Thanks to the many, many factors driving up the cost of a gallon of gasoline (and that's about a dozen more blogs worth of topic there), it's getting harder and harder to be a "rennie" these days. For those that don't know, a rennie is someone who makes their living, or a good portion of their living, working the renaissance festival circuit. Now, obviously, this isn't the lifestyle designed for financial riches (few rennies are looking for that) and many rennies were just scraping by about 3 years ago. Then suddenly, the price of gas more then triples and it more and more difficult to get that renmobile (you know what I'm talking about, the station wagon/van that is loaded to the gills with personal stuff and is covered in Wiccan and anti-Bush bumper stickers) from one festival to the next.
I know I've talked to assorted performers/vendors/workers over the last year or so and they're all saying the same thing. They're doing less and less shows and only working the ones that are closer to their home bases (if they have them) because festivals don't/won't pay enough to make it profitable to work there. Those that do continue to work their old circuit tend to multi-task more and more. I've seen many a stage act working as vendor help or working a game booth to bring in some extra $$$ to get by.
What's this mean to me, you might ask? Well, in terms of entertainment (which I know best), it comes down to this: Most festivals will try to keep the entertainment budget down at it's current levels or lower, regardless of the cost of gas. If acts are having to charge more to cover travel expenses, the entertainment director at a show can either give them the extra money and hire less acts, or hire different acts that charge less because they're local or stay long-term. The Bilge Pumps are a bit different than a lot of other acts on the circuit because we all have full-time jobs during the week. We always commute to festivals and stay in hotels and whatnot. We can afford to absorb the extra fuel costs because the ren circuit isn't how we make our living, it's just an expensive hobby. However, some of the other acts out there are getting the squeeze from festivals both big and small because they just can't afford to work there at the price they're being offered. It's not the festival or the act's fault, that's just the way it is. That means you'll start seeing more "home grown" acts appearing on the circuit. That's the term I use for acts just starting up comprised of former workers/cast members that have worked at a certain festival and it's become their home faire and they want to break into the professional entertainment ranks. It happens all the time on the circuit, hell, it's how we got started, but it does mean the visiting patron won't be seeing their favorite acts perform as they'll have been replaced with a burgeoning act that hasn't gotten their shtick together yet. Anyone who watched the Bilge Pumps in our first couple of years knows exactly what I'm talking about.
In the meantime, here's hoping that things start to look up in the trickle-down from the big-business oil world as I wish anyone who wants to live the life of a gypsy, traveling around from festival to festival, the best of luck. It's a brave lifestyle choice that has gotten harder and harder recently. For those of you that go to the festivals and watch the shows and eat the food, feel free to tip your performer or waiter/waitress. In many cases your extra dollar here or there can make a big difference for someone trying to eke out a life. For fat cats like the Bilge Pumps, though, feel free to tip us, too, because we're greedy like that.
Because it's all for me blog. Me jolly jolly blog.