Boffers, Balloon Animals, and Juggling Balls—Oh My!

By Lady Mary of Montevale
Features Reporter, Pennsic Independent

Wednesday’s 11th annual Pennsic Children’s Fete in the Barn was a resounding success. Like Mary Poppins, it was practically perfect in every way.
From improved traffic flow which had no one waiting in line to register for more than 20 minutes to the estimated 500 balloon animals created on the spot by three balloon artists to the hot, sweaty parents who trudged out of there, laden down with booty and goodies at 4 p.m., it was simply a wonderful afternoon.
First and foremost, it was a wonderful afternoon for the 351 children who attended the festivities. They were streaming in all afternoon, almost right up to the last minutes, according to Baroness Cairistiona (Atlantia) who was in charge of registration.
If you were Madeline (4), it was wonderful to have a purple, pink, and silver sparkly butterfly painted on your left cheek that matched your very special pink and purple dragon friend that you brought to the party. The dragon is a very new friend—no name yet, although Madeline confided that she knows this is a girl dragon.
If you were Justin (9), it was wonderful to be handed what you immediately declared to be “the best balloon snake I have ever seen.”
If you were Rebecca (7), it was wonderful to take three pairs of balloons and some rice and find they could be turned into three juggling balls of your own.
And if you were any number of young lords (and even some young ladies), it was wonderful to use a foam boffer sword to rush an armored adult fighter (who is also armed with a boffer or pool noodle), bring him to his knees with a cry of “Surrender to me now!”… And then find that you have just “killed” His Majesty Conrad, King of Caid. Even better, His Majesty also gives you suggestions to improve your fighting technique so you can try to “kill” him again.
For the 115+ adult volunteers, some of whom had been working for a year to bring this day about, the big payoff was seeing the smiles on the children’s faces and hearing their expressions of delight as they completed a picture, a necklace, or a figure in clay.
But there was something else perhaps just as important. All one had to do was look at the many pink gowns worn by the women working at the Fete, notice how many large, burly men were wearing pink tunics or baldrics, see the pink name tags of the volunteers which were embellished with the familiar twist of pink ribbon representing the fight against breast cancer. The Pennsic Children’s Fete, for the adults who work to make it happen, is a memorial to its founder, Duchess Arielle of Atlantia, who lost her fight against breast cancer just two weeks before last year’s Pennsic. The continuing success of the Children’s Fete and the pleasure it brings to the children of Pennsic are Her Grace’s legacy to Pennsic and to all of us.
Countess Rowan of Atlantia had high praise for this year’s director of the children’s party, Herrin Emeludt Hansler, who is also the Chancellor of Youth Activities for Atlantia. Her Excellency mentioned the year of organizational meetings, the email list, the solicitation of donations of time and supplies from other groups and from the royalty of other kingdoms, and many other tasks that were part of what she deemed “an excellent job” by this year’s director.
Parents and children saw some of the results of improved traffic flow (just one entrance point and just one exit point) and improved security measures for the fete this year. Large tables blocked most of the open side of the Barn to keep anxious children from just rushing in to join the fun before they’d been registered. Parents wore pin-on tickets for each child in their care, and a 6-foot-plus muscular door “dragon” kept on eye on the exit spot so children would not leave in the company of anyone other than a parent.
Countess Rowan also praised HRH Princess Brianna of Atlantia and the other members of her household who hold fundraisers every year to finance the refreshments served at the fete and then handle the serving of those refreshments at the party. This year, the liquid refreshment was a choice of lemonade or water—both very welcome in Wednesday’s heat and humidity.
The inflated jumping castle was just as popular this year as it was when it was first introduced last year. Andreas (Atlantia), who has been involved with the children’s party since its very first year, was keeping admirable order at the castle, where there were weight and number limits on how many could jump at a time, and where Andreas made sure that each set of jumpers kept to their limit of exactly 3 minutes. Just like last year, the castle was one of the first places the children formed lines as they entered.
Many youngsters left proudly clutching the muslin tote bags on which they had creatively and colorfully painted iron-on transfers of heraldic images. This very popular all-in-one activity and souvenir was the work of Baronessa AnnaBella di Cherubino and Baroness Elsbeth Donofrey, both of the East. Her Excellency AnnaBella donated the plain muslin tote bags and ironed on the transfers of the heraldic images that Her Excellency Elsbeth had drawn. Older children received slightly plainer totes so that they could create their own heraldry.
Not every volunteer at the party was a veteran. Evelyn (14, Atlantia) is attending her very first Pennsic. While her mother was part of the band of bardic performers who performed both as a group and individually as they roamed the party, Evelyn was a “fan girl” for Countess Rowan and other noble volunteers.
Thanks to the heat and humidity, and the closed nature of the barn, there were many other adults fanning themselves as well, whether with proper fans, straw hats, or even just sheets of paper. The kids were having too good a time to care about the weather.
After all the children had departed, some rather reluctantly and some of the youngest ones dozing in their strollers or wagons, Herrin Emeludt summed up the afternoon with these words: “We had a lot of fun and we will do it again next year.” Her Grace Duchess Arielle would most certainly approve.