I have been working at Renaissance Faires and festivals for quite a long time now. Nothing seems to strike fear into my fellow performers and merchants hearts like kids' days. Whenever they are coming up and we have meetings invariably people want to roll out their horror stories and talk about ways to protect yourself from these monsters we have to suffer through. As someone who owns a festival myself and has also been through over 10 years of faires and student days, i have to say to those people who preach the fear and loathe these "horrible" days... shut up.
I have never had a bad kids' day in all my years working as an entertainer and even a few times as a vendor. I think the problem a lot of people have on student days comes from the attitude that they bring with them. There is an expectation that the kids are going to be awful brats and the day is going to be a battle to protect merchandise and feelings against these young humans that are coming through the gate. I watched someone just the other day yell belligerently at a group of students, "Get out of the way, the rickshaw is coming!" The rickshaw was behind them. These students were just walking and laughing with each other, but the attitude thrown at them was one of anger and the seizing of authority. This group of students did not do anything untoward and yet this worker at the faire assumed he had to be hard nosed with these young people. Most people who work at faire are having an awful student day even before it has begun. If you ask someone how they are doing before the day you will here all kinds of negativity about a day that has not even begun yet. People... STOP!
Our perception definitely shapes our reality. If you go into anything with expectations the universe is probably going to give you back what you are asking for. This is especially true when dealing with children, they are sensitive creatures and they can feel your loathing seeping off of you.
Here are some things that i do, and mind you, i have never had a bad kids' day. Try these things. They work.
1. Do not patronize kids. Talk to them like people because they are. Just like we laugh when hearing about patrons who believe that actors or people behind a counter are, "Almost like real people", the idea that every kid who comes to the faire is some kind of mini-monster is just as laughable. Treat them with respect and talk to them like a person. Do not expect them to be "bad" and you will be amazed at the amazing experiences you will have, let alone what they will take home from meeting you.
2. At the same time, they are children and don't forget it. You are an adult or at least you are supposed to be so know your boundaries. If you remember that these are young people and not criminals you can handle almost any situation you encounter.
3. Here is the big one, and the number 1 reason to not hate these days... most of us like what we do and enjoy that faires exists so we don't have to work in a cubicle somewhere... well this is the future of our business! If these kids get hooked now, they are the ones who are going to be coming back and bringing their kids here in the next generation of people. Our music director in NJ fell in love with Renaissance Faires when she came to a student day many years ago. If you can't figure out a way to sell things the kids are going to buy, consider it advertising for the future of your business. Make them love it!
4. Go into the day expecting to play. The students that come on kids' days are ready and willing to play in your world and i don't care what age group you are talking about. If you do not see each interaction as a battle but an opportunity you will be amazed at the fun you can have.
Student days at faire are to me some of my favorite. We are done at 2 in the afternoon and we spend all day with a bunch of people who if you do not send waves of negative energy at them will find you to be a hero by the end of your interaction with them. Some of them can even learn something and some of them may wind up working for you in years to come.
Stop hating on the kids' days everybody.
A public service announcement from the Lords of Adventure. ;)