By Mary of Montevale
First you get your face painted; then you fight. And finally you stand in line to get a balloon animal.
Margarita of Siena (Æthelmearc) served as the “gatekeeper” for the stage where only four or five children at a time could get their faces painted. Her father was there too, a white-bearded older gentleman who is not active in the SCA but who is attending Pennsic for the first time in order to spend time with his daughter. In fact, he had trolled in only about 20 minutes before the party began - his reaction to the War was, “Wow, this is big!”- and now he was painting young faces as cats and tigers.
It’s important to do these things in the right order, since those three stations at the party in the Barn are the busiest ones and always have really long lines. Unless you’re a boy. Then you can do the boffer fighting first, and the balloons second. Then, go back to the boffer fighting because a lot of boys don’t care that much about face painting... except if you can get to be a pirate.
Children’s Party Coordinator for Pennsic 41 Duchess Isabel Grimault (Atlantia) said the size of the boffer pit was doubled this year because it is so popular with both boys and girls. I noticed how wonderful the armored fighter volunteers were at dying with drama and style.
The party is a reason to wear your best or newest garb. That means you and your sister can wear identical blue-striped chitons. Or you, your sister, and your mom wear identical maroon red Viking dresses with brooches and swag. Mom has three strands of glass beads; you and your sister each have just one-that stuff can get heavy. Dad has a Viking tunic of the same maroon cloth, but he’s not at the party because he’s on the battlefield. Or you get to wear the hooded cloak that was bought from a merchant yesterday: one side of it is a shiny, metallic knight’s armor and helmet; the other side in a dragon with green spikes down the back and red horns on the head. Plus some more spikes, but it doesn’t let you breathe fire.
Many of the adult volunteers wear pink garb in memory of Duchess Arielle, who was the heart and soul of the Children’s Party for many years until her death from breast cancer three years ago. Some of the longest volunteer “careers” are those of members of her home barony and members of her household. One of these is HRM Brianna, currently Queen of Atlantia, the kingdom with sponsors the Party each year. Her Majesty pointed out that part of her pink ensemble this year were the custom made pink ribbon beads in the swag on her pink Viking apron dress. The dress is the same one she wore at the memorial service for Duchess Arielle in 2009.
There’s food too. You can pick a white cup with cookies, animal crackers, and goldfish crackers in it. You also get your choice of one lollipop - Blow Pop or Tootsie Roll Pop. There is water and lemonade to drink, and you can have as much of that as you want because it’s so hot in the barn. Lots of adults are using fans.
Volunteers with 15 years’ experience and other attending not only their first Pennsic Children’s Party but also their first Pennsic worked constantly to keep the refreshment table filled and everyone’s styrofoam cups refilled with water or lemonade. At least one first aid volunteer circulated with a spray bottle of cold water in order to mist down volunteers who could not easily leave their stations at various activities.
If you get tired of standing in line, there is usually no waiting at the tables where you can make things, draw shapes and glue sequins on a foam headband, and then wear it for the rest of the party. You can shoot “rocks” made of crumpled foil at a castle using a tabletop catapult. Color in a stained glass window with crayons. If you make a pipe cleaner fairy with cellophane wings you can pick the colors for the body and the frizzy hair.
The pipe cleaner fairies are a new hands-on activity this year. Presiding at that table was Eleanora Tyelmaker (East) who has done this activity for children in the Barony of Bhakhail.
Make a woven bookmark in your mom’s favorite colors to give to her. There’s a silly saying to help you get the weaving part right, “The weft goes weft to wight, and the warp goes the wong way.” Make an Italian flag on a pole with felt markers, small round gems. Girls can make the flag but call it a fan which is good because it is really hot in the barn, but it’s not good if you get glue in your veil and have to pick it out.
Chief bookmark supervisor Wynne (Atlantia) says all credit for the pun-y mnemonic does to newly-created Laurel Mistress Brienna of Lindsay (also Atlantia) who was “only” a Lady flax processor in Artisans’ Row on Monday. Lady Antoinette (Mid) was supervising the Italian flag/fan table and showed me how the banner worked as a fan as well as pointing out one flag whose creator had spent over half an hour affixing gems to his masterpiece.
You can paint a tapestry on cloth, hang it up to dry, and at the end of the party take it home. Lots of the girls chose to do the unicorn in the garden or the Celtic horse (because lots of girls like horses just as much as they like pink), but most of the boys painted the one of knights jousting on hoseback.
The pre-printed muslin tapestries were this year’s contribution by long-tome volunteer Mistress Anna Bella (East). The four patterns were designed by Mistress Ellespeth Donofrey (jousting fighters and Celtic horse) and Lady Barry White (unicorn in the garden and - of course - a cherub).
The Children’s Fete can be a lot of fun if you are at least four years old. If you’re too old, you can still get to come to the party by being a volunteer.
According to the head of Registration Cairistiona (Atlantia), serving her third year in this position, by 3 PM there were 322 children registered, a number slightly smaller than last year. Duchess Isabel, the event’s coordinator, told me there were 84 registered volunteers this year.
Oh, and you can sing a song that is part like one at home and part like Pennsic. “If you’re happy and you know it, shout ‘Vivat!’”
Queen Brianna, who was one of those singing and shouting Vivat! in the right places, says that Atlantia intends to keep on sponsoring the annual Children’s Party for as long as there is interest in having it at Pennsic.
Vivat! for Atlantia and especially for all the volunteers whose donations of time and money make it possible.