It’s Time For Brigadoon

Kage Baker – as is pretty well known – loved the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. And for her, there was only one: the event started in the 1970’s by Phyllis and Ron Patterson,  started more or less in an empty lot on Ventura Bouelvard. In time it moved to the old Paramount Ranch in Agoura, where it stayed for many glorious years and where Kage joined it.

She followed it to San Bernardino and Santa Barbara. She joined the Northern Faire (same folks, but in Marin County) and followed that one too – to Blackpoint Forest outside Novato in one direction, and to Stafford Lake outside of Novato in another direction. Thirty-odd years passed, with all the attendant jokes entailed. There finally came a time when the Pattersons could no longer hang on to the Faire, and Kage was getting tired and beginning to develop a strange stitch in her side …

These days, there are descendents of that One, True, Original Renaissance Faire at both ends of California. The Northern Faire runs July-ish, at Casa de Fruta a little south of Gilroy. The Southern Faire opens TOMORROW (!!!) in Irwindale – you can find information on them at I mention them because, while the Faire has changed a lot since Kage and I ran away with it in the 1970’s, that Faire in Irwindale is the descendent of it, still inhabited by many of the people I love. And their kids. And in growing numbers, their grandkids …

Today has been the last day to build the set – which is largely done by the performers. The Company builds generic stages, ale stands, security bases, etc. Specific stages, booths, eating houses – all those are built by those who use them, the people selling chicken and candles and blown glass and rare incense; the people demonstrating spinning and weaving and sword-play and child care and the art of being alive 500 years ago … and all of them have only until 10 AM tomorrow to finish the work.

I used to do this. It takes all of three weekends and then some; and you have to fit rehearsals and workshops into it somehow, too.  By this time on the last Friday, the hammers and screw guns and paint brushes have been going since dawn; they will keep on going until the sun rises on Saturday. The night will be loud with drill motors and sweet with the smells of sawdust and paint. Meals will be taken standing, often at perilous heights.

From time to time, another of the great canopies will go up, and for that people come running from everywhere to get it aloft. I’ve not a canopy rigger, but I have spent many Last Fridays Before Opening hauling on a rope by moonlight, watching as the Roof of the World rose into the dark air … it’s what you do, if your own work is finished. You go find someone else to help. Neighbors have spent long evenings sawing out mason-board shingles for me; I have stayed up until dawn carving pegs out of dowling for someone else. More than one dawn has found me clinging to the side of a roof in my shift and a tool belt, stapling burlap curtains over some offending piece of the 20th century.

A significant portion of my friends – even some of you, Dear Readers, who won’t read this love letter until Monday night – are out there now: building, setting up tents, finishing walls and prosceniums and costumes and hastily-bolted bags of cheap tacos. Some folks will cook something decent for dinner (Oh, blessings forever on you, Mrs. Jacobs!). Some will run all night on coffee. Kids will run amok, and help some, and lose drill chucks, and fall asleep in nests of quilts and hay bales. Somewhere about 2 AM, a group of people with fried eyeballs will find themselves standing in the spring darkness, watching the paint dry on Main Stage and passing round the life-saving elixirs of brownies and single malt scotch …

Tonight, the Village will rise with the Moon.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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21 Responses to It’s Time For Brigadoon

  1. Regina says:

    Thank you, Mother. As my Lord, and kin, carve mortises and tenons, paint and cover roofs, I have stitched and ironed and collected my kit, and some others’ bits, to begin the trek to our alternate life. Who knew a prickly Scottish Householder dwelt within my breast? But, here she comes.

    It will be, at least, a two-generator night to get His folly ready for unveiling. For years I said, if you told him you would build him the Taj Mahal out of toothpicks, he’d just ask where you were going to put it. When I told him the joke he waited a few beats. “Walnut” was all he said.

    Happy Spring, everyone.


  2. Hanna Longdo says:

    I am crying. Thank you.


  3. Kate says:

    Don’t cry, Ladies. This is a good time, and happy memories. And you, Hanna – you’re still smack in the middle of it! Maggie and I are the ones that have to stay home and write.


