Renaissance in Texarkana

posted Oct 5, 2015, 10:59 AM by Jeremy Fowler-Lindemulder   [ updated Oct 5, 2015, 11:04 AM ]

This past week I experienced the privilege of working with the Texarkana Renaissance Faire. While many smaller faires struggle to survive the rigors of a world that has multiple entertainment opportunities, I feel that this faire has a great shot at the long haul. It seems large enough to sustain momentum, but now past its fourth year, it will need to keep growing, bit by bit.  Spirit are high, and the main struggle that I foresee will be getting the word out to their local community.

I was very glad to see many of the staples of the faire experience represented, from sca boffing to horse rides and acrobatic juggling performers as well as two royal courts. With all of this were added the fae contingent of fairies, a Minotaur, several mermaids, a magical fox and even a unicorn. Plus pirates, like bacon, they enhance. I was part of the musical contingent. Welcome to Neverland.

At first nonplussed by Saturday's gate opening when the patrons slowly trickled in, I noticed that they kept coming in at a similar rate all day long. Huzzah! And best of all, most stayed for the long haul. The traffic remained steady up until the end. That is great for the merchants, who we must concede are the real backbone of a faire. A steady stream means never being overwhelmed. I hope their sales coincide.

As I often do, I spent much of my time seeking those spots with less faire performance life in order to add some background entertainment. Blessed by passersby who stop to listen or chat, I got a bit of a feel for the diversity of the audience. Of note were a couple who were off to meet with a dragon, the young child who wanted to play my kobza, and who's grandparent snapped us together in a picture with her pretending to play, and a quiet gentleman who had no favorite type of song but just wanted to sit and listen to whatever I might play. The fantasy is in you all, we are just here to help elicit it. We watch you as much as you watch us.

Characteristically, I left home the morning of the faire. Texarkana hit my radar through a listing on Meistersrealm, and I had noticed that it is on the very outskirts of my travel range. But, that meant that I had to leave at about 4am, so I was already a bit travel worn when I arrived in time for the 9am meeting. The talk was to the point, mostly logistics with a little pep, and mercifully, uncharacteristically for some faires, brief. Please keep that up. There was no similar meeting on Sunday, so thank you also for trusting your performers to figure it out. There was always room to move along and perform wherever we wished.

Backstage is where one often hears the best and worst. What I heard was playful. We even exchanged a riddle or two. That says volumes. In a fantasy world, the spirits must remain high. Take it from a former Disney cast member, that is not always so. Plus, thank you Texarkana Faire for the great piles of water bottles. I downed about eight or ten of them when the weather did get a bit warm.

Now, I did pack street clothes, but truthfully, I did not change into them for the whole weekend. Much of the cast went out en mass on Saturday night, but while it was a mass exodus, it was in small groups, so as a solo I was a bit lost sitting alone at the bar. Thank you to the few who came over from their tables to say a quick hello; you made me feel welcome. I did get to talking with some of the locals there about all of the strangely clothed patrons, and found out that none of them knew about the faire. One of the restaurant staff even asked if there was a LARP event going on, and some wanted to know if there was jousting. Sadly, no and no, but I did manage to pique their interests, and tell them that I fully expected to see them on Sunday. I then retired to the hotel for the evening before I managed to turn into a pumpkin. Thank you Texarkana Faire for the nice room and board.

I met more interested folk at breakfast.  Dressing the part first thing in the morning attracts some interesting looks, often followed by questions. All in all, I probably talked with a dozen locals who did not know about the faire and told them to come look me up there. Oh, the difficulty of marketing in a modern world. Word of mouth only works within social circles, and in a crazy world where one can choose their own data stream it becomes difficult to be seen by a public that is used to skipping commercial content. What can one do? The spectacle will sell it, so keep the faith Texarkana. You have arrived, keep the ball in play, and your base will keep growing. I can only hope that my small efforts send some your way.