Our long-time helpers — Part 3 of  4

Photo by Art Blumberg
Rolinda Collinson has been around games, puzzles and brainteasers most of her life, and hung around for years at antique and craft shows and lately Renaissance Festivals. When Kadon's booth at the Maryland Renaissance Festival needed a dynamic performer to demonstrate the Royal Game of the Goose, Rolinda offered to take it on, beginning with the 2008 season. She shone in the role of Goose Mistress, entertaining young and old in playing this genuine Renaissance parlor game and even beguiling the King and his royal court, since 2009, to come in annually for highly theatrical game play. The game table sits in front of the Gamery under a big green umbrella, inviting visitors to merriment, unless it's raining, when it moves indoors.

A native of Maryland, Rolinda recalls that her family played all the time with the brainteasers her father still had from his own childhood, and every Christmas they would search for new ones to buy to challenge each other, like "Drive Ya Nuts", "It's Knot Easy", the red cube "Soma", and many others through the years.

Rolinda calls herself a "very artsy person". Fiber-art, especially quilting, is her passion, which originally drew her into "Ye Olde Gamery" in 2004, with all its geometric wonders. Design, color and layout in quilting is so much like the puzzles, seeking symmetry or not, and very intriguing.

Her four children are all gamers, too. The three youngest are the most avid, having attended the World Boardgaming Championships (WBC) since 2001. Her son Daniel made frequent appearances at Ye Olde Gamery as a rakish pirate and even helped out with occasional errands.

Rolinda is a member of the Boardgame Players Association (BPA) and the Games Club of Maryland (GCOM), and often played Scrabble at Barnes & Noble on Wednesday nights. In 2002 she won a championship at the WBC.

In real life Rolinda is an elementary special-education teacher. Her patience and her delight in seeing children learn are great assets and made her adept at teaching games, too. Her radiant smile and joyful appearance (note the garland in her hair) have certainly lighted up Ye Olde Gamery, and we were looking forward to a long and happy association—except that she fell in love and left us for North Carolina in 2014. We will always miss her and wish her all happiness.

Thomas G. Atkinson
came on board on Labor Day, 2004, through a serendipitous meeting with Kate at the World Science Fiction Convention in Boston. Turns out he'd known of us and been buying our puzzles for at least 10 years.

From the first moment, he fit like a hand in a glove, and we wondered how we had managed all those years without him. He looks wonderful in costume at our Renaissance Festival booth, and his familiarity with our products quickly made him a fine teacher. His many talents involve him in every facet of our designing, wood and laser production, presentation and logistics.

Thomas has been making costumes since shortly after his birth (his "Baby With Bib and Carrots" was voted "Best Use of Roots and Tubers" at GerberCon '64). He attended his first Con in 1976 and has been a permanent fixture since. His costumes include "The Empire State Building," "Chernobyl Clean-Up Crew," "2010 Pajamas," "Winter's End (Potted Plant)," "Spaceman Spiff," "Lot's Wife," and a score of re-creation outfits, including Star Wars and Star Trek. Here we see him in his Jedi Knight garb.

Thomas is one of the world's greatest Star Wars fans. He started collecting Star Wars toys and memorabilia when the first movie came out in 1976, and he has not stopped since. His collection forms the basis of The Star Toys Museum, of which Thomas is Curator. In 2007, a portion of his collection was on exhibit for several months at the Geppi Museum in Baltimore. An all too short interview about his collection is on YouTube.

Thomas has a great affection for the classic tangrams puzzle, and his car is instantly recognizable by the several designs attached to it with magnetic pieces. The designs change with the seasons, including a Christmas tree and Santa Claus. His former car sported a Star Wars paint design and was on exhibit in Baltimore's 2007 ArtScape parade. Its brazen theft in 2010 left a lasting sense of loss.

Thomas lives at Meerkat Meade with his spouse, writer Don Sakers.

Meshele Merchant
got involved with Kadon and gamepuzzles through Eric and was hooked after one visit to Ye Olde Gamery at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. A natural entertainer, singer, fortune-teller (tarot), dancer, poet, artist and artisan, and a fabulous cook, she brought all these skills and interests to her activities at Kadon.

She is also Kate's most frequent helper at shows in Florida. You should see this spunky petite gal wrestling with 10-foot poles and 8-foot-long table tops during set-up and take-down. She's amazing.

Puzzles were a new experience for her, but her avid curiosity and eagerness to learn soon led her to understand them well enough to explain them to visitors and to come up with new design ideas of her own. You can see examples of her alphabet patterns for Triangoes Jr., a continuing research project. Her discoveries with Hexdominoes and Roundominoes are a continuing delight. What will she come up with next?

Meshele has an exotic history. She was born somewhere in Asia, a place that may no longer exist as a separate country. Her family came to the U.S. as refugees when Meshele was only 4 months old, with one older brother. After that her parents produced 13 more siblings for her to help take care of. She has lived variously in California, North Carolina, and Texas. She thinks of Texas as her actual home, though she now resides in Florida when not helping out in Maryland or on the road.

They say don't mess with Texas. Don't mess with this mighty little lady, either:  she knows martial arts.

is a relative late-comer to the gamepuzzles scene but has taken to it with unbounded enthusiasm. His moniker comes from "Counter-Crock-Wise", based on a concept album of poems he wrote, "The Crooked King's Crock" (political satire), and his general independent mindset.

Eric has been in the music business most of his life, and for over two decades has been the stage manager for The Commodores, a career that takes him to their concerts from China to Africa and anywhere in between. Sometimes he even gets to do... pyrotechnics!

He also happens to be the son of Kate Jones, reunited after a 25-year separation. His expertise in setting up shows and being an all-around roadie has come in handy in helping Kate to redesign her new booth and to assist at her exhibits in art shows when he is not on the road at Commodore gigs. His natural showmanship, his quick grasp of the puzzle concepts and skill at explaining them make him a great asset with visitors to the booth.

As time has become available between music gigs, Eric spends more of it getting more deeply involved in the gamepuzzles adventure, helping not only at shows and at the Maryland Renaissance Festival but also in the laser shop, the wood shop, and with developing video clips about the various puzzles (a project under construction).

Eric has an amazing capacity for original thinking, philosophy, technical savvy and awesome street smarts gained from a stint in the military and from having lived in Mexico, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and being in the high-tension creative atmosphere of the music business. On the side he's a free-lance entertainment manager for nightclubs and festivals. He knows how to fix and solve anything. You'd want him along in any emergency.

For relaxation Eric plays his guitar and writes. Recently he has also been inspired to design gameboards. Stay tuned.

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