Monday, August 4, 2008

Faerieworlds 2008

This year I made my third trek to Faerieworlds at Secret House Winery, Veneta, OR, about 15 miles west of Eugene. Because of gas prices and the expense of a motel room, the latter being the major consideration, I only attended on Saturday. It's the first year they've expanded to three days, with Friday, August 1 being Good Faeries Day, Saturday was Bad Faeries Day, and today, Sunday, was Family Day.

Although I didn't care to spend money for a room, it seemed wise to bring along stuff in case I didn't want to drive home if I stayed late. It was slated to be a long day in any event. I left just after 7:30, knowing I'd be early. Because of that, I got off I-5 in Salem and went over to pick up 99W, a route I knew wouldn't be as fast as the interstate, but would position me further west and avoid Eugene entirely. It took me through Monmouth, Corvallis, and Monroe. In Monroe I picked up the Territorial Highway, which brought me to Route 126 in Veneta. A short drive west got me to the Faerieworlds entrance. Surprisingly, this route took no longer than going down I-5 to the Beltline Highway around Eugene to 126. I drove onto the winery grounds not long after 10:00.

With a change into my wizard outfit, I got up to the admissions area and plunked my quad chair down in front of the Will Call section. Once that opened, I became first in line to get in to Faerieworlds itself and sat in the chair, with many people thinking I was "official" although I let anyone who asked know I was just first in line. Even before we were let in, I got one or two requests for pictures. I think I was a bit more convincing as a wizard this year because the beard is real. It took a while to get the long white-hair wig under control, but I got the hang of it after a while. I got to watch a steady stream of vendors, most in costume, enter. I greeted world-famous faerie and goblin artist Brian Froud as he entered carrying a bag of ice.

When the rope blocking the gate opened, I held my staff up and cried out, "Faeries, ho!" and went in. I walked briskly to get ahead of everyone so I could turn and get a shot of the other early birds walking down the main avenue with vendor booths on each side. I did a quick scouting out of the area close to the entrance and made my way around to where Brian and Wendy Froud had their booth. I had a couple of his books that needed autographs. I exchanged a few words with Brian, mentioning the "stain" on the cover of "Strange Stains and Mysterious Smells" (10 3/4 Anniversary Edition), he did with Monty Python's Terry Jones. I'd just noticed the other day that there's a clear "stain" that's only visible if it catches the light just so and reflects it off the cover. Brian's autographs aren't just a signature; he includes a quick faerie/pixie/goblin sketch as well. I got a few photos and made sure to thank him.

I made a trek back to the car to shed some weight. There are places to sit on the grounds, so I didn't need the chair, and although books don't weigh much, the two autographed hardcover books would be better off in the car. On the way, I walked by a guy getting names for a petition to establish a Department of Peace in the US and promised to sign on my way back, which I did. I was back on the grounds looking around when a small boy asked me if I was a wizard - a reasonable question since one seldom encounters one on the street or in the supermarket. I thought I'd make a comment about my staff, which is far from straight, when I realized I didn't have it. It was lying on the ground in plain view where I'd put it while I deposited the chair and books in the trunk. I wasn't too concerned, but I made a second, and more rapid, trek back to the car. It was right where I left it. I may have decided to be Cabra d'Abra, the Wurst Accizard who spooks in Speenerisms, but absent-mindedness wasn't planned.

Back on the grounds, I continued looking around at various vendor booths. People with cameras asked if they could take my picture. I soon realized if I could've gotten a dollar for every picture, I could've easily paid for my ticket and the gas to drive there and back. By the end of the day, I probably could've not only paid for that, but for the entire weekend including two nights in a motel, if you figure in the addtional requests I would've gotten on Friday and Sunday. But of course, I never seriously entertained the notion of actually charging. It was fun and made for some brief and pleasant exchanges. Even people without cameras would smile as they passed by me.

It being Bad Faeries Day, there were lots of people in costumes that reflected the darker theme, although not everyone had on such an outfit. No doubt many costumed folk had been there on Friday, Good Faeries day, and given the elaborate nature of some costumes, they were wearing the same outfit both days. My wizard outfit was suitable for both. I saw many other costumed folk honoring requests for pictures, and often joined those who'd requested them by getting a shot myself, as did many others. Like them, I noticed my own pauses for a pose resulted in other folks taking the opportunity for photos. One thing to note about Bad Faeries day and the costumes reflecting that theme: if you've always thought of faeries as sweet and cute little darlings like the Disney version of Tinkerbelle, think again and remember that even in the Disney version of Peter Pan, there's a dark side to Tink. One of the better Bad Faerie costumes I saw was worn by Betsy Tinney, cello player for Gaia Consort and Tricky Pixie. That's her at left, and yes, that's a cello - an electric one.

While Faerieworlds is a paradise for people looking to buy faerie art and craft items and to meet world-famous artists like Brian and Wendy Froud, Jessica Galbreth and Amy Brown, it's the music that really draws people. The Main Stage, with speakers that projected sound throughout the grounds, featured four acts during the daytime, with three more after dark. During the day the Village Stage, located in a new expanded area for vendors, featured shorter acts while the larger stage was being reset during the day.

