Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Renaissance Community Responds to Hurricane Katrina

Originally posted September 2005
by Gael Stirler
(September 9, 2005) Even before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, Lord Colin of Tighan began efforts to help those displaced by the weather by founding a Yahoo Group called SCA-Disaster. Within days hundreds of people joined the list and began offering their time, homes, money, and supplies.

Outside of New Orleans in Georgia, the outgoing King and Queen of the SCA Kingdom of Meridies, which comprises Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, parts of Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennesee, were overwhelmed with people calling their home, or e-mailing with questions and offers of help in the days after Katrina hit. Suddenly their ceremonial roles took on new meaning as they became the faces of strength and comfort to a populous ravaged by reality.

Renaissance Festivals

Rick Hight and Alvon Blumfield, owners of the Louisiana Renaissance Festival, (LRF) located about 25 miles northwest of New Orleans, evacuated the faire site taking with them all of their computers and equipment before Katrina hit. Then they waited. They resisted their fears for several anxious days not knowing whether or not the faire survived. Some of their cast members lost homes, vehicles, and pets. Rick Hight, co-owner and general manager of LRF, finally got to survey the damage. He said the damage was was minor, just a few roofs, a backdrop, and scattered debris. "The Louisiana Ren Festival will open on schedule!"

Owner Rick Hight is pleased that there was no flooding and very little damage to the Louisiana Renaissance Festival site.

Hight wrote in his e-newsletter, "Many of our volunteer cast are having problems due to Katrina. I know of at least five of our cast members that have houses in New Orleans and/or Slidell that have suffered major damage. The people that evacuated have to figure out how to pay for where they are staying and how to buy food. Several of them are out of work for the duration and some of them are trying to figure out how to survive without their last paycheck, which is 'in the mail' for the duration."

Chad LaComb, President of the Renaissance Living History Center (RLHC )at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival, expressed concern for the bulk of the cast members who reside in New Orleans and Southern Mississippi. The RLHC is a non-profit organization that puts on the School Days at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival and has stepped up to provide aid to their community by establishing a relief fund. "The fund is intended to help these people replace some of the things that they lost, like clothing, toiletries, temporary housing expenses etc. and provide general assistance until insurance funds become available. With the cost of hotel rooms, food, etc., we know that most of our friends and family, whose jobs were also destroyed by the hurricane are going to quickly exhaust any available savings and we want to be able to provide, at least on a temporary basis, whatever financial assistance
we can until their disaster insurance kicks in." You can make secure donations at LRF Katrina Relief Fund

Owner, Alvon Brumfield mans a back hoe and clears debris from the parking lot at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival.

LRF dodged the bullet but the RLHC had to reduce the number of School Days to just two days in December, since many of the schools they serve have been closed. A teacher's workshop, planned for September 10th and 11th, was postponed to the end of October since the original site was filled with evacuees.

Hight expressed concern about keeping up communications and festival related mail delivery, "It looks like it will be another few weeks before the mail service will be available. I have been unable to get merchant packets sent out via the mail." Since it appears that mail service will not be restored quickly, he plans to hold the packets, including the contracts, at the gate for merchants. Phone service has been difficult since the phone lines in Louisiana have been overloaded. Hight set up several additional phone numbers that are routed to the festival office via the internet.

"I am hoping to get a chance to talk to every merchant some time in the next couple of weeks so that I can let them know about how we will process folks when they arrive."

Numbers for those calling LRF from within Louisiana.

  • 985-429-9992 (Hammond LA)
  • 225-612-0025 (Baton Rouge LA)

Numbers for those calling from out-of-state

  • 623-748-0169 (Phoenix AZ)
  • 941-894-0559 (Sarasota FL)

Katrina did not hit the Texas Renaissance Festival outside of Houston, but many of the people who work and volunteer at the Festival are involved in the relief efforts and are looking forward to the fun and respite that they will find with their friends at the Festival. TRF opens October 1st.

Science Fiction Fans

Science fiction authors and frequent convention speakers Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon have reached out to the fantasy, scifi, and role-playing games fans hit by Katrina by opening their home in Oklahoma. See http://www.gryphonking.com for more information.

Society for Creative Anachronism

On Tuesday, Lord Colin asked all SCA-Disaster members to post only crucial information to keep the list from being flooded (forgive the pun) with offers of sympathy and encouragement. "The response was overwhelming." SCA Pelicans (skilled administrators) and others stepped up to organize everything from fundraisers and care package deliveries to on-line forums.

