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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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]


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 .


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.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sarasota Medieval Fair - 2016

Continuing my quest to visit Renaissance faires in Florida I've not before visited - The Sarasota Medieval Fair.  I've heard very mixed reviews from friends on this event. I would prefer to get my information first hand - like actually going myself. I always try and get as much information as I can before I travel to new places. The Sarasota Medieval Fair web page was the perfect place to start.


They have one of the most informative websites I've seen so far. Good sign. I discovered I knew a few acts and vendors already but there was going to be over half the acts I've never seen before. That is really the point of making these journeys.


One of the common comments I've heard about this show is it's small. It may have been at one time but it was pretty extensive on my visit. From the map it did not seem like it was going to be an all day event but they managed to squeeze a tremendous amount of fun in a small space.


I was there from before opening gun till closing and try as I might, I did not see all the shows. If time was available I could have easily spent a second day and filled it with the things I didn't get a chance to enjoy.


As a 20+ year veteran of fair going, there have been a few acts I have seen dozens and dozens of times over the years. The Washing Well Wenches in particular.  I have enjoyed them in now four different cities and know several cast members. This show was in fact the only show I ever participated in - and that was on my first ever visit to a fair. One heck of an introduction to live theater.


In 20+ years I have never laughed as hard as I did at this particular show. I have never seen an audience member so stubborn as to receive a whole bucket of water to the head. This is live performance at its unpredictable and hilarious best and why I personally travel hundreds of miles to experience it.


The one thing that stood out was the number of friends I ran into. Both costumed or working but more importantly performers who were just in street clothes there to see the shows. I can't think of another venue I've been to that performers I know well just come to have some fun.


Oh - and I got a shattered lance shot. Only my second ever and it's a good one. For the rest of my photos from this event [click here] 

They are not all as good as this one but they certainly will give you a birdseye view of the this fair. Even though this one is the farthest from my house, I can see myself coming back next year.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ringling Museum - Sarasota

I know I brought my daughter to the Ringling Museum but is was in a time before I carried a camera everywhere I go. I have other photos from our "Tour of Old Florida" trip way back 10 years ago on her high school break. I have actually been revisiting many places in recent years from that trip.


This particular stop is still vivid in my mind like the colored glass that makes up the entire back of this incredible house. It was for some reason a place my daughter enjoyed fully.


I'm not sure if it was the beautiful house and furnishings, the outdoor sculpture garden, or the gigantic ancient paintings in the galleries I was not allowed to photograph.  This was actually a last minute choice as I discovered pre-internet our original stop was closed mondays. All I remember was my daughter and I spending way more time than originally allotted.


It was the same on my latest trip. What was supposed to be a quick visit and on to other things turned instead to an all day event and barely catching the sunset at our final destination.


There was a new tour added since my visit many years ago. The Private Places Tour. I did not take that tour but I should have. It was only $10.00 more than the guided tour and I am seriously thinking of driving back to do it. But on a Monday as normal admission is free for Florida residents.


I am actually old enough to remember a Big Top circus show. Seeing the entire circus life laid out in this model really made me think how lucky I was to have caught the very last performances of this kind. Of course the circus still lives in smaller venues but it's the Big Top that has passed on to history.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lady of the Lakes Renaissance Faire - 2016

I began a quest in May to visit my friends all across the country performing in various medieval faires. Well.... life. Not always the best facilitator of a well conceived plan. So I have regrouped and changed my focus to Florida Faires I have never yet attended. First stop on this re-imagined adventure - The Lady of the Lakes Renaissance Faire.


The last two faires I attended and the one I missed are huge. That has a certain appeal and plenty of variety. It also comes with crowds and a lack of interaction. I have other places I go for that type of activity.


I have over the last 20+ years made quite a few friends but friends that travel. There are shows I can no longer get a front row seat or spend time in conversation with the people I know and the people I will soon know.


Case in point is the Flight of the Raptor show. It has been many years since I have been in the front row with camera ready and right after been able to chat with the performers.


It has always been my goal to feel like part of the show rather than a far off spectator. At one point the falcon returned to center stage passing inches over my head. They do not make a sound by the way, just a puff of air as the pass by.

This is the reason I am choosing to pursue the smaller venues this season.  It's great to see old friends, recent friends, and make new friends. It is especially gratifying seeing old friends in new roles and marveling at the depth of their talents. 


I have several more Florida festivals planned so stay tuned. Or better yet join me.



For the rest of the photos from this festival [click here]

Monday, November 14, 2016

Tavares FL, America's Seaplane City

If you have been following along, I was in Mount Dora almost two months ago. We arrived  in Tavares on the Orange Blossom Cannonball, the vintage train that runs along Lake Dora. There was an event at the time but as we were enjoying that, I watched a seaplane launch down a boat ramp and take off.


There was not enough time on that trip to do it so I made a special trip just to fly. I have to say, there is a huge difference in this town between a festival day and a national holiday. I did not book ahead so I was taking a chance but I also only live 3 hours away and weather is a factor.


We had an event scheduled for the weekend so we took our chances and booked a room at the Key West Resort on Lake Dora. Perfect choice. The hotel is so new it's not quite completed. Actually a lot of the downtown was newly renovated or receiving those last minute final touches. When we arrived - it was a ghost town. We managed to walk right up and book one of the two planes. Total wait time - nothing.


There are several flights available from Jones Brothers at various prices so check ahead to decide what fits for you. We picked the middle of the road flight of $99.00 for a 30 minute tour of the lakes. Any longer would have exceeded my budget, but any shorter and I would have been right back in the office to fly again.


The plane flies low enough you can see every detail on the ground. We even skipped off a lake for that added thrill. You just have to say "This is better than an airboat ride" apparently. Our pilot was very accommodating. He even swung past the event were were going to the next day. I can not tell you how much I want to take flying lessons right now.


Sunset on Lake Dora is a magnificent site. This is now my third for the year. The locals tell me it never gets old. Speaking of which, this little daytime ghost town became a happening place right after the sun went down. There is plenty of parking which filled to the brim around 8:00 PM.


Sunrise from our hotel was far more spectacular than my cell phone could capture. Puddle Jumpers is right there in the photo. They made our lunch, dinner, and evening entertainment a truly special event. The manager took a special interest in us..... we seemed a bit lost when we were wandering around looking for a lunch place. It's not so much the place that's special in these tiny towns, it's the people.

The seaplane base is just a half block away. The train station just a bit farther. Everything we found of interest was a short walk. This was the perfect escape from our big town lives. Huge thanks to everyone who made us feel welcome.

Stuart Air Show - 2016

My goals this year were simple. Enjoy the show. Get good photos. I certainly enjoyed the show. I'll let me fans decide if the second goal was achieved. For the rest of my photos of the event,
[click here].