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Moscow Renaissance Fair Royalty

Moscow Renaissance Fair Kings and Queens are selected by the Renaissance Fair president for their largely unrecognized contributions to the community.

We have a few holes in our records. Please help us fill them in!

42. (2015)Arlene Falcon & Louise Todd
41. (2014)John Crock & Laurene Sorensen
40. (2013)Bill French & Dianne French
39. (2012)David Hall & Helen Yost
38. (2011)Mark Solomon & Jeanne Clothiaux
37. (2010)Jim LaFortune & Kathie LaFortune
36. (2009)Debbie Reynolds & Kelly Moore
35. (2008)Jim Prall & Lois Blackburn
34. (2007)Annie Hubble & Dan Maher
33. (2006)Tom Gorman & Lee Anne Eareckson
32. (2005)Diane Baumgart & Myron Schreck
31. (2004)Bill London & Gina Gormley
30. (2003)Tom Lamar & Pam Palmer
29. (2002)Kenton Bird & Gerri Sayler
28. (2001)Malcolm Renfrew & Carol Renfrew
27. (2000)Bob Greene & Sue Armitage
26. (1999)Joel Hamilton & Mary Jo Hamilton
25. (1998)
24. (1997)American elm (Ulnus americana) & American linden (Tilia americana) [Ruby Valentine costumes]
23. (1996)Frank Pelfrey & Sue (Samia) Bull
22. (1995)John Fiske & Janet Fiske
21. (1994)Chris Walker & Julie Richman
20. (1993)Mary Fern & Bob Thyberg
19. (1992)Leo Ames & Lela Ames
18. (1991)Erik Stauber & Loreca Stauber
17. (1990)Bob Suto & Nola Steuer
16. (1989)Jed Davis & Susan Davis
15. (1988)Fred Chapman & Linda Chapman
14. (1987)Helen Pillig & Dan'l Moore
13. (1986)
12. (1985)
11. (1984)Peter Basoa & Karen Lewis
10. (1983)Rob Hamburg & Arlene Hamburg "parade marshals" according to the Idahonian
9. (1982)
8. (1981)Joe Dvorak & -- ; princess Annie Dvorak {May 16, 17} (at Moscow High School)
7. (1980) "A coven of 13 fairies; king, queen and jack of hearts..."
6. (1979)
5. (1978)
4. (1977)
3. (1976)
2. (1975)
1. (1974)

Moscow Renaissance Fair ~~ Weekend of the first Sunday in May ~~ East City Park, Moscow, Idaho

Moscow Renaissance Fair Reminiscences
Moscow Food Co-op Community News, April 2006
Jim Prall
Photos by David Hall
Article reprinted by permission of Jim Prall

"Don't trust anyone over thirty" was a rallying cry and survival attitude of many of us who helped to create the Moscow Renaissance Fair back in the early 1970s. In its modest beginnings, born out of the raucous Blue Mountain Rock Festival, I doubt any of us could have foreseen it lasting into the next century! Or the Fair itself someday being over 30 years old itself!

... there had been over 50 years of the "Spring Fete" that centered around themes like Robin Hoods and Maid Marians dancing around as many as seven Maypoles ... The new tradition would still have music, but it would be less electric, more acoustic. Maybe it could be supported by being a venue for local or regional artists and crafts persons to show and sell their works from the previous long winter, as spring fairs had done for many hundreds of years. That was the origin of the first Moscow Renaissance Fair -- the mellow alternative to Blue Mountain.
It seemed like a time of new beginnings for Moscow. 1973. The war in Vietnam was over. The 200th birthday of the whole nation was coming up. The "Aquarian Conspiracy" was becoming a reality: Moscow had a new bookstore (with good strong coffee and fine art on the walls). There was a small food co-op opening, even a recycling center. There were no malls at either end of town, no one-way streets.

It was really exciting for a small cow-college town. And in the spring, on that same small college campus, there was the infamous Blue Mountain Rock Festival, sponsored by the UI Associated Students, a great new tradition after ten years of turtle races. Prior to that, there had been over 50 years of the "Spring Fete" that centered around themes like Robin Hoods and Maid Marians dancing around as many as seven Maypoles on the open grass in front of the Administration Building.