Master José

Master José (Mathew Gnagy) of Jefferson City, MO has organized members of the Laurel (SCA artists) all across the Known World to replace lost and destroyed regalia. Forced to flee with only their two-month-old baby, the heirs of Gleann Abhann (New Orleans) had room for a small amount of clothing and personal papers, just before their home was flooded under eight feet of water. Their truck, with all the regalia, was completely submerged during the flood. Losses included the crowns, banners, coronation clothing, and thrones. The Gleann Abhann Premier Coronation which was scheduled for October 1, 2005, and would have established the new kingdom as the 19th Kingdom of the SCA, has been postponed indefinitely though many believe it should be held sometime before April 30, 2006.

Radu and Broinnfinn, the Lord and Lady of Gleann Abhann wrote passionately in an open letter dated September 2, 2005, "When all else has been lost, we cling to those things we still have - the slivers of normalcy and a life beyond the loss. Things like Gleann Abhann's First Coronation ARE important. Because, when all the banners, crowns and thrones are stripped away, when we stop addressing each other with funny titles, and go past that we dress in funny clothes, what is left is a community of the most generous and caring people that has ever existed. This is a community that deserves to be celebrated and recognized and cherished for the concern and brotherhood that we have shared." Read their letter in its entirety.

Within days, each SCA kingdom appointed a disaster coordinator and the Society Seneschal's office began acting as a clearinghouse for inter-kingdom relief efforts. Many other Internet resources are helping to bring together people to help those in need.

Lord Vallawulf founded SCA-911 after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to deal with emergencies affecting members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). This site helps coordinate "the movement of money, equipment, supplies, and people to and from those situations." The list allows more discussion than SCA-Disaster and serves the victims of any disaster, whether a house fire, tornado, epidemic, flood or hurricane. SCA-911 also helped during the forest fires of 2003 and 2004.

Max and Lethrenn, who stepped down as King and Queen of Meridies and the Principality of Gleann Abhann (an SCA region that includes all the areas hardest hit by Katrina) on September 10th, established a bulletin board in the last days of their reign, for the Medieval Disaster Relief Center. The MDRC is organizing in and out-of-kingdom events and disaster-relief drives. This site is rapidly becoming a hub of information and organization. No matter where you're located, if your SCA group would like to do anything to help, please contact these folks and let them know about it. They have established a donation fund for SCA members in need and will have a web page available soon where you can make donations securely with Pay Pal. Until then you can send donation to Medieval Disaster Relief Center c/o Sara Nichols (Duchess Lethrenn), 175 Lucile Lane, Lilburn, GA 3004

Efforts are currently underway to clean up the site for Gulf Wars, a large annual SCA camping event held in March. Here are pictures of the Gulf Wars site. Many of the large shade trees are gone. Wind and flying debris damaged many of the permanent and semi-permanent structures including the lodge and the fort.

Darren Hopkins and friends from the SCA worked 13 hours to get I-59 to the site cleared. Photo by Ellen Hopkins.

As time goes by and the waters recede, rebuilding will begin. Many precious things will need to be replaced. In our community it is even harder, since you can't go down to K-mart and buy a 15th century-style hand-painted scroll or an appliquéd banner of your personal arms. Many possessions will not be covered by insurance policies and couldn't be replaced if they were. For these reasons Yahoo groups SCA- Starting Over and SCA-Back To Normal have been established.

SCA corporate has put on hiatus all memberships in the areas that do not have mail service. "We don't want members in the affected areas having their memberships count down during a time in which no publications will be delivered," wrote Gabrielle Underwood, Director, SCA, Inc. After re-establishing a valid mail service address, each membership hiatus will end.

On August 31st, the Chateau Teafort Trio (George L. Reed, Andrew Nicholson, and Katheryn Kibellus) pledged all profits from their debut album to the Medival Disaster Relief Fund for SCA participants suffering damages as a result of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coasts of Louisiana, Mississipi, and Alabama. George Reed is also known as Master Aaron Swiftrunner (the presiding officer of the SCA). By Tuesday, September 6, the trio had raised $3,100 for the fund through CD sales.

"Whilst it is only a drop in the bucket of all that was lost," said the trio spokesman George Reed, "Every bit helps in a time where much help is needed. We are dedicated to using our art to help our extended family through a difficult time."

After reading many posts and fielding phone calls from all over, Mistress Gwennddolynn ni hAilleachain, Seneschal of the Kingdom of Meridies spoke for many when she posted, "I cannot convey how touched and grateful we are here in Meridies, for the outpouring of help and concern—we are truly blessed to have such good friends in the SCA. You guys are, hands-down, what we are all striving to be—noble"

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