Ye Olde Gamery: Version 1.1

This is the first "permanent" booth we built in 1985 at the new permanent home of the Maryland Renaissance Festival. In prior years the Festival was held in Symphony Woods, Columbia, Maryland, and only temporary, movable booths could be installed.

The 16x16-foot open-air Gamery had a square horseshoe-shaped counter with seating around 3 sides. Sheer drapes gave it a theatrical look. The roofline at the front was a big 14 feet high to catch as much sunlight as possible, since there was no electricity or way to light the booth. Fortunately it faced south.

At the back sat the staff entry door, a full 5 feet tall, and many a time did we bash our heads going in and out if we didn't duck far enough. Hey, many a hut in merry olde England had such low doorways. Folks must have been shorter a few centuries ago. For several years we didn't even have a door, only a curtain. On windy days we'd have to thumbtack it in place.

Here's a view of the roofed-over play area. The walkways were so tight we kept worrying that people would back up their seats and tumble backward down the steps. The uneven terrain on which the booth sat did not even allow for a wheelchair ramp.

In one of those early years, as booths sat untended to weather the winter as best they could, a record snow caved in the entire roof. Dick Jones and a crew of helpers managed to raise the Phoenix from the ashes. In three days they rebuilt it so the booth could open on time, and they installed a massive crossbeam that held the whole thing together ever after. If it weren't for that last minute, it has been said, nothing would get done.

As the Festival upgraded over the years to become more authentic, more theme-park-like, and as the attendance skyrocketed, our pitiful little shed became both too small and too, uh, unsightly. It became a case of tear it down and build it right or, uh, move out. We chose to build.

We begged and pleaded for more ground area to expand into, promising to build the most wonderful edifice. We came up with a grand design, complete with turret, and both management and the county building inspector approved the plans. We were able to expand backward into the backlot a bit, as well, so by building above a utility shed we wrested a loft out of thin air.

Our first contractor was not able to complete the job, nor even to start it, and we had just two weeks to create something from virtually nothing. A stalwart and masterful builder, Mr. Bob Alexander, ventured to get it done, and he did. At least a shell with floor, walls and roof allowed us to open. The exterior walls were stuccoed in time to look presentable, then we finished the detailing week by week. Here's a historic moment:

Photograph by Kimberly Kiddoo (1998)

Opening day, 1998 — Ready to greet visitors in the new pavilion are some of the Kadon staff, in hats, left to right—Cristopher Kiddoo (then age 9), artist Chris Palmer, gamemaster "Sir" Richard Grainger, game designer "Sir" Arthur Blumberg. Peeking out from behind them is the proprietress, Kate Jones ("Mistress Katrina").

By the next year we had built-in counters, the interior walls were stuccoed, and arched doors graced the facade. Our pavilion won the Festival award for "most improved booth" that year. By the end of that season, our palace was complete. The old booth is barely a memory now.

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