Sunday, September 16, 2012


Another growing form of community comes in the form of virtual worlds. These consist of online groups of people from around the world that not only discuss their specific interests but create and dress up personal avatars (virtual personas) and socialize within computer game environments. Services like Second Life and offer you the ability to be whoever you wish to be, show off, and meet like minded people. These computer generated worlds often offer a subculture of crafters of virtual products sell to their own communities. This has allowed fans to “live the Faire” all year round, and often culminate in real-world gatherings that allow the avatar’s physical counterparts to meet in the flesh. Over time the separations between these two worlds will become increasingly blurred, and it is up to us as designers to be nimble enough to change with the times.

Supporting Environments 
On Multiple Devices

It may not seem like it, but we are treading the grounds of a brave new world. A world where our audience is ever more connected with each other. Smart phones and portable tablets are becoming part of the paraphernalia your audience is taking with them to your event. Being careful not to whip out an anachronistic cel phone while in period dress is important, but we need to remain open minded about the ways your customers can experience our events, and take it home with them via their portable technologies. Photos and videos will be taken throughout your Faire, so look for opportunities to make your website mobile friendly, and if you are ambitious, consider creating an App that can include a Map of your Faire, and maybe even a way to get a discount on tickets if they download it. Portable devices are going to be the way we document our world, share our experiences, and make purchases, so thinking about the ways you can use it to promote and enhance the experience of your Faire or craft will have you better prepared for these changes as they continue to evolve..

Chapter Twelve


As a card carrying “old timer” it is all too easy to wax nostalgic and find agreement amongst other old timers that the Faires today just aren’t as good as they used to be. To do so is to be blind to a resurgence of the very same energies that created the first Renaissance Faire some 50 years ago. With the Internet making it all that much easier to find kindred spirits from all over the world, groups both large and small are gathering to create their own Faires, and in a variety of different ways. The big Renaissance Faires still exist and are doing well, thank you very much, but smaller, convention sized events are springing up everywhere. Like mini ComicCons these smaller events are stuffing convention centers with Faerie, Steampunk, and Science Fiction enthusiasts.

These are opportunities to meet like minded people, purchase crafts specific to your interest, listen to music created for your demographic and meet the authors and artists that keep your chosen fan community healthy and engaged. While the early Faires had their share of spill over from the Hippie era, today’s events are for all ages and tend to be a sober experience. Faires aren’t going away, they are evolving, and have grown into something different. Still, one thing they all have in common is that very same sense of community, a safe place where you can dress up and live out a fantasy just outside of your work-a-day life.

Ever-Changing Expectations of Your Audience

These new Faires challenge all us designers and promoters to keep on our toes as our audience’s expectations shift more often then before. Today visitors to a themed event come prepared to Play in very specific ways. They know what they want from their experience, and although some merely come to show off, others come to get involved and be “hands on”. Most consistently is that they want to take some of that experience home with them. They are coming to shop and accessorize their persona's, and bring tangible artifacts back to their homes, and they want to meet their idles. Our challenge as the designers of these events, and the crafts people populating them, is to be sensitive to the needs and desires of our audience, meeting those changing expectations with each event.

Chapter Eleven


Bringing a Faire Indoors

Everything we have talked about so far has been focused primarily on outdoor events. Richly themed fairs and festivals can be brought indoors as well, and I imagine another entire book could be dedicated to the subject of themed indoor events. To add briefly, many of the rules we have talked about here apply equally well to indoor events. Although the challenges appear different, many are the same. You still need to find a structure large enough to hold your event, with access to a large number of potential visitors. Parking is important, as is fire safety and accessibly by emergency vehicles. Ability to get your vendors in and out of the space, especially when it comes to loading in their booths during set-up and taking them down at the end of the event. All of these are logistic problems, and are likely to be no worse then what you already experience with an outdoor event.

Probably the biggest challenge for your indoor event will be... lighting. When looking for an appropriate indoor venue, you may end up in a large industrial building, warehouse, or in some cases a large livestock or event building located in a fairgrounds. You can be assured that these facilities were not designed for what you plan to do with it, and most are illuminated by light fixtures that are guaranteed destroyers of magic ambiance... fluorescent and zinc lights. To gain the most control over the atmosphere of your event, the best advice is to turn those lights off and replace them with something more theatrical. This adds a lot of expense to the event, and will challenge both the landlord and fire department when you suggest not using the lights designed for the safety of the visitors of your event.
Lights mean rigging and power, and before you jump into doing an indoor event, question your control over how dark you can make the space, and how much light you can bring in to light it in a theatrical way. Ultimately, your goal is to make the space dark enough that the structure of the building disappears, and only the charming shop filled streets are illuminated. Rented generators will be likely additions to your budget, but trust me, your control over the light levels of your event will be worth the extra expense.


