Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bay Area Renaissance Festival - 2017

Taking a quick count, I've been to seven other Florida festivals, most in the last few months, but this was my first ever visit to the Bay Area Renaissance Festival. Two reasons - It runs the same time as my home town fair and it's 300 miles from my home. My goal this year was to catch them all. Mission accomplished.

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I have heard wildly mixed reviews on this show from it's a must see to not worth the drive. I can say with certainty my review will not be mixed. I LOVED IT!!!! Easily takes the top spot of my favorite Florida Festival.


DSC_7660The first thing I noticed were the trees. As the sun got higher in the sky, I appreciated them more and more. The next thing I noticed was this fair is huge. I managed to walk through much of it before the crowds but it took a while. Later in the day the crowds made walking quickly impossible.

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Unlike every other fair I have been to, including Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Texas, and The Georgia Renaissance Festival, I knew virtually no one at this festival. Pretty much 3 acts, 2 vendors, and 1 Human Chess Match fighter. Meeting new people has never been my strong suit and it was pretty obvious as the day wore on that there are not a lot of photographers at this show. None I recognized at least.

Since I did my typical thing of showing up before the pre-show at the gates and being escorted out a half hour after closing, that situation changed dramatically. Considering the 20,000 views on my photos already, I think it's safe to say I made a few new friends.

So what can you expect on your visit? A very colorful royal court. I strongly suggest getting to the fair before opening to watch their show at the gate. You will also thank me for this tip when it's time for your journey home. Being closer to the street will greatly cut down your time exiting the parking lot at the end of the day.


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DSC_9646Like any good forest, this one is full of fairies. They show up in the most unexpected places. It's hard to tell from my photos but there is a larger percentage of children attending this fair then most I visit. That was keeping the faires and children's stage acts very busy.  Long before I brought my cameras to these fairs I brought my daughter. The best way to unplug your children is to take them to a full day of live interaction. And if you accidently get called up on stage and have to run around shouting about wearing your man pants....  yep, that's a memory you will share with your child and cherish forever.... apparently.

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One of the the big deciding factors in attending this show was to see the Human Chess Match. I caught their show recently at a different fair and yes - it was worth the drive to see them again. Could I have photographed it better? Ummm Yes. I missed the real action shots. My camera is fast - the action on this stage is faster. At least you will know these are the slowest moments in the whole show. 

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Then there is Acrobellum. This is my third time seeing this troupe and I'm not sure how to describe them. They put on an amazing stage show but they are also everywhere during the day. Collectively they are like a toddler, high on sugar and maybe a spoonful of adult cold medicine. They are non stop everywhere from the opening gate, to the parade, to cheering at the chess match, wandering the lanes, to the last ones I saw as one of them escorted me to the exit after closing. They raise the energy level of any fair but here they were on fire.

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This is barely a fraction of what I saw in two full days and really I would need two more to even begin to say I saw it all. I am seriously considering going back the last weekend. If not - Next year for sure.

For my many photos on this trip [click here].




Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New Hurricane Shutters and PGT Impact Windows

I'm no stranger to making huge financial decisions. This was a difficult one as it was way out of budget. I purchased this house four years ago by emptying my savings and slowly fixing as I went. To take a quick look at the before pictures [click here].


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I could not afford Impact Glass on the patio doors so I went with accordions. I was completely opposed to individual panels as is typical in Florida. A bit inconvenient and far cheaper but my father can no longer put his own up. I plan to be here a while so best to plan for the future.

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IMG_1124So the big questions - Why Impact Windows, and what was the cost.

The first consideration was none of the windows in this house functioned. Cracked glass, leaks sealed with duct tape, some did not open, of those that did, none would stay open without a prop, and out of 12 windows only two had screens. The cost of accordions for the whole house would have been less even if I replaced the windows with regular glass. I would still need to put panels on two as they were too small.

The windows I chose are double glass, with an inert gas between the panes. They reduce the light, and greatly reduce the heat. Also they cut the noise down considerably. For all the logical reasons - Impact Glass was the way to go. Will I save enough in energy costs to pay for them? Not a chance but every little bit helps.



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So now about those cost considerations. This whole job was just under $20,000. I retired a year and a half ago and my payout went into two bathrooms. I had a few dollars left in savings but not even half. I priced out accordion shutters well over a year ago and was saving for that but it would have been a bad choice if I ever decided to change out the windows. I got a quick price on windows over a year ago and had sticker shock. Several months ago I had a company quote and because of the "This price is only good for tonight" hard ball sales tactic - I threw them out of my house. I looked into some local companies but I was finding mixed reviews.

