Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Month of Pirate Festivals

October was a busy month.  And by busy, I mean we were out of town literally every weekend (except the first weekend, when we were putting up a barn. Well, Matt worked on the barn, I made chili and cornbread for the barn builders) But we did Tybee Island Pirate Festival, Southern Pirate Festival in Columbus, Georgia, and then the Pirate Gathering in St. Augustine, Florida. And you’ll notice that none of them are closer than a six and a half hour drive!  

Tybee Island was my first pirate festival, and it basically takes place on a stretch of road right next to the beach in Georgia, where pirates carouse about for three days. Matt and The Costume Boss both told me how hot Tybee had been last year, so I packed shorts and tshirts and not one sweater and naturally it was rainy and windy the entire time. It was so cold that I ended up wearing a full Georgian gown, and I was still so chilly I had to pull a giant leather and canvas cloak over myself. Stupid wind chill.

But the pirates didn’t care, partly because their outfits tend to be pretty layered, and partly because there was a beer truck at the event and several bars within stumbling vicinity, so they had a grand time anyway. Matt managed to be shirtless for most of the event, because he’s just determined like that.

On the second day of the festival, we arrive early, get the tent set up, and then mill around waiting for people to show up. I decide this is a good time to catch up on all that sleep I’m not getting on this trip (more about that in a later blog post)

Our tent was at the end of the row, near the performance enclosure and the beer truck. Which was an awesome spot, except the beer truck people inexplicably claimed the right wall of our tent for their banner. Unfortunately, this meant that we didn’t have any covering over that wall. So when it started raining sideways…guess which wall it blew in through.

If you guessed “that wall, AND THE CEILING”, then you are totally correct, and either a fellow vendor or a mind reader. 

I have put together a helpful illustration of the situation.  

It was also pretty adult…well, during the day time there were kids, and everyone was polite and friendly, but come nightfall, the Slutty Pirate s appeared in full force… I saw quite a few treasure chests and plenty of pirate booty, if you know what I mean by that incredibly unsubtle innuendo. Seriously, there was one lady walking around in a pirate coat…and nothing else. She kept bending over in front of our booth to look at socks, much to the delight of several dudes with cell phones. At one point, a guy was trying to take an upskirt (up coat?) shot of her, only to have a random passerby walk right in front of his shot. He fell to the ground with an anguished wail. “Whyyyyy! Why would you ruin that for meeeee!”

The Southern Pirate Festival, on the other hand, was a very different event. Held outside a Civil War Naval museum (way cool!), it was a day time only event that focused on music, kid-friendly events, and cannon firing. (which managed to catch me off guard once and scare the pants off of me)

It was also at this festival that we had…the bed bug adventure.

The bedbug adventure began when we found a rather dingy but super cheap hotel about 3 miles from the event site to stay in. In case you’re wondering, it’s the Rodeway Inn, 1600 East Highway 280 Bypass, Phenix City, AL 36867. We stayed there our first night with no problems, so the Costume Boss went ahead and paid (in cash) for another couple nights (and got a room for our friends).

All very well and good. We came back the second night, worked on some costumery, watched tv, and chilled out…then, right before I was about to tuck in for the night, I felt something tickling on my leg. I pushed back the covers and found… a freakin bedbug crawling on me.

For reference, a bed bug. 
We tore that room apart, ladies and gentlemen. We stripped those beds down like we were mining for gold. And we found, wouldn’t ya know, another bedbug! (also what looked like a bloodstain on the underside of the mattress. Notgonnathinkaboutit.)

Needless to say, we had a few things to tell the lady at the front desk. She told us the manager had taken the money with him when he left for the evening, so she couldn’t refund us, but she could offer us another room. Which was pretty reasonable. Except that when we scoped out the new room, we found…more bed bugs. And cockroaches and earwigs crawling on the walls.

PEACE OUT, BITCHES. We were not sleeping there.

Fortunately The Costume Boss was a Choice Hotels member or something like that (by this time it’s like 3am, I am exhausted and trying to sleep curled up in a little ball in the front seat of the suburban, so he could have been a member of the Justice League for all I was paying attention) and managed to get us another room at a Quality Inn about 1 minute further down the road from us and OH THANK HEAVENS it was clean, and really nice, and not infested with bedbugs. That last part was really important.

After we were out of the Room of Insect Hell, I did check out the google reviews (I always trust in the google reviews) for the Rodeway Inn, and found out that not only had every single reviewer left a one star review, two of them complained about bugs, and all of them seemed to indicate that the manager of the hotel would not be giving us our money back. You might recall, The Costume Boss had paid the guy in cash, which was all our hotel money for this trip. So if we didn’t get a refund, we were gonna be camping on the fairgrounds. (still preferable to spending another night in that hotel)

So Saturday morning, The Costume Boss left us in charge of the tent, and drove back to the Rodeway to talk to the manager. I cautioned him about what the other reviewers had said about their lack of refund.
“Oh, we’ll see,” he said cheerfully. You know how when the Joker is happy, it really means terrible things are about to happen? Let’s just say he had a bit of a glint in his eye.  