However, to the powers that be, the rock festival had to go. It was held in the old Shattuck Arboretum, and therefore open to most anyone and most anything. And it had been discovered by the youth of the region as a place to access all the fun that the University of Idaho had to offer -- without being a student. Seed money was made available to start a new community tradition that was to be an alternative to a rock festival but it would not be allowed in the Arboretum. The new tradition would still have music, but it would be less electric, more acoustic. Maybe it could be supported by being a venue for local or regional artists and crafts persons to show and sell their works from the previous long winter, as spring fairs had done for many hundreds of years. That was the origin of the first Moscow Renaissance Fair - the mellow alternative to Blue Mountain. Now, it is said, "if you can remember the first Fairs, you weren't there." Or, if you were there, you weren't helping make it happen, or you wouldn't remember. So this is one person's view of what went on, and I want to apologize for not getting it all quite right. And besides, even though I was at the last Blue Mountain, I wasn't at the first RenFair, even though I was on the Fair Board. I was the secretary. I lost the minutes.

The first Fair boards and committees were wonderful chaos. It took years to get our legal paperwork together right. It is painful to remember trying to sort it all out. The wild enthusiasm and exuberance of youth trying to do it all without restraint or organization was incredible, especially year after year. Slogans like "Why not?" peppered the attempts at democratic process.

Starting a new tradition was not as easy as we all thought. The idea of an arts and crafts theme begs to be out under the trees, but what if it rains? For the first 5 years, that was a big divisive issue. Everyone really wanted to have the Fair in East City Park, but in the rain, or fear of the rain, we ended up in the SUB Ballroom and even the Field House out at the Moscow Junior High. One year the Fair moved during the event. Hysterics quite often ruled.

Finally, we settled once and forever on the Park, "rain or shine". Or hail, snow, sleet and then finally, on Sunday, May 18th, 1980, the famous Mt. St. Helen's volcanic ash fall covered everything. The issue of "when" to have the Fair was also ongoing right up until that date. The Fair was conceived as a Mayday event, to celebrate the ancient spring holiday. Some people, insane of course, claimed the weather would be better or on average better, if the Fair were held just a little later. Mount St. Helen's spoke and since then the Fair has always been held the weekend of the first Sunday in May. And the traveling artists and craftspeople have adapted quite well with weatherized booths. The Fair has a reputation of its own as the first outdoor fair of the season in the region.

Fair publicity was hard to get in those first years. We discovered that a really nicely done large format poster was a very effective way to attract attention. Posting those posters used to be an event in itself. I'll never forget hanging one up in a Worley restaurant and as I drove away, watching a bunch of people get up from their tables to stare at it. ("What are those hippies in Moscow up to now?") Another way to get free publicity was to put on a May Day Maypole Dance, especially if the first was on say, Tuesday. We had a front-page photo in the Lewiston Tribune of the pole being danced around in Friendship Square that let everyone know about that coming weekend's big event.

We painted up a long shed at the old intersection of Main Street and the Troy highway to look like a historic trolley car that used to run to Spokane to advertise the Fair year around. The only other big event that weekend is the Bloomsday Race in Spokane, and somehow we've never gotten them to change their annual lilac festival, but it is always great fun to see the first Bloomsday T-shirt on a runner who has just completed the race.

The Dragon Truck made by Mark Solomon was a piece of rolling publicity for the Fair. Actually, it was sort of a Fair-on-a-truck: we'd pile the Maypole, hay bales, tarps and banners onto the Dragon and parade through town breathing fire, and assemble the Fair in the park with the Dragon being the stage.

Then there was the year that some members of the Fair board were approached by people who asked if we had ever thought of having the Fair in the summer time. They wanted to bring in tourists. We said no. So they started Rendezvous in the Park, sponsored by the Moscow Arts Commission. The Fair has always been an independent entity, which was very intentional. We did try to create another fair or festival in the fall, and it took place out at Robinson Park, but it was too much for the board and volunteers to take on.

There were no food booths at the first Fairs. There was strawberry-lemonade, with real strawberries and real lemons, sold by a non-profit alternative school. But when people asked to sell food, and made money hand over fist making authentic black bean burritos, we realized we had a new problem. It was way easier to make a bundle selling real food than art. That's when we developed the idea of allowing non-profit groups the opportunity to benefit from making real food. Even though ASUI had provided some money to start the Fair, it soon dried up except for the wonderful services of KUID-FM (then later KUOI-FM) broadcasting live from the Fair.

