Being a Rennie mom is incredibly challenging as it can require long hours in booths, lots of travel, not always the greatest weather conditions, among other things. But it is the most welcoming and rewarding community to be a mom in.”Niki Boyd
The Mother archetype is an often overlooked but nonetheless an essential aspect of society. When thinking of a mother we usually limit this to those who have given birth to and raised a child to adulthood. Yet as our understanding of a wider community continues to develop we begin to recognize that a Mother is only one term for a person who does so much more. From birth-givers to found families, a mother represents the ties that bind us together and creates a place of stability for those that they care for. Is it any wonder then that we find so many of these wonderful people within the Ohio Renaissance Faire community?
Being a mom is challenging in and of itself, so imagine adding the rigors of a ren faire on top of everything else. Yet there are plenty of folks here at ORF who have done just that! Renaissance faires as a whole go back to the early ’60s which means some of us are multi-generational Rennies with no plans to stop any time soon. You get to watch your kids grow up in this very close-knit community, like a quasi-summer camp, surrounded by people they see every year and forming close friendships that last a lifetime.
Rennie moms tend to be a determined lot with plenty of love to spare. They draw people in, blood relation or not, and their presence in a group is a source of comfort. Newbies frequently find their footing under the guidance of such a person who is willing to take that extra time and offer much-needed help. They come in many different types with a few being the easiest to spot right off the bat!
The Den Mother – these are the ones who have a room in the back with snacks, water and a fan ready for anybody who needs it. They always have supplies at the ready like an extra corset string if you need it. Their area becomes known for being the place to go if you need to sit for a few minutes and is regularly full of other Rennies who stopped by for a chat.
Rennie Wranglers – There are things to do, places to go, and people to see so get your boots on! These are the moms who know where you need to be and when and do a fine job of getting a group together when they’re called on. They’re typically in charge of a stage show, keeping booth minions together, or reigning in the children of everyone who has to do the other two.
Pub Mamma – These are the mother bears of any festival. They’ve been around for a good long while, know everybody worth knowing, and always have the brightest smiles waiting for you. They are also the ones to stand between you and someone being uncomfortable. They are walking, talking safe zones who can spot a security guard from across the grounds and flag them down in a heartbeat. They are equal parts kind and cantankerous and it makes them all the better to know.
Comfort Mammas – They are the ones to rely on when you need a shoulder to cry on. These are the moms who provide you with an open hug and a friendly ear when it’s been a bad day or you just feel overwhelmed. They listen without judgment and offer that sense of stability to get you through when you are feeling at your worst.
There is no end to how mothers affect our lives. Rennie mom energy is its own display of caring affection that applies to all of us. They are everywhere, in every aspect of faire life and it’s safe to say many parts of a festival wouldn’t be the same without them. From all of us at the Ohio Renaissance Festival to all of you, Happy Mother’s Day!
Stories from & about the moms of ORF
ORF VET, Jennifer Brough
“Both my boys grew up at ORF. It was amazing, chaotic, wonderful, and challenging – all at the same time. Going from on-stage character to off-stage mom in an instant was tough, but somehow it worked.”
“I was blessed to have an INCREDIBLE support system both onsite and off. My mother-in-law and brother-in-law were the absolute best babysitters ever – they took care of the boys at home when they were too young for a faire day, and when the weather was rough. Onsite, we couldn’t have survived without the wonderful folks at Malachite Dragon and Dragon & Unicorn Leather Mugs. Our day-camp in the loft above Malachite Dragon gave the boys a quiet space to nap, play video games, and have a snack away from the crowd. And when the boys were old enough to fiddle in the lanes, Sandy Cantieri and her crew at the leather mug booth gave them a spot to play in the shade, always with a mug of water or Gatorade. I couldn’t begin to name all the people who jumped in to help when a babysitter canceled, but I’m looking at you Cheryl Bucholz.”
“Of course, faire bled over into everyday life. When they were young, one of their favorite movies was “Master and Commander,” which they called “Stunt Show.” More than once, Johnny lifted his sippy cup at daycare and shouted “A TOAST”. From what I’m told, Wenches A’Wailing songs were quite popular on the playground at school as well (I got so many phone calls). Chance’s ability to learn new tunes so quickly came from hearing music out here from the time he was born – and wanting to stand equal with his incredible mentors at ORF. Those collisions between faire and “real life” were often hilarious, but always positive.”