  4. This sent a shiver down my spine. I’ll be at home tonight, drafting patterns for the costumes that will bloom at next year’s Faires, but my heart is with you all.


  5. Tom B. says:

    The magic rises strong from your well-chosen resonant words.


  6. Thanks Kathleen…very sweet (and thanks again for giving Chris a seat for his last DCF). xox D


    • Kate says:

      Thank you, Danese. But really – I can’t accept any praise for Chris’s “At Home’. I wasn’t involved at all. My house was just open as usual.


  7. Chamber Potts, The Tinker says:

    Kate, it was wonderful seeing you at Dickens this past season as you are never far from my faire thoughts. I am not doing the run of Southern this season and your words really hit home. Thank you.


  8. johnbrownson says:

    Oh, my God, Kate. You brought it alive for me. Not just what is happening as I write this, but the connection between what I still think of as “the real Faire” and what is happening tonight. Suddenly, I wish I was with them tonight, at the unfortunately named Casa De Fruita, doing what I did, thirty years ago! Suddenly I feel the connection between “us” and the people who are busting their butts to get their booths built, tonight. It’s not dead. The song goes on. Thank you!


    • Kate says:

      Tonight, Buff, they are building at Irwindale – whcih is even less fortunate that Casa de Fruta. But they’re making magic there, as always. Casa’s turn will come in a few months.

      Tonight … I bet the fog has crept down from the mountains behind Altadena, and the lights of LA to the South make a yellow stain on the sky over there. But our friends are all working by lamplight and arc light and freaking flashlight, getting it all ready for tomorrow. The generators are running, there’s a little music behind the purr of drills and saws, and considerable laughter as all our folks try to make a dove-tailed joint …


      • johnbrownson says:

        Well, that’s a little bit embarrassing, but it just shows how far I’ve drifted from what remains of the scene. Tell you what: I’ll pay some attention to the opening of the “Casa” Faire, this year. It’s close enough for DJ and I to attend easily. I’m always afraid, frankly, that it will be too painful to bear. Maybe not, though. Might be worth a try.


      • Kate says:

        There are old friends there, and memories. And beer helps, too.



      • maggiros says:

        John Brownson, there are also tall old trees, and the smell of damp earth, and oak leaves littering the path. It’s not the old homestead, but what is? It’s a good faire


  9. I am speechless with tissue in hand… This is beautiful. I am a second generation of sorts… My uncle was a street performer occasionally at Agura and at the Shakespearean Faire in Oregon.
    I raised my three Faire Brat Daughters as a single mom working Southern and a small booth of my own in the smaller faire circuit. My youngest was born on a Wednesday and we were at faire in costume the following saturday and she turns 21 this month. I feel so blessed to be part of this community. Thank you Kate for sharing…


  10. Kate says:

    There’s nothing quite like us, Rayetta. Glad you liked this.


  11. Amanda Fischer, Margaret Gamage- Baroness Howard of Effingham says:

    Thank you, Mother. My own husband was out tonight raising a canopy over the stage at Court, and finishing the final touches before the sun rises tomorrow. He put in countless hours planning, measuring, sawing, climbing up the ladders, hammering, measuring again, sawing some more, climbing down the ladders, and hammering. Many of my family and some friends not involved with faire don’t understand how we can spend our own money, and not get paid. But how do you explain love?


  12. Mike Young says:

    Mother you nailed it. It was not building a faire or a stage it was building a village, or a home for how ever long the run was.
    Neighbors helping neighbors was only one of the many joys of that time of my life. One of the others was you and Kage. You both gave so much to those of us who came to know and love you both. I will cherish those memories of days and nights. I miss those times and am so glad I had them.
    Dickens is grand and has much of the magic but those years at Blackpoint, the many late nights of coffee, whiskey (Scots and Irish), the songs and stories are a blessing beyond value.
    Thanks for bringing them back into a sharper focus.


  13. Lynn Downward says:

    I was in England (!!) when I read this blog and cried and cried for ‘our’ old faires of Agoura and Blackpoint. I know it’s still there but so much has been lost (and so many) I can’t think of it the same way. You changed that for me, Kathleen. Thank you.


  14. Mark says:

    Stan sung it for us back when the world was young…


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