We struggled to find events for all kinds of people. We got an Earth Ball from New Games and the sight of this huge five-foot ball was a magnet for kids of all ages. We painted large fiberglass tarps that we got from the Spokane Expo for decoration. There were thousands of hours contributed by hundreds of people making the Maypole streamers and the beautiful flags and banners that adorn the stage area. In some ways, creating separate events for children was an afterthought of the last 15 years, before that, kids just were involved in whatever was happening. Or they just played on the playground and danced to the music.

When Mark Solomon contracted to tear down the old Potlatch Mill, he had the materials to build a real stage on the back of the park bathrooms at the center of East City Park. That was the first addition to the park that the Fair paid for as a gift to the city. After years of makeshift stages, we then had a real permanent stage--a place where people won't get wet while they play music for all of us. The Fair has since added other permanent features in the park. We paid for the water fountain Jim Gale constructed near Hayes Street in the park picnic area, as well as the four colorful bicycle racks scattered around the park.

We didn't have Kings and Queens elected for the first Fairs, but we had numerous self-appointed princes and princesses, not to mention out-of-costume hoodlums and highwaymen and any number of full-time jokers. Some of them still are on committees and the board, and there is always room for a few more. Can you volunteer? The Fair is only once a year . . . but it takes a year to get ready for it.

The long-term social impact on our area of the Fair was brought home to me the year I spotted a couple I hadn't seen in years. They said, "Oh, don't get this wrong; we just meet here to trade the kids off!" In some ways that is no different than the ancient Beltane (Mayday's eve) holiday wherein people came in from the countryside after a long winter to trade goods, crafts, lovers, and head out again for a new summer. Without corporate sponsorship.

Moscow Renaissance Fair ~~ Weekend of the first Sunday in May ~~ East City Park, Moscow, Idaho

Palouse Journal #18, Spring '85, p. 23, 25
Phil Druker
Photos courtesy of Moscow Renaissance Fair Committee
Article reprinted by permission of Phil Druker
Corrigendum: The Mt. St. Helens eruption occurred on the last day of the fair in 1980.

Moscow Renaissance Fair -- "What does it take to get ready for the Fair? Find out from a few artisans."

"Producing and selling crafts is the full-time occupation and the sole source of income for seventy percent of the artists attending fairs like the Moscow Renaissance Fair."
-- Steven and Cindy Long
Some arrive in muddy old trucks, or in painted, rebuilt school buses and in beat up Volkswagen vans, while others arrive in polished pickups or in new compact station wagons. Some have beards and long hair, while others are clean cut. Some travel alone; others arrive with friends; most bring their whole families. They arrive bringing stained glass, drawings, duck decoys, leather goods, self-published books, gold and silver jewelry, handmade kitchen knives, iron work sculptures, kites, candles, scrimshaw belt buckles, weavings, pottery, wooden toys, handmade clothing, and photographic landscapes of the Palouse. These people are the artisans exhibiting at the annual Moscow Renaissance Fair.

The Moscow Renaissance Fair ... is the earliest important crafts fair of the spring in the Northwest ... "It is a good reunion time for the craftspeople. ... The fair has a good reputation among craftspeople because it is a friendly fair, and ... the community is enthusiastic and supports it."
-- Albert Chaney, jeweler from Missoula
Each May for the last twelve years, craftspeople from all over the Northwest have been bringing their products to sell at Moscow's spring fair located in East City Park. While some people might consider this assortment of characters a frivolous throwback to the late Sixties, the approximately one hundred exhibitors attending the fair, eighty percent of whom are from outside the immediate area, are actually serious artisans and business people.

Like other people in business for themselves, artisans bringing their wares to the fair have a strong sense of independence. They enjoy the sense of accomplishment they experience from producing and selling a product. Like other small business operators, these craftspeople find working for themselves requires more discipline and harder, longer work hours than working for someone else or working for a large corporation. Cindy and Steve Long, who have a shop in the Sandpoint area where they produce traditional folk toys and who sometimes give seminars on how to make a living working as an artisan, estimate, "Producing and selling crafts is the full-time occupation and the sole source of income for seventy percent of the artists attending fairs like the Moscow Renaissance Fair." The Longs work five days each week producing toys. Cindy adds, "Making a living with crafts is not like winning the lottery. You have to produce to make a living. Our cash flow depends on the amount of work we produce. We can't afford to put things off until the last minute.["]

Many of the artisans who are coming to the fair spend their winters producing their products. Some might take a vacation during January, after their Christmas sales, and others might produce special items for their friends or take on special orders. However, by February these artisans are hard at work, working five or six days per week and often more than eight hours each day to build their inventories for the spring and summer fairs where they sell their wares.

