Medieval Faire is a long-standing, sixth-grade tradition at Hebron Elementary School
By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Tue., May. 21, 2013
Frank Lewis taught for 34 years. Most of his teaching years were spent with sixth-graders at Hebron Elementary School. “Thirty-three years ago I went to my first Medieval Fair,” said Lewis, between sessions at this year’s Faire on May 18. In those days, medieval history was part of the sixth-grade curriculum. Lewis organized the first faire at the school 32 years ago. “I must say it was a fairly modest one,” he said.
Over the years the faire has grown and become an integral part of the school’s sixth-grade experience. And, though he retired five years ago, Lewis still plays a big part in its organization every year. “But I must say I couldn’t do this without the support of the community,” he said.
Each year in October, the Medieval Faire Club meets for the first time. It’s open to any interested member of the sixth-grade class, and the participation level varies. “I’ve had as many as 92 kids involved,” said Lewis. “This year it was 27.” The students meet regularly over the course of the school year, putting together a program, rehearsing roles, and preparing other details.
“You can try out for the parts you want,” said Kylie Heneghan, who this year played the role of Gypsy Esmerelda. Preparation involves learning about medieval history. “We prepare dances and work on our roles,” added Heneghan.
Upon arrival, faire-goers are issued a bag of “shillings” to spend on refreshments, goods, games and other activities. This year’s games encompassed 18 different choices, including: Wheel of Fortune, Sword in a Stone, Frog in a Well, Stumps in the Pond and Jester in the Moat. Each game was manned by a sixth-grader, accompanied by a school employee, a classmate, or a RHAM seventh-grader recruited from last-year’s Faire roster. Most games were hosted inside brightly-colored booths made of old refrigerator boxes. “I’d say most of these boxes are 32 years old,” said Lewis.
Costumes were procured for many years at Fierbergs Costume Company in Hartford. Owner Starr McLean worked closely with the school for 20 years, said Lewis, making alterations when necessary and even developing a junior line of medieval costumes. When the company decided to close, Lewis found himself competing with Paul Newman, who wanted costumes for his Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. The school got the costumes. “The vast majority of the costumes we use now are owned by the school,” said Lewis. “I’d say we have close to 100 costumes.”
After the games session, faire-goers are treated to the formal entertainment portion of the event. Taking place on and around the gymnasium stage were a procession, a minstrel performance, a madrigal performance, The Beansetting Stick Dance, The Sleight’s Sword Dance, The Maypole Dance, The Ribbon Dance, and a takeoff on the television show “Survivor.” Hanging on the left side of the proscenium were the rules for the refreshment stand, which included: No banging of tankards on tables; No cockfighting; No dogs in the kitchen; and No sulking loafers or flea-bitten tramps.
Capping off the entertainment portion were The Famine Games, wherein cast members and audience members competed in contests of skill such as The Chocolate Unicorn, requiring, amid cries of "Huzzah!" from the audience, the balancing of Little Debbie frosted chocolate cakes on one’s forehead.
Among the community members assisting with this year’s show was RHAM senior Alicia Goode, who attended the morning session of this year’s Faire before preparing for her senior prom that evening. Goode played the role of the queen when she was a sixth-grader, six years ago, and returned this year to help with several of the dances. “I helped out last year when my sister, Isabelle, played the queen,” said Goode. “I had a really good time, so I wanted to come back this year.”
As for Lewis, he said that, though he takes longer each year to recover from the Faire, he has no plans to quit. “As long as I’m physically able, I’ll continue to do it,” he said. “I just love it. It’s fun.”