Well two things happened. A near miss by hurricane Mathew prompting me to make a decision and a slight uptick in my stock investments for some strange reason helping me with the rest of the cost.

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That's when I called Home Depot. John the sales person could not have been nicer or more laid back. He did the measure, showed me the specs, presented to me the windows I had already researched, set the price. I signed the deal. That started a flurry of contacts with Home Depot. An entire team of people doing scheduling, installing, and satisfaction surveys. Probably the most pleasant team of people I've worked with on a project this large.

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Let's talk about the mess. It's loud, dirty, hot, but as far as a mess, my floor might have been a bit cleaner when they left. I had to do a little dusting but nothing more than a normal week. they covered everything in the house. The whole job took two days but had a missing piece not been delayed in arriving, it could well have taken just one. The missing piece actually showed up by the end of the day but the guys had knocked off at 3:00.

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The accordian shutters had actually been done a few weeks prior, in about two hours. Those guys also swept up leaving my patio in perfect condition. Home Depot handled all the permitting. The inspector was out the very next day to pass my installation. My schedule is pretty open right now but a three day start to inspection project is far quicker than I was expecting.

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I don't mean to be making an advertisement for a particular company but I have used Home Depot for a kitchen install years ago and I knew what to expect. They were actually a few hundred bucks more than Mr Hard Sell after the 5 "discounts" he was offering but since his "deal" was only good for one night only, I felt like maybe his warranty would be the same. I'll take my chances that Home Depot will still be around in the future. If you have any questions, shoot me a comment.

For a few more photos of the old and new windows [click here]


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Florida Renaissance Festival- 2017

Back to the faire that started me on the path of super fandom.
The Florida Renaissance Festival. Since I was here last year I've been to Scarborough Texas, The Fairs in Lady of the Lake, Sarasota, Orlando, and Brevard, in Florida. In past years I've done the Fort Myers, and Gainesville faires, and even a trip to Georgia. This will always be my first though and the one I have the most friends.  I arrived on my favorite themed weekend - Time Travelers.

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I was not sure I was going to make much of an appearance this year but as always - Magic happens. I spent a lot more time talking to some really great people than taking photos. When I got home I realized I mostly took photos of people I knew. There were a few I just met but this is the kind of place were friendships can be made quickly and last a lifetime.

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Since this is the 25 anniversary of the festival, there was plenty of new shows to see. I tried to capture them but I will have to go back again next weekend and try a little harder.

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It was also great visiting with old and new friends I met in other shows. Makes it not seem so long when you get to visit with folks you just saw up the road a few weeks ago rather than letting a full year pass by.

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I have 300 more photos for those interested - Just [click here] I'm planning at least one more visit. Hope to get to the rest of the people I know. Maybe meet a few more for good measure.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Brevard's Renaissance Fair - 2017

Brevard's Renaissance Fair makes my 4th renaissance fair in 3 months. I had big plans to attend a different show but life intervened. I thought I knew all the shows in Florida and if you are following my blog you know I've recently been on a quest to visit them all. This is one I never heard of and it's only an hour and a half away from home.

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There is a good reason I've never heard of it. It's only their second year. There is plenty of things I don't post in my blog. The thought of getting away for a few hours and maybe seeing a friend or two was very appealing. I missed the opening by only about 5 minutes but there was no one at the gate so I was not expecting a large show.

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Well I significantly underestimated with my first impressions. It's huge in relation to the three fairs I recently attended. Just when I thought I was to the outskirts, cross a bridge and there is more. So much more in fact that I missed a considerable amount of the acts. A second visit is in order.

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Of course part of my delay in doing my usual show to show to show thing was the fact there were so many people there I knew. It would appear that I was way late in finding out about this fair. So many of my friends back for a second year I don't know how I missed the memo.

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I took a good amount of photos between hugs and conversations. For the rest of them [click here]. I did not necessarily post the best ones in this blog. I posted the ones I found in social media as profile pictures, show promotions, commented on, or shared multiple times. All in just 3 days.

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It's not as important to me to take the perfect photo as it is to capture the perfect moment that means something to someone else. I notice in every photo the smiles. Well that's exactly how it felt on this side of the camera too.

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Sometimes life goes a little sideways. The details don't matter. Happens to everyone. I suggest spending a full day with the most pleasant, uplifting, entertaining, and happy people you can find. Just eight hours with my friends at Brevard's Renaissance Fair and I have been smiling non stop for days.

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If you are reading this today, you have two more weekends for some fair therapy. So quit posting your political memes and get some fresh air. Maybe make a few new friends. Make a difference and support your local artists and entertainers. I've been doing it over 20 years now and I'm the happiest person I know even on my worst days.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Bridges of Palm City

Today was one of those rare days that I could have easily gotten lost in worries. Not really my style. To fight off the blues in my head I decided to enjoy the blues of the sky and water.