He came back a little while later with a full refund.  

But other than that, the Southern Pirate Festival was a really nice show, with lots of performers and some cool vendors. The weather was blessedly beautiful the entire time we were there. I wore pretty dresses and flounced about like a…tramp who normally wears bikinis trying to imitate a lady.

The Southern Pirate Festival was also the first event where I got to listen to The Brigands, a five-ish person pirate band, consisting of some rather talented and amusing musicians, most of whom I believe are related but I’m not too clear on this point. Anyway! Their performance was great, and they proclaimed Muppet Treasure Island to be the greatest pirate movie of all time. They have won my love.

After SPF, we barely had a couple days to catch our breath, though we did find some time to carve pumpkins with Matt’s family.

It's supposed to be a twilek dancing girl, apparently I cannot freehand these things...
Then it was back on the road, this time to St. Augustine.  

We got in to St. Augustine at about 4am, and then had to be up and out of there at 11am, because the show opened at 3pm, and we were supposed to be set up by one. Or it was open at one. Or we were supposed open at 5pm and we had to be ready by three. In other words, clear communication was not a strong point from the organizers (or The Costume Boss) at this faire. Eventually we got the booth set up and the faire was off to a galloping start!

Well, kinda. First we had to deal with the Fire Safety guy. Apparently we needed to show him proof that our tent was fire resistant. Now, our tent is made out of flame-proof canvas, and we always have a fire extinguisher with us at shows, within easy grabbing range, but apparently that wasn’t enough for this guy. We needed…PAPERWORK. 

Crap, we didn’t have any. So we had to call the mill that sold us the cloth to send this guy authentic proof of its inability to spontaneously combust. All the while he made vaguely threatening comments about how if we didn’t, we were going to have to go home (or buy some new tents while we were down there, or something). Now, we’ve done like, several dozen faires, and this has never been an issue, but every faire has its own rules and quirks and such…but what was biting my ass was WE WERE NEXT TO A DAMN TIKI HUT. As in, the thing made of sticks and leaves and highly flammable materials. And this guy is after us like we’re the fire hazard??

It was a pretty chill show, though – we had a sprinkle of rain here and there, but we had learned our lessons since Tybee and covered everything in plastic and put a rain fly around our tent – and there weren’t a huge number of people, but the people who were there were very dedicated costumers who were thrilled about lots of the stuff we were selling (which is always an ego boost)

Also I got to hold a parrot.
There were, however, three huge perks to this show.

#1 – WINE SLUSHIES. Yes, say it with me. Wine slushies. One of the booths near us, the  “Winey Wench”, specialized in slushies made with wine and oh my god, if all alcohol tasted that good, I would never sober up. Particularly if they were all delivered in slushy form. Yes, I am the kind of person who orders blended fruity frozen drinks with little umbrellas. Anyway, she had mango, orange creamsicle, sangria, strawberry kiwi, chocolate, and peach… I tried two of everything and we ended up buying three bags of slushy mix. It’s wonderfully simple, you use 3 cups wine (or any alcohol, they occasionally used vodka or baileys) and 6 cups water (or milk or what have you), add slushy mix, freeze, thaw for 30 minutes, and eat. No blender required!

#2 – Tammy and Robert Derwick. A married couple we first met at Tybee (at the encouragement of Matthew Morse), they are both fantastic and unique artists. Robert does glass etching on mirrors, and Tammy does mermaids, and their stuff is gorgeous! I have a secret fondness for mermaids (particularly the dark and deadly kind, though Tammy’s are much more pleasant looking). Also, they’re very nice, and when it was slow at our booth, Matt or I would slip away to chat with them. Check out their work here:

#3 – Pirate Bash! Saturday night, we went to the pirate bash, a giant dinner party attended by all the local pirate crews and some old school royalty annnnnd the Brigands! Hurrah! It was an excellent dinner (shepherd’s pie, absolutely amazing barbecue sandwiches, corn bread, coleslaw, macaroni….oh, I ate so much food…) and then after dinner, there was dancing! Pearl managed to teach a group of people how to do a fun old line dance, and there was a pirate boy who was very light on his feet who managed a jig. I managed to sway in one place, being quite full and content to watch.  

All good things must come to an end…and Sunday afternoon, we broke the tent down in record speed and hauled ass outta there…that 9 hour drive is no joke!

So now I’m back in town, catching up on lots of work (and missed meals, and lost sleep) and trying to decide how I’m going to spend my two month convention break. (Hopefully shooting lots of cool stuff and getting some costumes done)

But, now you know why I wasn’t around for pretty much all of October  ;P Would I do it again? Hell no, I missed all the good local Halloween parties. Also, I have bed bug bites on my hand.

<3 What did you do for Halloween? 

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