forcing you to do what he wants you to do. And that doesn't even take into account his ability to stop time. He'll begin an attack on one side and then suddenly you'll be hit on the other side. There can be a dozen people all intently watching and not one of them will have seen him change lines. What he did was to stop time, move his hand, and start time again. A tricky and dangerous man indeed.
I also ran the 12:45 fencing demo. I did a better job on this without Coach Fred looking over my shoulder, but we had only a tiny audience to start, and most of them left before the end. There were lots of other shows going on at the same time, though, including the joust, so that might have been the reason.
I participated in the tournament at 4:30. As it was a foil tournament, I did badly, losing every bout. Not all that surprising, but I would have liked to win the bout against Peter, the 12-or-so years old foilist. Oh well.
I left early with Matt Borders around 5:30. It was a weird experience driving home in the light, with patrons still around. As we drove away, the rain finally opened up hard. As we pulled onto I-75 north it was like someone was standing on the car's roof dumping down 50-gallon drums of water. I drove slowly for a while before it let up. I felt sorry for those still at the festival, who were surely hit by the same thing a few minutes later.
Azalea didn't show up today at all.
Just after the faire opened, rain started coming down hard. I was lucky enough to be at the south booth, under the tent, at the time. Within a few minutes water was dripping down on the fencing jackets and masks, so we moved them onto the railing of the arena.
When there's rain, we don't get much of a crowd, but the crowd that we do get is really enthusiastic. They have to be, or they wouldn't be there. So we did a decent business even though there were few people about. Plus, in the rain the tent is a bit of an attraction in itself. We don't normally let spectators come inside the tent, in order to keep them farther from the flailing swords, but we made an exception this time.
Along with the rain came occasional thunder and lightning, mostly quite distant. The thunder did make me think about the possibility of real ``electric'' fencing and the heavy broadsword I was carrying. Fortunately the lightning did not come nearer.
My friend Jeremy, who I had expected to show up on behalf of Michigan Public Radio to do a spot on RenFest and/or bunny fencing, didn't show. Not a big surprise given the weather. And Azalea wasn't there either. Strange, I expected her this weekend no matter what.
The rain slowed by 11:00 or so, and after that, until late afternoon, we had only occasional sprinkles of rain. The stage was still too wet to hold the first fencing demo at 11:15, but it had dried sufficiently by 12:45 to hold the second demo and the third at 4:30. I didn't attend either.
We had a large staff today, especially considering that the north booth, lacking a tent, could not be operated for much of the day. Some of our staff didn't want to take their breaks because they wanted to stay out of the rain.
New hawking ideas: ``Hey rabbit!'' (say it out loud). At one point I suggested to Eric that it didn't really matter what we said as long as we got the patrons' attention. He responded by loudly shouting an unconnected stream of random English words at some passersby, and I helpfully added ``You heard what the man said: try bunny fencing!'' Oh well, we at least kept ourselves amused.
After lunch I wandered through the children's dell and who was there up on the children's stage but Dr. Todd as Robin Hood. He invited me to join his ``merry band,'' so I sat down and watched the show. As a children's show it was very interactive and I enjoyed it even though it was a bit simplistic. At the end they passed around little slips of paper to write our names on. Then we (a dozen little kids and me) lined up to receive our certificates. Kinda cool.
Tiffany's boots did something awful to her feet today. She had to get one of her feet wrapped up in an Ace bandage by the first aid station. Ouch.
The head of the Wenches Guild for Michigan, Fiona, showed up at and bunny fenced under the tent in the afternoon. I didn't recognize her until she corrected me after referring to her once too often as ``milady.'' Rivka was appalled about this, later, when I related the story to her.
Today was the worst day for listening skills on the part of the patrons. Dammit people, the rules are not difficult and there are only four:
I can't count the number of times today that people kept striking out after Halt!, even after several of them. Look, I know I've got a mask on too, and there's a damned good reason for that. Do you not speak English, you assholes? You're going to put out someone's eye and get us in big trouble with our insurers. I came close to delivering a full screaming rant to one guy, but managed to limit it to ``I said Halt! That means that you stop! It does not mean that you keeping hitting your opponent!'' Arrgh. Lusers, lusers everywhere, and my LART is zip-tied down.
I was a bit pissed off what with the weather and the lusers and everything else, so when it started raining again around 5:00 I decided to take a break. I wandered around for a while under the partial shelter of my wide-brimmed cavalier hat. It's not meant for wearing in the rain, but what the hell, I can reform it if it sags, and it keeps my head dry. I looked around the faire for a cheap source of a 3- or 4-inch knife, but only found one place that had any, and those started at $200.
By 5:30, I started asking around for suggestions. As I was talking to Dee, who runs the ``turtle races'' game booth, Azalea happened along! She had had work on Saturday and a flat tire this morning, delaying her arrival. She had, indeed, rigged a tail for her cat costume. We hung out together for most of the rest of the day, first hunting for a knife for me and a bodice dagger for her, then later in the pub and finally out at the trailer.
I went to change and came back to the trailer, but Azalea was gone. I waited there for a while. Apparently Dale had actually taken note of something: ``Hey Ben, what's going on between you and Azalea?'' She didn't reappear. Finally I drove by where she was parked, and the car was gone. She must have left without telling me. Probably a miscommunication. Shoot. I drove home.
The knife I found for myself was not as nice, but at least it's not obviously anachronistic to my own eye. I wanted to buy a different one, but its sheath had a huge logo and no easy way to peace-tie. Does anyone know whether folding knives existed in the Renaissance?