Kingdom for a smoothie; Matchbox Children’s Theatre volunteers work Renaissance Festival

Published 6:55 am Saturday, September 29, 2018

As a smaller organization in Austin, the Matchbox Children’s Theatre is always looking for ways to raise money to support the great productions it puts on every year.

A lot of the time it comes in the form of fundraisers, so it really should come as no surprise that when the troop and its volunteers got the opportunity to raise money by working at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, they said yes.

“We are always looking for new fundraisers,” said Jennifer Wiebrand, who organized the effort.

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Wiebrand put in the application for the festival, but didn’t hear anything right away until almost just before the opening weekend.

“Two weeks before fest they contacted me and said they had two booths,” Wiebrand said. “[They asked] ‘do you want them?’”

Those two booths were selling smoothies and pizza and while smoothies and pizza might not be the most Renaissance food in the world, it was still an opportunity not to be turned down.

Mathew Phanchan helping out at the smoothie stand at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

Working those booths, which eventually got whittled down to just smoothies, MCT received a percentage of the booth’s intake.

“We do almost all the work,” Wiebrand said. “It’s been so much fun and we’ve had incredible volunteers.”

The experience has been one-of-a-kind and it’s easy to see why. The Renaissance Festival is an event like few others, with shows like Zilch the Gravedigger, who’s been performing for years, as well as The Tortuga Twins and Johnny Phoenix.

There’s food aplenty, side acts and plenty of stores to shop in. And not only that, but many who attend the festival come dressed for the occasion.

The entire scene fits everything the MCT is.

“That’s what I want for the kids, is a a unique experience,” Wiebrand said. “The detail that some people put into their thing. To see those kinds of details, live it and be in it.”

And from that standpoint, the Renaissance Festival works in well to the MCT as an organization, particularly working the booth where the kids and volunteers got to see the internal mechanisms of the festival and what it takes to put it all together.

“It’s incredible,” Wiebrand said. “It’s time period appropriate and it’s cool to see the production. Most people don’t know what it’s like to put on that kind of production.”

Working the booth wasn’t all about taking orders, handing out the food and taking in the money. One of the fun aspects of festival is becoming part of the show.

For those working the booth, that meant becoming a character, not simply serving out food.

“You want to be precise and engaging,” Wiebrand said. “That first weekend was hot and miserable, but they were engaged. They were talking to people and people responded with a tip.”

Trinity Osberg, from left, Dakota Stepp and Keara McIntosh with their unicorn cake.

“I saw a pretty cool transformation,” she explained of some of the kids working the booth. “They started warming up, realizing that people wanted this to be an engaging experience.”

In a way, working the booth turned into a production in an of itself.

“It allows them the freedom to express a little more,” Wiebrand said. “It allows them to be creative and open up when it’s not always allowed, especially in a show where there is a script.”

This weekend is the final weekend of this year’s fest and in the end Wiebrand estimates the group will bring in about $5,000 all told. She hopes this won’t be the only year they work at the festival.

The MCT is on the move with many plans for the future and more possibly on the way. Recently they bought the old Knights of Columbus hall to move props and costumes into.

For Wiebrand and the rest of the MCT that represents just the tip of the iceberg.

“It’s only getting bigger,” she said. “We’ve got incredible sponsors and donors.