Right now, at this very moment, millions of people are avoiding their families by spending every hour of the day in crowded stores fighting over the best bargains they can get their hands on. When they get home they’ll raid the fridge which is probably packed to bursting with a small hoard of leftovers which will ensure we are all sick of turkey by next Friday.

The holidays are upon us at last, which means the next month is going to be a bit of a hectic time for everyone involved. Many of us have warm, loving families that we look forward to spending time with. Others…maybe not so much. But never fear. There is a notion which has become popular in recent years, that of the ‘Found Family’.

Found Family – people bound not by blood, but by a shared kinship based on mutual trust, respect, and bonds which extends beyond the usual parameters of friendship. (See also; fairemily, faire folk)

These are the people you find, often by chance, who you remain close to over the years. Many times these friendship evolves into a family-like environment, with different friends taking on the roles of a family unit. They are the people you can trust to be there for you and the people you want to be there for in return. For many of us, we found those people at the Ohio Renaissance Festival.

We have a lot of found family. We have a lot of people who love our son as if they were blood. Joshua (Holly Berry) and Raven are the two who pretty much adopted us into their large family and introduced us to many others who we have become close to.”

Halee Ewing

Rennies are a wonderfully close-knit group. And how can they be anything else? When many of us walk into the village we see it as an entertainment district. Somewhere we go where the employees and cast exist as a source of fun and amusement. This is undoubtedly true. But what we rarely see is how well this village functions as such. The amount of time, effort, and passion that goes into forming a network of friendships and relationships unlike any other working environment I have ever been a part of. What is even more fantastic is that for the most part, it exists organically.

Jen Thompson Martin just might be everyone ‘faire mom’. Image courtesy of Jen Thompson Martin

You can generally break the fairemily down into members of a family unit. For instance, some people are easily identified as ‘faire moms’. They have an open, loving personality which results in a hug every single time they spot you. If you enter their territory (booth or camper) you are likely to find a passel of faire brats and rennies hanging around, eating food, and enjoying themselves. They are the givers of advice and are near endless pools of warmth and affection.

Next, you have the ‘faire dads’. True to form they are full of puns, dad jokes, and that general attitude that lies somewhere between total dork and reliable friend. They are always there, drink in hand and ready to info dump about a new fascinating project they are working on. But the best thing I see from these folk is their willingness to be a shoulder to cry on when someone is having a hard day.

Ryan Vaughan (pictured right) with his fairemily. Photo Courtesy of Ryan Vaughan

I learned a long time ago that I have wonderful relatives. I am blessed. I also have family, they are not all relatives, they are termed many things. But they are family. Family of choice, fairmaily, call it what you will, simply not related traditionally. But family none the less and just as important. Again, I am blessed to have those in several of my lives, faire being a source of many of the best of them. They make me a better person for having them in my life.”

Nancy Miller Vallette

When I think of the term ‘sibling’ as it applies to the found family of ORF, I think it is interchangeable with the term ‘squad’. The fairies and the pirates are excellent examples of this, as you never see fewer than four of them together at any given time. They are the folk you seek out the moment your feet first touch the gravel and they find ways to support and motivate one another come rain or shine. If you are looking to get in with a good group who can help you find your way around the festival, hang out with the IWG Local 73 and the ORFans. You’ll have more siblings than you can shake a stick at!

Hint: read to the end of the post to see a great way to start your journey to fairemily with your own ORFans membership

The squad at it again! Susan Morris and Carol Ogden Martini. Image courtesy of Liz Schultz Lovette and Carol Ogden Martini

The Wenches of IWG have become such a huge part of my life, both on and off season, I honestly don’t know what I would do without them! Plots are hatched, dreams are shared, makers collaborate, friendships grow deeper. And while we don’t always agree, we at least try to understand each other and it’s very low drama (except when Carol wears a big hat and nobody else’s outfit gets noticed).”

Liz Schultz Lovette

Bite me.”

Carol Ogden Martini in loving response to Liz Schultz Lovette
Tara Michelle and crew. Image courtesy of Tara Michelle

Next year, there’s a goal for us to all have a red and black themed outfit.”