The first band on the Main Stage was The Wicker Men. One of the striking features of their music is the deep gutteral sounds of lead singer Patience Yanderling, who at times gets his voice to sound a lot like Tibetan or Tuvan throat singing minus the overtones. He also plays a double-necked guitar so he doesn't have to switch instruments between 12- and 6-string.

Next on the Main Stage was the Gaia Consort, a pagan rock band from Seattle that has featured many Northwest musicians over the past decade. Heather Alexander was their first fiddle player. There were more people in the Main Stage area, and a lot of them were dancing and/or bobbing about, with some incorporating costume elements into the dance. There were two or three people going around spritzing water to try to keep down the dust and cool off the dancers. It wasn't really hot, but the area was in the sun, and by early afternoon the clouds had dissipated.

The next Main Stage act was Kan'nal, who call their music "Shamanic Rock." Like the Gaia Consort, they'd been Main Stage acts the previous two years. People were still arriving, since the music was to go on until midnight, so there were even more dancers in front of the stage.

The fourth act on the Main Stage was Zilla, a trio who perform improvisational music. They have no idea themselves at the start where the music will take them; they just follow its lead. They put out a great deal of musical energy on the stage, and it was matched by the dancers note for note.

In between those sets and after Zilla, the Village Stage was used for shorter sets by lesser-known groups. This year the lineup included Land of the Blind, whose music incorporates a shruti box and a didjiridoo, Omiza River, Beltane, and the pirate-themed Man Overboard.

While I took in parts of all the musical acts mentioned, I did a lot of wandering around taking pictures of people in their costumes, vendors and their wares, posing when asked, and checking out some of the other entertainers in various parts of the grounds. If you thought the hula hoop had its day in the 1950s, you might be surprised to know it still has its place at events like Faerieworlds, Ren Faires, and the Oregon Country Fair. There were folks wandering about on stilts and jugglers. There was also a group of three people who had on footgear that appeared to be a combination of stilts, leaf springs and pogo sticks. They could bound around from place to place pretty quickly, and they also did some hoop tricks and juggling while on them. I managed to get some pretty good pictures, with one shot showing a guy about to leap, with the springs fully compressed, followed by a shot at the top of his arc.

A group that formed at Faerieworlds 2006, Tricky Pixie, was on the bill this year. Their Main Stage shows were on Friday and Sunday. It consists of S. J. Tucker, who is part of the group Skinny White Chick, Betsy Tinney, who is also the cello player in Gaia Consort, and Alexander James Adams, heir to Heather Alexander's music. I'd brought a CD of pictures I had of Alec from the past two Faerieworlds (only a few of those) and a fair number of photos I'd taken of him at the Washington Renaissance Fantasy Fair near Gig Harbor, WA last August. The Ren Faire pictures were taken with the Canon, and some of them turned out very nicely. I gave the CD to Kore, Alec's partner and manager, and she let me know Alec, S. J. and Betsy would be jamming by their booth around 5:30 or so. I wanted to get some good shots of all three individually and collectively, so I kept snapping away and think I managed to get some pretty decent photos, including some nice closeups. One challenge was to catch Alec with eyes open since he tends to close them a lot when doing instrumental bits.

There's no excuse for going hungry at Faerieworlds. There are a lot of food vendors, many featuring vegetarian and vegan items, although there's plenty for meat-eaters as well. My unexpected second trip back to the car put off lunch a bit, so I was ready for something tasty, and the veggie burrito was pretty decent (I still much prefer the ones Shelly makes up in Pioneer Courthouse Square, though!). Secret House had several varieties of wine for sale by the glass or bottle, and there was a small selection of beers. I got a couple of beers during the day, supplemented by a bottle of water. It was pretty warm and I was moving around quite a bit, so I needed the liquid.

There were a lot of tempting things to buy, but I had to resist as much as I could, and since I'd been there the past two years and have gone to Ren Faires as well, that wasn't too hard. I did relent enough to get Tricky Pixie's debut CD. It's a recording of their first "official" gig at Soul Food in Redmond, WA last year. I highly recommend it. S. J. Tucker's "Alligator in the House," done to a tango beat, is wonderfully whimsical. They do a "Wendy Trilogy" in which three tunes are adapted somewhat to fit in with the Peter Pan story, although definitely not the Disneyfied one.

About the time the light began fading, I realized I was too. My thoughts of staying until perhaps 10 or 11 for some of the after-dark stage shows gave way to the 2 1/2 hour drive back home. So I ended up leaving about the same time I'd left on Sundays the previous two years, about 8:30. I'd enjoyed the day a lot, and saw no need to push myself. The drive back, this time east on 126 to the Beltline Highway to I-5, ended up taking the same amount of time it took to drive down, so the mileage must be a bit more.

Once home, I really wanted to get to bed, but I couldn't resist downloading the 244 photos from the camera and taking a quick run through them on the computer just to see what worked and what hadn't. On Sunday I thought I'd get things posted, but my energy level was pretty low all day. And now it's late on Monday. I've put up 30 pictures on Flickr, but I've got maybe 40 more to go. Looks like I'll make another post tomorrow (Tuesday) when that's finished.

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