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I gathered my old camera, oldest lens, 36 year old beach cruiser bike, 56 year old body, and exercised the whole group. Keep things in good shape, they last a long time.

I had a vague idea it was a good day to shoot bridges and anything else of interest. The ride was more important than setting goals.

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After a year and a half of living in my new home town, I will be the first to admit I have done a miserable job of making friends. Maybe because I do things on the weekdays like get on my bike and ride at 7:30 in the morning. Maybe because even on a good day the people I know are spread all over the country. Many weekends I'm out of town so that does not help. On those rare days I want to sit and have a conversation over a cup of coffee, I have a bit of a vacuum at the moment.

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Hours into my ride I found a tiny church in the most perfect location you could imagine a church to be in.  I am hardly the most friendly person but as I was shooting the church I met the youth pastor Crisman Koechig. I am not what you might call religious but it did seem rather convenient to have someone to speak to on the only day I really needed it. In fact he was the only person I spoke face to face to all day.

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Probably not the most world changing conversation for him. For me it was significant. I explained why I was on this particular ride and he was nice enough to listen. He even offered to say a few prayers. No for me. I'm doing pretty well. But for someone currently in a pretty big need.

It never hurts to have someone build a little bridge for you, even if just to carry a message. Not all bridges are concrete and steel. If I was in the market to reacquaint myself with a church, I would certainly choose one where the pastor walks out in the street and talks to a stranger for a half hour. If he wonders if he makes a difference - today he did.

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It will be a few days, maybe a couple of weeks before I know how this will all turn out but today was a good day. That's all that matters right now.

To see the rest of the photos from my ride [click here]

To find out a little more about this church [ click here]

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Orlando Renaissance Faire - Year One

I was asked many times during my visit to the Orlando Renaissance Festival what I thought of the faire. This is the third new (to me) renaissance faire I've been to in about three weekends and the 10th venue overall in the last 20+ years. I arrived just before opening and left after close so I got to see it all. If you want to skip the reading and go right to the photos
[click here]

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I'll start right off with the three major complaints I heard during the day. The ticket price of $20 was too much for the size of the show, the stages needed to be raised, and no pub. Good points, all of which will be addressed next year I'm told. In my opinion, if you can do better for cheaper in the first year of a brand new faire, invite me. I would like to see it. Comparing this show to a 20 and 30 year old show is like comparing a new born to a college student. Unlike some - I will speak only to this show and not compare it to others.

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I knew most of the acts from my many travels and I always enjoy watching my friends perform. The point of my recent journeys to new lands and new faires is to see new acts. The Living Chess Board performed by Lance Orlando was by far the standout show of the day. I have seen many a living chess board but none with as much spark flying fury, high energy battles, nor earth shaking falls. When not performing, the cast of this show spent the day interacting with the visitors. So much more thrilling to cheer for a combatant you just made friends with a few hours before. They certainly held the attention of the crowd. They were also a big part of why I felt so welcomed at this show.

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So what did this festival get right? The location number one. This faire could grow 2-3 times its size in the given space easily. It will not take long to do so. Those attending this inaugural show were Pirates from St Augustine and Daytona, Cosplayers from Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, and Renaissance patrons from all over the state. There were even some folks from Orlando. That's just the ones I know. In most towns, the faire comes to you. In this place the world comes to Orlando. There are also a few thousand people living just outside the park and millions just a few minutes drive. This faire was primarily advertised on social media and in my humble opinion exceeded attendance expectations. It takes time to build a community like at other faires but to see so many friends travel from so far away was amazing to me.

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What was the biggest buzz I caught during the day? Next Year! Next year I'm bringing the cannon's, Next year I'm setting up a booth. I'm telling this person and that person they need to be here next year. There was a huge amount of ground by the lake unused and plenty of room for a joust on the other side. Some of my friends were ready to start staking claims on the unused space.

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This faire is the perfect alternative to a day at the theme parks or in my case - the perfect addition to. It is rare you can attend the first year of anything these days so it was quite a thrill to document the first year with my camera. I consider it the perfect soft opening for those of us who truly love outdoor live entertainment. I can guarantee I will be back over the next few years just to watch it grow.

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The best part of this year was the time spent with far flung friends I seldom see. It's the people that make these festivals a success, not the corporations. The more you go - the more people you know. That is part of the fun of attending .


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Beside - where else will a fairy make you a fish out of a soap bubble. I'll leave you with that thought. Till next year my friends.

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