Tara Michelle

Each found family here at ORF has their very own story of how they came together. Many of them had never met until they decided to join the festival. Some were friends and grew their family over time, adding to it with each new season. They will often coordinate outfits with one another or set a theme for the day so everyone knows who they are. They meet up afterward and go to restaurants in full garb, spending dinner singing tavern songs to stunned and amused patrons. They hand their kids off to one another and know they couldn’t possibly be in safer hands.

They are, in all sense, a family.

You don’t need to be in faire to become a part of this family! There are patrons, guests, first-timers, and playtrons who just happen to click right away. They just sit down next to the right person or get into a conversation and next thing you know they’re planning to come back tomorrow just for the sake of spending time with them again. It is a part of the easy-going, open environment that says “Come on in! You are welcome here!”

When I asked people to tell me what their faire family means to them, I got a wave of responses. There are so many stories to tell from people who truly and deeply care about one another that I wish I could share them all. Truly, the best way to understand what the fairemily means to one another is to become a part of one yourself. In the meantime, take a look at some of the comments from people who were happy to share their experience with me.

The entire cast is one extended family! Image courtesy of Carol Giordano Payne

There are simply too many stories and too many people to mention individually, but faire families prove that it often takes a village to raise a child…. and for the past 6 or 7 years I’ve had so much help raising (& apparently corrupting) mine. I blame all of you!”

Carol Giordano Payne

I have a lot of found family. Selina and Lee and Marti are some of my wonderfully closest long-time friends I met because of the renfaire. They are aunts/uncle to my kids. I met my husband thanks to the Kentucky Renfaire. My kids have more adopted aunts/uncles/grandparents than we can keep track of.”

Lissa Burke
Ryan Vaughan and his crew enjoy a round after another successful festival day. Image courtesy of Ryan Vaughan

We found our ‘Fairemily’ at a time we desperately needed something to lift our spirits. We had both gone to the fair as children but never really gotten into it. But, when Molly joined cast that all changed. I’d never truly experienced the level of friendship that I have with my fairemily. These are ‘my people.’ They bring out the best in me and give me joy when I’m not at my best. Long story short, because of my fairemily, ‘I have been changed, for good.'”

Ryan Vaughan
Lea Choi started her found family in the mid-’90s! image courtesy of Lea Choi

I auditioned for ORF the summer of ’94. Lisa was the guild leader for the washer wenches & she enthusiastically picked me after watching my spirited rendition of Ursula the Sea Witch’s song from the Little Mermaid. Lisa was like a den mother to the group. She had overnight practices at her house for all the wenches. And it was there I found my second home. Her kids became my brothers and sisters, and Lisa and John became like surrogate parents to me. As I grew up we remained close and the family bond grew stronger. Now if I ever go back to ORF for a visit, it’s always with the Butts. We met through ORF, but we became a real family. And even though I moved half a world away to live in Korea, we remain and always will remain close because we are family.”

Lea Choi

Catch us at Merry Krampus this Sunday!

If you see me at Merry Krampus, come say “hi!”

This Sunday we will be livestreaming at the Merry Krampus Flea Market with the IWG: Local 73! Come and help us to kick the season off right with shopping, spirits, and switches!

Get Black Friday Deals Today and be ready for 2020!

Yep, I know I just eschewed Black Friday at the top of the article. The good news is you can get deals for The Ohio Renaissance Festival and Celtic Fest Ohio from the comfort of your own home, surrounded by your loved ones with discount online ticket sales!

Ohio Renaissance Festival Black Friday Deals

  • Score a 2020 season pass for $65 $50!
  • Start your own found family with an ORFans membership for $130 $110!

See the sales

Celtic Fest Ohio Black Friday Deals

  • Saturday adult ticket $15 $11.25!
  • Sunday adult ticket $10 $7.50
  • Use discount code: TURKEY20

See the sales

sales last all-day November 29, 2019

Feature image courtesy of Checkmate Photography

Correction: Susan Morris was misidentified in a photo as Liz Schultz Lovette