I think when this began we all felt – perhaps a bit too optimistically -that it would be over relatively soon. We’d miss a paycheck, maybe two, but everything would bounce back. It was just a matter of time and patience. So we began finding other ways to spend our time. We baked bread with our families. We took up new hobbies. We found ways to stay occupied and keep hope alive while we told ourselves this would all be over in a few weeks.

Only, it’s been a few weeks. And the reality is this isn’t over, no matter how badly we want it to be.

Covid-19 has managed to knock us all for a loop. It seemed to come out of the blue right as the 2020 festival season was starting to kick up, forcing many faires across the country to close their gates for the duration of their projected run. Really, this was the only responsible thing they could have done. In the early stages of the pandemic, we were still learning new information about how it spreads but it was obvious that large crowds, even in an open area, were not a good idea.

Rennies, Making It Work

These closing caused a jarring interruption for much of the faire community, but especially the people who work and play within the wonderland that is the faire grounds. For us, this wasn’t about losing a hobby. We lost our whole world. Vendors, entertainers, and staff took a big hit when their festivals closed, some in the middle of their run. And in the interim they’ve had to find new ways to manage without their livelihood.

-Jen Thompson Martin of The Potters Haus

I am blessed to still teach virtually during COVID-19 along with making and selling my wares from home. ORenn is my one and only home since I am a teacher and cannot travel like my fellow Renn family. For now, I am creating, spending time with my daughters, and praying for my Renn fairmily as so many are without pay and need love, prayers, and support. Praying we are able to come together again soon. I love you all!”

-Jen Thompson Martin, The Potters Haus

Many people don’t realize that the people who make the festival so engaging make their living from the work they do here. From the henna booth to the jugglers many of our faire people run a yearly circuit from festival to festival, ensuring they have consistent work. Some work all up and down the east coast, hitting faires in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. They take everything with them. Their workshop, their garb closet, and in some cases their entire families, travel with them.

The good news is that while many faires had to close for the season, others merely reschedules, holding out hope that a solution will present itself. But in the meantime, the people who depend upon those faires still have to find a way of making a living doing what they love. But it’s much more than that. Going without a faire season is nigh unthinkable to most of us! But for the artisans and performers who make it such a colorful affair, this really is a kick to the gut.

Bonnie Moffet: Traveler and Storyteller

I have performed at the Medieval Fair of Norman, OKRF, Central Missouri RF, Des Moines RF, and done one-weekend guest slots at KCRF and Scarborough. I’ve worked other festivals including Colorado and St. Louis, and some that don’t even exist anymore or are super small. There have been a lot of changes for me – cancelled faires and rescheduled faires that will overlap some of my usual. But the biggest change? I started WWW.Renaissance Faire to try to cope with those cancellations and help my fellow performers with a stage on which they can perform.”

Bonnie Moffet: Traveler and Storyteller

Rennies are a stubborn group by nature and by design. We are also a group deeply rooted in our commitment to the artistry of the faire. This longing isn’t just about one physical place, but about the performance environment that the faire cultivates. It should come as no surprise then that we’ve found ways to utilize online venues as a way to reach out and keep moving forward throughout the quarantine.

Digital Ren Faire recently partnered with RESCU to do their first online RESCU Rally and auction! It was a roaring success, helping to raise money for RESCU’s Health to the Company initiative. Faire Relief 2020 continues to push forward with its ambition to provide an online venue for the various crafters and artisans around the US who lost their revenue. I know some faire folk who have decided to launch their own Patreon, releasing exclusive shows and content for people who help support them. We’re utilizing Facebook livestreaming to do specialty shows. We’re hosting Zoom meetings. We’re reaching out as much as we can while still social distancing to keep that flame of the festival alive and well.

As the 2020 season slowly trickles by, many of us have a wiry and somewhat macabre sense of humor about the whole thing. I’m sure many of you have noticed the plague doctor look has now become a fashion statement, with many vendors selling masks and even wooden coins that say “I Survived the 2020 Plague!”It should come as no surprise. We’re a group that has always made lemonade out of lemons.

Johanna Lucas

Been attending Oren for 10 years, have a tale for every year attended. I’ve been to Oren, Ky, and Michigan and of course Asheville Viking fest. I’ve been working as an RN case manager in hospice during this crazy time. Just trying to keep my family and patients safe. I’ve been adding to my garb collection and trying to support my Ren family that I love.”

Johanna Lucas

An Offical Statement From Cheryl Bucholtz

I know a lot of people are worried specifically about the Ohio Renaissance Festival. I spoke to Cheryl Bucholtz, who many of you know is responsible for making ORF such a glittering success year after year. As expected, the ORF staff is prevailing through hardship.

We are hopeful to bring the village to life for another magical season. Keeping the health and safety of patrons, participants, and employees is in the forefront, we will be putting into place procedures and processes to meet and exceed the parameters set forth by the State of Ohio. At this time, we can be certain that extensive cleaning of hard surfaces and restrooms will be done hourly, employees and participants must wear masks, optional masks for patrons, temperature checks for all participants and employees, and social distancing will be in effect at all stages, food lines, and drink lines. Online ticketing will be encouraged so as to mitigate lines at the ticket booth. It will be a very different experience for patrons this year. Stage shows will be modified to eliminate audience participation, social distancing will be in effect in craft shops. The situation changes almost daily and we are monitoring every step of the way.”

Cheryl Bucholtz

Making It Happen, Safely, For Everyone

A lot of people are going back to work, especially here in Ohio where the stay-at-home orders are slowly being lifted. It’s a nerve-racking time for a lot of us, and it feels like everyone is doing their best to get through this responsibly. We are a community of fighters. Always have been. It’s that attitude towards perseverance and self-preservation that has gotten a lot of renaissance faires through tough times. We will get through this, even if we have to do it from a distance. Even if we have to make room on our belt for a hand sanitizer holster. We will get through this. And we’ll do it best by supporting one another.

Correction: We have decided to remove a phrase within the text that we found to be unintentionally hurtful towards members of our extended community. We appreciate your insight and your contributions in helping this blog represent our extended Rennie family.