Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge - Hutchinson Island

I have been almost too busy to explore lately but I decided to take a short break and have a look around my new home town for something obscure and off the beaten track. Just a short drive along the beach and I came across Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge. The 10 parking spaces told me this was my kind of place.

This little museum among the giant, modern coastal houses and condos has an incredible history in which our tour guide was well versed. Built in 1876 it was one of 10 rescue stations built along the coast of Florida. They were installed some 40 miles apart so if you were unfortunate enough to find yourself as a shipwrecked sailor, you would have a 20 mile or less walk to the closest rescue station. The sole job of the keeper was to feed and clothe any shipwreck survivors until their eventual rescue. I did not get a really good idea of how many shipwrecks a typical station handled in it's life time but this one had at least two famous wrecks to contend with.

One of the hard to believe facts I learned on my visit was that the population of Florida at the time was around 400. I assume that did not include the Native American population but even so, I passed more people on the road than that on the 15 minute drive over. It would be hard to imagine the loneliness and self reliance of the keepers in these stations. The bear trap inside and the story that goes along with it is a pretty good indication there was no corner grocery store. In fact the town of Stuart barely existed as more then a cleared spot in the wilderness.

Another important fact, there is no bar. Gilbert's Bar is more of a tiny sand bar than a drinking establishment.

The House of Rescue had a long history including as a submarine lookout post during World War II. This is the last of the Houses of Rescue and very well preserved. The house also has a million dollar view.

I have a few more photos from this unique museum so if you are interested in exploring further, click here

Monday, February 11, 2013

Florida Renaissance Festival - 2013

It's no secret I am a huge fan of the Florida Renaissance Festival (Click Here) I've been attending for 15 years or so and have gotten to know the actors and fans. I love to take my friends and see their reactions. Especially the first timers.  For the ones I just can't quite get to attend, I usually hear the same excuse."It's not my thing". 
Steampunk Fairy - Robin
On my very first ever experience I brought my very young daughter. It seemed like harmless fun. By the end of the day I had been intimately involved in the Washing Well Wenches show, covered in bits of stage at the Mud Show, and had a tiny acrobat leap down from the Barely Balanced act and walk across the bleachers right at me like she was in 3D. The music was like nothing I had ever heard on the radio, cannons were firing, swordsmen and jousters were fighting, jokes were flying, and the food was delicious. My reaction to that first visit - mild shock. This was nothing like the safety and comfort of my living room!!! I vowed never to return.
Jacques Ze Whippeur
Celtic Mayhem

Then suddenly a wonderful thing occurred.  My daughter talked about our one day at the festival for three solid months and I realized it was the only thing we truly shared, just the two of us. My mundane and dare I say boring life took on a new excitement. I began bragging that I was chosen from a full house audience and elevated to the stage. I told anyone who would listen what a great time I had. From there began a fifteen year pursuit of adventure. Annual pilgrimages to the festival and vacation trips all across this country shared with my daughter. Just the two of us.

Splatter Time Players
Meanwhile, back at the faire, I was having a conversation with Lickity Splickity of the Splatter Time Players before his show. He confided with me he had the only act at the faire that required no talent. Then he proceeded to tell me about his recent franchise expansion of the act. When the show started he managed to fill the empty bleachers to capacity in a drizzly rain and practically had those seemingly every day people in the front rows begging to be splattered by mud. Ummmm Lickity - That's talent!
Washing Well Wenches
Erin Amasan Masala
That got me to thinking about common excuse number two. "I don't like to associate with people who can't hold a regular job". I decided this year to put that philosophy to the test.

There are of course the professional actors as well as a cast of characters around the festival grounds. I've gotten to know many of them over the years so I thought I would quiz them about their day jobs. The results  in  no particular order - pediatrician, teacher, preacher, ER nurse, property manager, paralegal, anthropologist, software writer, therapist, and my all time personal favorite - Scientist. That's just the few I asked and darned if most didn't have a better job than me. In addition, I found out some of those costumes can cost in the thousands of dollars and you can't just throw them in the wash and drape them over the exercise equipment in the bedroom like your regular clothes. You would truly never believe which of the character actors go with which of those day jobs. It should be made into a contest.

Mad Maggie

Some of the full time performers are expanding their reach to keep me entertained throughout the year with internet radio shows, pod casts and even book writing. My good friend Mad Maggie (AKA Melinda Rabin) has just finished her latest - "Dragons are Real". I would love to say I'm friends with a famous author so help me out and click here to buy her book. My only talent is to be the best fan I can be and I'm proud to say I landed the first pre-order, signed copy.

My favorite hobby is photography and each year I hone my skills capturing the feel and wonder of this magical place. I got a pretty good start opening weekend. Click Here to enjoy my photos. I'll be adding more in the coming weeks. I'm really looking forward to fill my lenses during the newly added Time Travelers Steampunk weekend
There are 5 more weekends in Deerfield and then the show packs up and moves to Miami. Be sure and download the Florida Ren Fest smart phone ap. Your day will be better enjoyed if you plan which shows to see ahead of time. There are too many to see all of them in one visit.

Live performance is a dying art along with live audience participation. I have never brought anyone with me who didn't enjoy the event. The men, women, children, and creatures who perform at these shows likely work harder than you ever will. You just need show up and enjoy. If you still think this type of entertainment is not for you, I urge you to give your TV a rest,  leave your excuses and comfort zone at home, and take the plunge. Who knows what magic you may find.