Celebriel reports: Vacaville’s second Middle Earth Festival, April 21-23, 2006, offered a weekend full of varied activities to appeal to both die-hard Ringers and novices alike, including music and song, crafts, Tolkien discussion forums, and fun stuff including a costume contest, trivia contest, Hairy Foot contest, Gollum impersonation contest (one entry form to be shared by both personalities), evening party, and slide show of the New Zealand film locations. Also on scene were lots of Ren-Faire type vendors, food vendors, and, of course, Downtown Vacaville’s own many shops and restaurants.
In addition to buying new Lord of the Rings’ apparel, weapons, jewelry and collectibles, visitors could beautify themselves with temporary tattoos, henna designs, and a choice of elven hair braid styles.
Town Square free concerts included Celtic rock band Avalon Rising and the Sylvan Choirs and Tintinnabulist English Handbell Choir from Vacaville’s Will C. Wood High School, directed by David Barthelmess. The choir performed, among other songs, “O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!” in an arrangement by Mr. Barthelmess.
The Tolkien forums Friday night and Saturday were attended by small groups of knowledgeable and interested fans who discussed a wide range of themes, including hope, Middle Earth’s multicultural society, environmentalism and respect for nature (appropriate for Earth Day weekend), loss and separation, family relationships, and Tolkien’s female characters.
Audience members challenged panelists with questions ranging from how the afterlives of Middle Earth’s races differed to whether Tolkien’s interest in languages was influenced by having spent a few early years in South Africa. Panelists included Kevin Roddy (Professor of Medieval Studies at UC Davis), Craig Caven (history and drama teacher at Vanden High School), and David Bratman (Tolkien scholar/reviewer and library consultant).
I missed the costume contest results (because I was giving the New Zealand slide show at the library when they were announced), but the Other category was won by a group costumed as Northern Rangers.
Tom Bombadil (aka Chris Wait) in his blue coat and yellow boots entertained at the festival, together with Goldberry. Chris said he enjoyed talking with people about Tom and listening to their theories about his character and why they liked him so much.
As always, there were some terrific costumes and costumers to see. Christopher came down from Seattle to debut his character Yusiran, a warrior elf of Rivendell and distant cousin of Legolas. He made all the elements of Yusiran’s costume, including the engraving on his bow and sword.
Jennifer, her husband Karl, and her parents came from Woodland, with all four in costume. She had made lembas bread, wrapped each piece in an artificial leaf from a plant store, and carried them in a wicker basket. Jennifer is also a creative costumer, who made elf ears from bandaids and elven brooches from baked polymer clay, formed on the back of a spoon and finished with acrylic paint and clear nail polish. She also made Karl’s Gondorian tunic from the back of an old leather jacket and painted on the emblem of Gondor.
The Festival is hosted by the Downtown Vacaville Business Improvement District and organized with support from a wide range of volunteers from retail businesses, schools, libraries, churches, and other community organizations. Based on the positive response to last year’s first festival, this year’s event expanded to include a full day of activities on Sunday.