Quickly rising in popularity is a new variety of themed event, and these are smaller hybrids of both festivals and conventions like ComicCon. Starting out as a way for niche groups of fans to get together, these are turning into events that encourage their participants and vendors to arrive in costume. All over the country events like Faerieworld, FaerieCon, and DragonCon are taking over the ballrooms and convention spaces of hotels and filling them with crafts and entertainment specific to their target demographic. This allows participants to book rooms in and around the event hotel and producers of the show a lot of existing facilities custom built to suit the needs of their event. In this case, there is much less control over the atmosphere of the event, but for a smaller show, this may just be a necessary evil, as competing with wall to wall carpet and mirrored walls may not be worth the expense and struggle. What these events do deliver is a venue for fans of the larger events to show off costumes that may be too delicate for the outdoors, a chance to visit favorite vendors to help them accessories, and a way to experience night, and late night entertainment, something less possible in outdoor Faires.
It is my expectation that we will see more of these smaller indoor events springing up all over the country. These shows feed a hunger in niche audiences, but their size makes that less of a problem. Smaller events can also act as a way to keep the fan fire burning between larger outdoor events. This allows participants to “live” the fantasy, as they patronize more events throughout the year, and act as a means of income for talented crafts people between the larger events. If you set your goal as creating a full fledged themed event, starting out with a more intimate show could be a good way to introduce yourself to the market possibilities, and your audience to your unique offering.


Modern Marketing and Advertising have accumulated tools in their trade for promoting events like your Faire. These skills are vital for getting the word out about your event, but the glossy, high production values necessary for promoting something like a vineyard wine tasting, or an art show in the park, may not be completely suited to communicating the atmosphere of your period event. The goal of any advertising, whether in posters, graphics, or fliers, is to communicate what is unique about the world you are trying to create. Too often flashy boiler plate layouts depicting smiling wine tasters and rolling hills of grapes, are replaced with pictures of costume maidens and energetic jousters. What I am saying is, traditional 21st century marketing visual may miss an opportunity to sell your event through more rustic visuals. Potential customers still need to see what they might experience at your Faire, but be sure that the graphic approach also supports the era and overall ambience you are working to achieve. I assure you that attention to this detail will help set your event apart from the others, and make you less willing to settle for a promotion that looks just like every other fair or festival being promoted.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Chapter 10


Faire Map


As a kid growing up, a trip to Disneyland wasn’t complete without purchasing one of the oversized maps of the park. Although its size made it impractical to actually use as a navigation tool, it was that very same map that I would study with rapt attention all the months and weeks between visits, as I worked to relive my visit through its tiny details. As the promoter of a Faire, having a large illustrated Map is not only an important navigation tool, but a way to better communicate the size, scope, and highlights of your event. In many ways the Internet has replaced that giant paper Disneyland map, but that hasn’t changed the desire to experience its lands vicariously through the digital version. Investing in a fairly elaborate Map of your Faire will help communicate to your vendors the commitment you have to the period, to potential through visitors via your website, and through large print reproductions of it in newspapers and flyers.

Ultimately, your Map will become the best tool to communicate what your event is, what it will look like (in spirit) and what visitors might expect when visiting it.

For vendors and crafts people, creating a simple version of a Faire Map can also help your customers find you within the larger event. Never underestimate the power of a illustrative depiction of your event. The more hand drawn and the more “rustic” its appearance, the better job it will do at communicating what can be expected from a visit to your Faire.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Game booths can be the most lucrative of businesses in a Faire, but ironically they are often the most poorly designed. This can happen when a booth is so very large, like an archery game, that themeing such an expanse can become cost prohibitive. Although I sympathize with your pain, I have to say that the ugliest booths often house games. I know there are exceptions, but before you catapult a bean bag at me or fire a dowel at my head, lets discuss opportunities game vendors have that are unique to their business.

Often the biggest challenge for any game vendor is getting visitors to actually participate in their game. This is a problem that midway games have struggled with ever since the invention of the county fair. What is unique about a Renaissance Faire is that your game can actually help transport your audience into the historical time the event is set in. Any opportunity you have of suggesting a little role playing with your game or activity will only encourage participation. Firing a bow is fun, but becoming a knight firing a bow, or wielding a sword, or winning the approving glance of a pretty booth maiden, brings your guests inside the story. If you are tossing coins, why not do it inside the mouth of a dragon (artfully painted on the canvas facade), or hurl bean bag peasants from a rampart overlooking a miniature village? Creating a large game booth can be very expensive, but it can also have the highest return for investment. Whenever possible try to stage your larger games in an environment that doesn’t overlook obvious anachronistic elements (cars, modern buildings), back your booth against a tree lined hillside if possible. If that is not possible, do the best you can to attractively block the view of un-Faire-like vistas, it will help your sales to offer an attractive experience.

Another opportunity is to elevate your barkers above the heads of the passing crowd. Building a short tower, or rigging that allows your booth people to do a better job of drawing attention to your game will succeed in letting them know how fun it will be to play your game, and add interest and energy to your corner of the Faire.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Once you have broken beyond the 8 foot mark, the next obvious opportunity it to get a few people up there to help draw attention to your booth and wares. Although a structure that allows for the safe weight of a person can be more expensive, having a barker elevated above the heads of guests can add a dynamic quality to your booth that is more likely to draw customers to you. This is true of booth workers and performers sitting in the trunks of trees. Banter from over our head is just not something we often encounter in our modern lives, so take advantage of surprising your audience by making them look up for a change.