My last entry was a bit of a downer, so I wanted to think of something happy to write about today. As I looked around the web for inspiration, I found it in the strangest place…the calendar at the bottom of the screen. It’s coming up on October, which means it’s coming up on the 10th season that the Hounds of East Fairhaven have made an appearance in the cozy village at CRF! Ten years…
The first year there were four of us humans and about ten greyhounds all together. We didn’t have our own building but were annexed onto the Lord Mayor’s Court instead. We sat on benches in the back. We left during the shows so that we didn’t steal focus. Orphans brought the dogs water and tucked blankets around them when it got colder. We learned to stick weave and more than we ever needed to know about bullfrogs. We probably lost several stone among us from the sheer amount of walking we did.
The second year we were thrilled and amazed to have our own tent, despite it’s placement in front of a storm drain that sadly got blocked halfway through the season. Our tent, or “A River Is Still Running Through It,” was too small for a platform, but we brought a dining room table, chairs, trunk, sheepskin, and a variety of oriental rugs and made it home. We had new members and I think our running total was about 6 humans and 15-20 greyhounds.
Something happened before year three and we lost lots of members. There were three of us that were regulars, but luckily we all had multiple hounds so we still had at least 5 hounds at any given time. Our tent was in a new place, over by the joust. We drank chai tea and listened to the horses behind us in their paddock. We played with the drums from the stall next door, and put fairy wings on the greyhounds (much to their general UNamusement). With a huge open area behind the jousting arena we did lots of lure pole and other demonstrations, much to the delight of the patrons (and the dogs, who got to RUN). We camped on site for the first time, some in tents and me in my Element. We were feeling like part of the CRF family.
Fourth year rolled around and we ended up at the other end of the festival, right by the front gates! There were cinnamon almonds and chai teas within arm’s reach, as well as pumpkin milkshakes and tiramasu. The lure pole demonstration was a great hit, even when the dog being demo’ed ran past the handler and joined the audience at the Tortuga Twins show. There were hay bales and yellow jackets…the latter giving us trouble in the tent and in Joanne’s corset.
We started our fifth season with a new spring in our steps and our hips, as we were positioned next to the Jewels of the Caravan. We snuggled with our dogs on our new platform and learned new words like yalayahabeebee. We feared being so close to the petting zoo, and were thankful when only one rabbit broke free and came visiting…luckily during houndie nap time. By the end I think some of us had morphed into half fewterer, half bellydancer!
The sixth season is a bit of a blur to me because I was in Alabama. The woman in the photo up there was an absolute lifesaver for me, as she agreed to take on the leadership of the group in my absence. HOEF is like my child…it was my idea in the beginning, I gathered a group and went to CRF to pitch the idea, and I’d been there almost every opening since we were given the green light. To hand it over was heartbreaking, but at the same time I knew Debbie loved it as much as I did. There were growing pains that season including a strange argument over a displaced young tree, but the two times I visited it was like I’d never left.
Come seventh season I was BACK and raring to go. Our tent was borrowed, due to Mother Goose’s inability to be there due to illness. We painted a concrete goose, put a bonnet on it, and put it in front of our tent lest we forget to send her our best good wishes and thoughts for recovery. Once again we were near the almonds and the chai, but I was without one of the originals…as I walked the grounds the first morning, I could feel the presence of a certain white and dark brindle hound just to my left, nuzzling my hand and then dashing off in search of a Tortuga show. It was Daisy’s first season, and the first time that I went Pirate…and may never go back.
The eighth season saw us with new wonders to behold. Under Debbie’s leadership the group had been given a BUILDING! A permanent place to be…no river would run through it and no late autumn Carolina monsoon wind would carry it away. We had sparse furnishings but we had a storage room/time out room for tired hounds. We had our own real backstage area. We settled in and made ourselves at home. We had become part of the CRF family.
The ninth season I only made it for one weekend because I was away…far away, here in England. I remember walking past the flying machines and toward the HOEF building and feeling like I was going to explode from pride, from jealously, and just from happiness to be there…to see them doing what I knew they were so good at doing…to see what HOEF had become, and to remember huddling in the back of the mayor’s tent that first year. This year will be the tenth season and again, I’m only there for one weekend. But next year…Katy bar the door, I’m back! Now…where’s my sewing machine?
For more information about the Carolina Renaissance Festival or the Hounds of East Fairhaven, please visit the CRF website and click on “Entertainment.” Much love and thanks to all the cast and crew over the past ten years, and special thanks to Debbie Rater, who flies the flag high for HOEF every day of the year, and has kept it alive for me to come back to next fall. Ya-lah, ya-lah? Arrrrrrrrr…