Visionary Behind Sandpoint’s Beloved Renaissance Faire By Jillian Chandler| Photo courtesy of Adair Media Group
Anita Pew grew up in Michigan, where she graduated from the University of Michigan. She and her husband, Rob, along with their three boys (Ken, Trevor and Wyatt) would make the move from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to North Idaho in 2006. They were drawn to its natural beauty and employment opportunities for both Rob and Anita.
Her love of Great Britain history was sparked after seeing the movie “Anne of a Thousand Days.” She remembers reading history books about the monarchies of England, especially enjoying the wardrobes and styles of dress. “Now with the streaming media, it is just an endless supply of history lessons and period drama,” Anita smiles. In 2016, her passion for this period stirred an idea—to initiate a Renaissance Faire in Sandpoint!
Q. What initiated the idea to start a local Renaissance Faire?
A. In August 2016, with my children grown up, I had more time to pursue my interests and had volunteered at the Sandpoint Comic-Con. It was great to participate and assist with this event. On the drive home, I called my friend, Tanya, and asked her what she thought of creating a Sandpoint Renaissance Faire. She screamed so happily and loudly that the phone was removed quite a bit from my ear. I then added, “Well, I should probably go to a RenFaire and see how this is put together.” We added a notice in the paper and, to our surprise and joy, about a dozen people showed up to our first meeting at Farmin Park in late August. So many ideas, commitments and overall encouragement was given, we knew we could make this event happen.
Q. How has the RenFaire evolved over the years?
A. Our first RenFaire was in 2017. We were so very fortunate to have the Epona Jousting Team from Spokane join us. The crowds reveled in their show, and to this day, you can see “the-hole-in-one-shot” when the jousters’ lances tips shattered each other on our website (SandpointRenFaire.com).
There were wonderful RenFaire entertainers, musicians, comedians and belly dancers! We had about 15 merchants and, of course, the box was checked on turkey legs! The local Chapter #890 of the Vietnam Vets provided the ale, and donations were gathered for our local food bank.
Over the years, we have developed guilds to focus on specific areas of the faire. We have grown from our estimate of 1,500 (we were hoping for 500 patrons) to last year's attendance at around 4,500! We are expecting over 5,000 this year. This growth in our faire allowed us to move to the Bonner County Fairgrounds from our wonderful hosts of two years, the Leens of Wild Hearts Equestrian Connections.
Q. Why would you encourage the community to attend?
A. This year we are most excited, because we are adding an official tournament to our Elizabethan Era Renaissance Faire. Participants are able to select from Jousting, Mounted Melle, Skill at Arms, Mounted Archery, Long Sword, Archery, Hatchet Throwing and Boffer Swords. This will create more of a historical aspect to our event, since tournaments in Medieval eras were an event to behold, and attend.
And the wonderment of all our unique entertainers, aerialists, Celtic bands, magicians, stilt walkers and long swordsmen. There will be blacksmiths, Viking museums and tarot card readings. Merchants have specialty, eccentric and handmade items. We challenge ourselves to have a bit of the unique for everyone, from our magical, sparkling Faerie Realm to our dazzling Royal Court, to the honorable Knights of The Joust. And of course, we strive to improve and create a vibrant, lively and completely unique event to Sandpoint.
Q. When is this year’s faire?
A. The fifth annual Sandpoint Renaissance Faire will be held at the Bonner County Fairgrounds on June 10 and 11 from 10am to 6pm. Tickets at the gate are $16 for adults, $12 for seniors and children 6 to 17. Children 5 and younger get in free! Discounted tickets for those who bring a bag of canned food to donate to the Bonner County Food Bank.
Q. What fills your heart most when seeing everyone enjoying an event you created? A. Truly, it is the pride and gratefulness to be able to work with all of the volunteers in having this one-of-a-kind event in Sandpoint. After the RenFaire has been open for a few hours, I look around full circle and simply enjoy the wonderful surroundings. It is amazing to see all our guests with smiles and enthusiasm. Everyone is happy and eager to see more of the RenFaire. How heartwarming when guests even appreciated the mud from the torrential rain.
Q. Is there anyone you would like to thank for helping you to realize this dream?
A. Everyone at those meetings leading up to the first RenFaire was particularly important to helping us, [as well as] Lord Weezil and Lady Lorna, Two Rivers Medieval Faire in Cashmere, Washington, and a multitude of others. Moreover, the pleasure of knowing that our original Board members from the first year, Tanya Anderson, Sarrah Morton, Stesah Quesnell, Cassie Robinson and Megan Schlueter still play an integral part in the faire this year. And every year we are amazed with our good fortune of volunteers, as the first year proved. Ryan Robinson, who is our volunteer coordinator and first-aid guru. Jeremy and Sheena Smith just showed up with energy and enthusiasm and are now our Board president and merchant coordinator, as well as our newest board member, Shaun Chaffee.
Lastly, my husband, Rob, who has valiantly supported, listened and encouraged me throughout the years. Especially when I am realizing the full enormity of planning and organizing this event, I am duly blessed with the opportunity to work with all these people and share a passion with them for this community event.
Q. When not devoting your time and energy to the RenFaire, how do you like to spend your time, and with whom?
A. This event has inspired me to learn how to sew historical clothing, and I am loving every minute of it. Well, maybe not when I am ripping stitches out. I have a vegetable garden that always needs weeding yet still produces enough carrots and tomatoes for all of us. My favorite author is Jane Austen, so all JAFF is a treat to read. The bright light and my most precious activity is spending time with my husband, our sons, their wives and our newest family member, grandson Liam. I love to unapologetically spoil him any chance I get.
Q. Are you involved in any other local organizations?
A. Although I am not directly involved with any other organization, our nonprofit is. The local Chapter of Vietnam Vets sells all the ale and mead at our event as a fundraiser for their activities. We also give discounted tickets to those who bring cans for our food drive for the Bonner Community Food Bank.
Q. What do you love most about the Sandpoint community?
A. Our guests add to the energy, magic and atmosphere of our event. They are inspiring to us and other guests with their costumes and adornments. From Vikings to nobility, Scotsmen to toadstool hats and fairies, our guests have surprised and inspired us. This community and the businesses within have been extraordinarily supportive and encouraging. They have donated money, gifts, time and allowed us to hang our posters everywhere. We are overwhelmed by the helpfulness of all.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
A. Prepare thyself for merriment!
The Sandpoint Renaissance Association is a 501c3 nonprofit organization and accepts donations and sponsorships for The Joust and RenFaire. SandpointRenFaire@gmail.com | PO Box 2541, Sandpoint, ID 83864