To produce their wares, many of the craftspeople have built their own shops, their own kilns, and some have even built their own machinery. They cannot use makeshift tools and make-do shops to produce the product the public appreciates and buys. Many artisans have made a considerable investment in time and money in necessary equipment. Jerry and Martha Swanson from Ovando, Montana have built, with the help of a machinist in Missoula, their own replicas of sanding machines needed to produce wooden toys such as tractors, trucks, cars, and boats. The sanders they built would have been too expensive to buy, but they needed the machines because, as Jerry explains, "Eighty percent of our work involves sanding. Hand-producing enough of the many identical parts we need would be incredibly tedious, and without the machines we never could produce enough. We had to go the technology route to keep our mom and pop operation going."

Like other people operating a small business, these artisans find it difficult to hire labor. Finding people willing to work for the wages artisans can afford is difficult, and hiring is expensive because of the high cost of worker's compensation insurance. A few of the artisans attending the Moscow Renaissance Fair contract out some work to friends and neighbors. Usually, however, these artisans work in partnership with their families to produce the wares they sell.

One of the benefits artisans gain from running their mom and pop operations is that they can work with their family. As Jerry Swanson said, "It's great to be able to rub butts with your wife while you're working." But he admits this kind of close contact might not be for everyone, and, "We have to be careful not to make our workshop a prison of its own."

The Moscow Renaissance Fair, which is the earliest important crafts fair of the spring in the Northwest, provides welcome relief from the raging cabin fever which the artisans begin to feel after working all winter in their shops, and it signals the beginning of the selling season in the artisan's yearly cycle. Other fairs follow in Ellensburg, Wenatchee, Spokane, Seattle, Portland, California, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. Most of the artisans spend part of the summer traveling to these fairs. "The gypsy life is great," adds Jerry Swanson. "You can work at your own speed and as your needs demand, and then you can travel to earn your money."

Moscow's fair provides the artisans with a way to get ready for the other fairs that follow. The artisans have to repair and refurbish their booths and the equipment that they use for selling. Those who put on skits to sell their wares practice and develop new routines.

Since the Moscow Renaissance Fair is the first fair in the area, "It is a good reunion time for the craftspeople," says Albert Chaney, a jeweler from Missoula. "The fair has a good reputation among craftspeople because it is a friendly fair, and even though it is not a big fair, the community is enthusiastic and supports it despite the terrible weather we've sometimes had." During last year's fair, there was a snow storm. "If that had happened in Missoula, no one would have shown up," commented Katherine Fichtler, a potter from Missoula. The artists not only have endured bad weather; some have also endured the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, which occurred on the last day of the fair in 1981.

Many artisans bring specific items to the fair that they know will sell in Moscow. Often, they look at what they previously sold in Moscow and make sure they have plenty of those items on hand. Jerry and Martha Swanson make sure they have plenty of toy tractors and carts to sell. Katherine Fichtler, who won't be able to attend this year's fair because of her six-week-old baby, usually tries to have a good selection of planters for spring, and she tries to prepare pots that incorporate themes that people who live on the Palouse will appreciate. Other craftspeople make sure to finish wares that will attract Mother's Day gift buyers. They also try to bring items that students can buy to take home as gifts for their friends and relatives, and the artisans consider what people on the Palouse might want to buy for approaching June weddings.

To be successful as producers of crafts, these artisans have to do more than produce their wares. They have to be careful businessmen who can judge their markets and sell their wares. Coming to the Moscow Renaissance Fair gives them a chance to learn what people like, what people expect to find in the products they buy, and learn what matters to the consumers of crafts.

But most importantly, the Moscow Renaissance Fair is payday for the artisans, and the artisans are paid not only in money but in the appreciation the fair-goers show for the finely crafted products the artisans have produced.

The results of their winter labors will be spread out in the spring sunshine in East City Park the first weekend in May.

The Moscow Renaissance Fair is a community celebration of spring held each year on the first weekend of May. The fair is directed by a private, non-profit community group and is the only self-sustaining festival of its kind in the region.

Moscow Renaissance Fair | P.O. Box 8848 | Moscow, ID 83843 USA