I’ve been doing this blog for a number of years,  and  have yet to talk about the experience of organizing a renaissance faire. I’ve done three.  Every single one has made me cry. All in different, terrible ways. I open with this because making this only one blog entry is impossible so I’ll isolate some general things in this one, rather than take on those additional entries.

Organizing a faire has three major costs, financial, emotional and social.  At the end of it you will be bleeding from a thousand cuts and if you wonder why so many successful faire organizers are rampaging arseholes (they don’t have to be, mind you) it may be  that you need to grow a thick skin and be willing to cut babies in half (aka King Solomon)

First, read this: So you want to start a renfaire:
Have you finished? No really, go back and read it.

So let’s say you have hit this checklist and still think it’s worthwhile. Great, now watch this video (skip in 30 seconds)

I have violated this so many  times because I am a perfectionist. And as a performer, I made sure all my performers were paid in advance. And all my bills as well. Many organizers rely on their vendor fees to support the cost of the faire. This is a big gamble and doesn’t always pay off. It might go great the first year but if vendors don’t get a financial return, they don’t physically return. And if you are in a fire/show/event rich area like we are, you are competing to get the interesting sellers.

You can put on a good small faire for about 2-3 thousand dollars (not including site) and *a lot* of volunteer help. And no matter how much you budget-it won’t be enough.  Having sponsors is great but you may be making a deal with the Devil as well. I’ve seen some pretty scary “partner interactions, some people do believe that paying sufficient amounts of money means they’ve bought you, body and soul. It’s a tough thing to have giants signs for a business in the middle of your medieval town. It’s your call.

Emotional. Yeah. If you have a good support network that is a great thing. Running a renfaire is a lot like getting married, it’s a big commitment, it’s expensive, it has a lot of moving parts and it produces Bridezillas. Oh, and  so many unexpected, rampaging drama llamas. My husband told me that he could spot me  across fields 1) by the timbre of my voice 2) the rocketing projectile of the top of my head soaring through the air.

I am sure I made terrible remarks about unborn children and peoples naughty bits. My only defense is that it was in response to some fairly WTF things. Like vendor coordinators quitting within three weeks of a faire after finding out they hadn’t sent out any vendor contracts or a person who was going to help me advertise simply vanishing.*poof* So not only was I putting out fires, I was getting into hazard gear and putting out different kinds of metaphorical  fires. And you will be a terrible friend, and faires have cost me friends. Nothing like a giant mess with you at the top of the pyramid . And the best-run faires generally aren’t democracies. As that perfectionist,  I was a rampaging beoch who was willing to take the hit, so the folks helping me could run interference and have a stick to brandish. The flip side is that I judge faires, and I judge them to a high standard. I will forgive a lot if they have accessibility,  potties, places to sit, people to help and lots of  food.

Emotionally I found running a faire to be like having a an alien baby-extreme pain, emotional anguish and then it was born with a full set of teeth and chewed its way out anyway.

Socially-running a faire killed my social life. It turned all my friends into potential assets, people who disagreed into obstacles. And people will fight you about some of the most unbelievable things-

  • No, you can’t park in the swampy field, you will not get out
  • No,  I have spent my budget for performers and I don’t feel that your steampunk/neongypsy/cowboy/ cousin is a good fit anyway
  • No, I am not changing the lot assignment the night before for YOUR sense of aesthetics

It’s a shame the song “no” wasn’t around when I did faire organizing because I would just put these lyrics on a quickly-triggered MP3 on my phone to play on repeat
My name is no, my sign is no, my number is no
You need to let it go, you need to let it go

Were there pros?
Yes there were.

For the third one, I put on the faire I always thought I could with the great people at Ye Olde Commons. We had nothing but positive feedback except for some accessibility issues.  My troupe did a fantastic job – huge shout-out to Monica and Valkyrie for going above and beyond. And I owe so much to my husband who came in and helped me deal with a butt-load of unexpected problems, he was my hero. And all the troupe members who uncomplainingly took on extra and kept me sane.

Some things I had that at all of the faires that I am proud of
Excellent Acts, who, to this day still are friends and we had some very fun after hours times as well as fun in daylight with the patrons. Also, some acts that will never be seen again, ever and are diamonds in a chain of many lives.
I treated the vendors very well-many were disappointed I couldn’t do it again.
I got to mix some stuff together which was a tasty fusion delight and patrons will never know how by-the-seat-of-our-pants it was until it came together beautifully.
Larger faires trying to poach my acts-not realizing that many of these people did it as a personal favor.

But I don’t think I can do it again. I’ve done it on a smaller scale as an anniversary party  and my friends and family had a blast. (And in fact, people are on me to get the next one organized) My hat is off to those who organize faires but I much prefer being a performer.

And on that note: you cannot perform AND run a faire effectively. Just. Don’t. You will do both-poorly. It’s too much crazy in one bottle.