“Being a mom at faire came with some crazy challenges, like pumping breast milk between shows (detachable shoulder straps are a God-send), and potty-training (I recommend all boys wear kilts). And of course, there were always Irish dance competitions and school activities to squeeze in. But oh, there will always be those gifts and lessons that can only come from faire. I saw my boys go from seeing the magic of faire through the eyes of a child, to sharing that magic as performers. I’ve seen them stop to play a lullaby for a crying baby, and I’ve seen them encourage young musicians. I’ve seen them grow into leaders on-stage and off, and I’ve seen them grow into fine young men. And now, I find myself holding a crying baby here and there, and babysitting while another mom is onstage. Because it doesn’t just take a village – It takes Willy Nilly on the Wash.” – Jennifer Brough
Zen Lisette Herbon a.k.a Spark the Fairy
“Being both a Mom and professional performer (Spark the Fairy) is full of joys and challenges alike! I began traveling with my son when he was 10 years old (he is now 16), embracing a career I created because of my love for children and the young at heart. In the beginning we went back and forth to shows each weekend, but that was exhausting and I rapidly bought a motorhome and switched to full time, and began homeschooling him. My son amazed me how quickly he took to the lifestyle. Making friends and picking up new skills, excelling in school, as well as helping me with what I do! Raising a child while touring was no more challenging than when I was raising him in our “sticks and bricks” home. On tour was much easier really because it gave us more time to spend together and so many adventures. My proudest moment as a Mother also wound up combining with my most difficult experience as one – As time passed I watched and helped as my son grew into his own with performing as a juggler, he surpassed world records, taught others and (at the age of 14!) eventually had a stage act with his partner where they performed in 2019 in Georgia and Ohio. I could not have been prouder watching his growth and skill and ability to connect with the audience. He was born for it! Fast forward to last year – as we navigated the shutdown of festivals and touring, his partner and best friend became ill with Covid-19 and subsequently passed away from the virus. Helping him through the loss of nearly everything he’d known, his best friend, his partner and performance life is the most difficult thing I’ve ever navigated as a Mom in this lifestyle. Thankfully I did not have to do it alone – performers from across the circuit reached out to him right after her passing, and loved him through it in their own ways and I could not have been more grateful. Hopefully one day he will have the opportunity to take the stage again at Ohren, and the dream can continue as we both rise from the difficulties 2020 brought. Being a mother is the most incredible experience of my life, given the opportunity to do it this way again I most certainly would, it is a wonderful experience for both parent and child and I know the experiences, joys, challenges and growth opportunities from the road will aid and guide him in the years to come.”
-Zen Lisette Herbon a.k.a Spark the Fairy
“I’m Momma Skye or Auntie Skye to Vikings Pirates and assorted Rennies. My daughter known as Kritter was a Rennie rat and maze kid. I knew older kids who looked out for her and so adopted them. My nieces all came to faire with me at one point or another and my niece Amanda wound up working faire several seasons. Because of this experience I had an independent child literally raised by a village I trusted. I also have lifelong friendships with people of all ages. The love we have shared has blessed my life.” -Skye Andavarroi
Lisa Dapper Butts
“The kids went everywhere we went of course. With ORF we were on staff so we did auditions & the kids went. For faire we tried to involve them as much as possible. The 3 oldest got jobs. I knew that they were safe at faire. Safer than at home. Everyone knew them & everyone watched out for them. On a rainy day someone came & told me that they had Mitch in the back of their booth. That he was alright, that he had a temp & they had changed him into cry clothes & he was sleeping. I knew he was safe. We now are raising 2 grandchildren who have been going with us since they were 2 & 4. They would take their naps on blankets behind us ” -Lisa Dapper Butts
“I have been going to the faire ever since I was a kid and just recently in the past few years I have been enjoying the magic with my beautiful daughter! The actors and shopkeepers are always so nice.. warm and inviting whenever I bring her along! Her favorite actress is always Spark the Fairy and she cannot wait to see her again this year! What a magical place indeed ♡” -Megan Rice
“Our daughter has never missed a season of ORF since she was born! I’ve changed her diapers on ORF grounds, chased her uphill in a corset, and taken her to the jobs faire where she was hired. Many of you know Ray as she is an ORFan and a Rennie having been a squire at the joust and a boothie most recently selling wood flowers and doing henna.” -Connie Crafton
“It is a feeling like no other. I brought him every year since he was born. The first year he was suuuuper little. So he didn’t remember it at all. But the following year we brought him and I had garb made for him from our wedding (which was also at faire) it was a little small as he grew quickly, but he looked like a little pixie. I’ll never forget it. I made him little pixie wings from leaves and everything. He gravitated RIGHT to cast members. Front gate they grabbed his little hands and skipped him around in a circle the way he looked up at them his eyes wide and full of wonder. And the FAE omg, he was in awe of them. They danced with him at morning dance and he chased bubble around with them at their afternoon tea.”
“When I joined cast (2007) I was 16. My faire mom(s) were Kim and Rhonda. They both were mentors of mine. Faire mommas are a godsend. I was casted in court my first year and was in way over my head. They helped me figure out costuming and what to expect from faire in general. They always told me when I needed rest and water. Those women cared for me when I didn’t even know I needed it. They taught me about the importance of pickle juice on a hot faire day in court garb. Ice down the bodice. Walking me to first aid when I overheated. When I was young, they even thwarted those that threatened my safety. They really look out for you. It’s a beautiful thing. “– Rissa Wagner
“Being a Rennie mom is incredibly challenging as it can require long hours in booths, lots of travel, not always the greatest weather conditions, among other things. But it is the most welcoming and rewarding community to be a mom in. My kids are now 18 and 3. I started doing faires in 2008 and have been all over the country. It takes a village to raise a child and that’s what we have. There are many more eyes to watch the littles. My youngest has been coming to faires with me to work since she was 1 week old and adores it. I would not change it and I’ve never regretted raising my kids in faire.” – Niki Boyd