The Minnesota Renaissance Festival is the biggest event of the branch year. Planning the performance repertoire usually starts in March, to be presented to the branch in April/May. Rehearsals run from July to mid-August. Then the festival runs for seven weekends through to the end of October. We continue to perform that repertoire in the following months as other opportunities arise, before it starts all over again.
Why do we Fest? For fun; we like to spend time (and money) with our dancing friends.
Why do we Fest? Money; it brings in more money than membership dues.
Why do we Fest? Recruitment; it brings in new dancers.
Why do we Fest? The performance repertoire is used for other events throughout the year.
Why do we Fest? Fest dancers stay involved and engaged with the branch.
Why do we Fest? Out of duty to support the branch.
Yet there are many dancers who have been returning to Fest, year after year, for decades. We have dancers who juggle double duties and turn out wearing different hats. We have dancers who go out on their days off, just for fun.
Over a series of posts I will bring you a variety of answers to the question, Why do we Fest?
How did it start?
The Renaissance Festival was just getting rolling in 1972. It was still in Jonathan that second summer before it moved to the Shakopee site. When Roberta Williams heard about it she thought it would be a fun place to dance and a good source of funds. Roberta contacted Barbara Rourke, the artistic director of the Ren Fest, to see how we could become part of their performer pool. Our Ball was coming up, so we invited them to come to see us in action in all our finery. A woman in a large flowing black cape came to the ball to check us out. We invited her to join in for some easy dances. When were all done we asked her:
“Well what do you think, are we good candidates for Ren Fest?”
“Definitely, you’re in, you will make a great addition to the Ren Fest!”
Roberta told her that if she liked us, she should check out the Morris Men. They were subsequently signed up too. We were paid $25 per day.
Our first time out at the Ren Fest in 1973, many of us wore Faribault plaid blankets and bare feet. We didn’t want to wear good finery, dress & jackets out there, it wouldn’t fit and they would get ruined. We had to make up our own costumes. The people from the Ren Fest gave us an idea of what they were wearing: “peasant-y, but wear lots of plaid ‘cos you’re Scottish”.
[From an Oral History interview with Roberta Williams & Sandy (Gordon) White, 2016]
Now it’s your turn, why do you Fest?
Contribute to the Blue Ribbon Newsletter
Did you know the branch used to have a newsletter, originally called “The Scottish Ramble”, later renamed “The Blue Ribbon”? The paper issue folded in 2010, replaced by an online edition….if you scroll to the end of the news tab on the website you can find some of the posts that were originally uploaded to the eBlue Ribbon (click “older posts” to see more).
This news tab is the new home of the Blue Ribbon. I have been posting “The Pandemic Year” to keep a record for the archives of how we sustained our branch through the COVID-19 pandemic. You can see all of the Blue Ribbon posts here.
I invite your thoughts, responses and submissions on branch activities.
— Bill Brown