A Note to People Everywhere Who Run Events or Attend Them

As some of you may know, we are currently at an event. And as often happens, the event, and the things that have happened here, reminded me of running events myself. It has reminded me of the need to say thank you to all of those who give their precious time and energy so that we can have a wonderful place to go to be with our friends. And it has reminded me of the affect that bad behavior, premeditated, or not, can have on people.

To me, one of the most important things that we can do at events is to reward good behavior. The person who follows the rules and cooperates should be rewarded, by at least civil behavior, and perhaps even a thank you. That is not to say that we expect all people to be perfect all of the time. Have I ever forgotten to pre-register for an event? Yes. Have I ever left my membership card at home? Yes. But it would never have occurred to me to harass the people at gate because of my mistakes. I remember leaving our membership cards home many years ago at Pennsic. The people at troll were apologetic that they had to charge us the non-member surcharge, because this was before you could pull up memberships on line. I said it was my own darn fault and that they should not feel bad. They breathed a sigh of relief. What would being mean to them have accomplished?

And then there are the unintentional goofs. A poorly marked boundary line for a camp or shop that causes confusion. People are not mind readers. If we ask for clarification, because we are trying to follow the rules, do not be short with us. We are simply trying to follow the rules. If we assume that we are setting up our shop in the same way that we have for five years, and it is not what you intended, admit that the markings may not have been clear.

My favorite events have the boundary lines for encampments and shops so clearly laid out that there is never any question. That is what I have always tried to do when I laid out merchant areas. I wanted to make sure that every merchant got every inch that they paid for, and there would be no confusion, or difficulty, for merchants who came in later.

In the case of households, they are always free to renegotiate boundary lines with their neighbors, but the bottom line is, you asked for a specific amount of land, and that is what you get. Do not tell me on the day of the event that you have an additional twenty people coming. I may not be able to accommodate you.

And finally, if you screw up, no matter how “important” or “unimportant” you are, say you are sorry. We are all human beings, and we all make mistakes. A simple, “gee, I am sorry if I was crabby” can make all the difference in someone’s experience at the event. No one is too “important” to say “I’m sorry”.

Play nice and help everyone have a good time!

Vardos and Their Cousins: Part Five

Living Quarters, kitchens, shower trucks… what else could Vardos and trailers possibly be used for? Well, during my tenure at Pennsic there have been a bunch of shops that used wagons as the basis for their set up. The first one that I was aware of was the Old Stave Church, which sadly is no more. It was built on a tall trailer, and was actually something of a pain to get in and out of, and for its height had relatively little floor space. It was used as a shop for many years and always contained an interesting collection of things that ranged from fossils, to bars of pure tin (I own several), and scribal supplies like gold and silver leaf (I own a bunch of those, too). I went looking for a picture of it in my photo stash, but I didn’t have one, but then I found this great picture on the web, that includes both the Stave Church and the wagon/building that is used by Laurel Cavanaugh Goldsmith.


The Stave Church is obviously on the right, and the wagon used by Laurel is in the middle. The two story building on the left side is actually assembled on site every year from bolt-together panels, and is home to five or six merchants, ranging from potters, to several jewelers, and Billy and Charley’s Pewter shop.

The newest wagon/shop to appear at Pennsic is owned by The Haunted Bookshop. They decided that having a permanent place to display all of their books was preferable to setting up a tent and dragging out tons of boxes of books at each event. There also used to be a fabric shop over near the barn that used a trailer for their shop, and Klaus the Toymaker, The Guild of Limners, and Heart of Oak Crafts have been in wagons for as long as I can remember. At other wars I know of a knife/sword merchant who works and lives in his wagon/shop for comfort and security. We have actually considered a Vardo for smaller events, with a quick set-up shop under an awning.

wagon-collage-2Heart of Oak on the left and Klaus the Toymaker on the right.

In closing I would like to add a few random thoughts, in no particular order, for those considering making their own Vardo.

Understanding what your state’s vehicle laws are for trailers, campers and RV’s would probably be a good idea. Some states are very lenient and some require multiple inspections. Generally people are not permitted to ride in any sort of RV or trailer during transport (except for Class A RV’s obviously), for safety reasons.

A friend who built a Vardo also mentioned that when you buy a trailer, be sure that the trailer uses tires that can be easily purchased. Some inexpensive utility trailers use odd sized tires that may have to be specially ordered, which could be a real problem if you needed to replace one or more while you are on the road.

If you want more information there are at least two active Vardo Groups on Facebook: SCA, Vardo Trails: Vardos, Roma ‘Gypsy Style’ Wagons and Camping and Gypsy Vardo- The Original Tiny House

Vardos and Their Cousins: Part 4

Last time we discussed several different approaches to building Vardos, but this time I want to talk about alternative uses for Vardos and Wagons.

One of the first years that I attended Pennsic, I remember seeing a trailer in someone’s camp. The trailer had been decorated to look sort of like a post and beam building. I eventually found someone to ask what it was used for. The answer? A kitchen. Since then I have run across several larger encampments that have a kitchen trailer. I was told that this wagon, at Pennsic this year, is a kitchen. Unfortunately, I was going somewhere at the time and didn’t have a chance to see if I could get a tour.


The second most common non-living quarters use for trailers that I have seen in Pennsic camps is shower trailers. I had seen this trailer from the road one day, and popped my head into the camp to see if anyone was home.


A gentleman there graciously invited me in, answered my questions about the trailer, and even allowed me to take pictures. Here is a picture of the trailer from inside of the camp.


The first section of the trailer is a washroom with a sink, counter and garbage can, and plenty of room to change clothes. The area behind the door is a shower.

Now for people that have never been to Pennsic this may all seem a bit confusing, or over the top. A friend who had never camped in a proper household at Pennsic went this year. He said on facebook that he was told that the camp had a shower. He expected what we call “bag o’ mud”. Water heated in a solar shower bag – i.e. a five gallon lukewarm shower. What he found instead was a real shower with a propane hot water heater, and a sump. Pennsic is one of those locations where it is permissible to dig a sump for kitchen and bath water. In the case of the shower trailer that I just mentioned, they simply run a pipe from the shower to the sump. In the case of our household, which is a much smaller camp, we share a shower with our neighbors. We give them a little land and they have the pop-up with custom walls, The young men dig a sump, we have a pallet that goes over the sump, they have a hot water heater, and we provide the propane for the heater. A hose runs from the water spigot to the hot water heater, the shower, and the kitchen sink, which is outside and is used for washing dishes. The sink drains into the shower sump.

One of the old households that we belonged to had four showers, with a sump and a kitchen sump with a sink. There were about 24 tents in that camp, and everyone was crazy busy teaching, and running the archery range. Remember, many of us are living at Pennsic for a full two weeks. Comfort and sanitation are a good thing.

Next Time: What else can Vardos and trailers be used for?