The Nature of TRF

April 14, 2020

#King's Missive

#Experiences and Stories

A King's Missive on the Nature of TRF

Goodly Folks,

The Texas Renaissance Festival welcomes half a million guests through its gates every fall, but did you know a rich assortment plants and animals call it home year around. TRF has become a sanctuary, of sorts, for a plethora of flora and fauna. The TRF festival site and its grassy parking areas, lined with trees account for over 60 acres. The Fields of New Market Campground and the After Dark Ballroom add an additional 200 acres. That is nearly 300 acres of woods, creeks, ponds and "prairie-like" fields. This land has provided the perfect habitat for wildlife to thrive for over 45 years. I witness the glorious parade of nature throughout our Kingdom year around and as the sapling grows into a majestic tree the years become decades. Enjoy the "Nature of TRF".

Spring has touched every corner of the kingdom, and all are filled with the excitement it brings. The rich plant-life of TRF is an invaluable treasure and a central piece the nature of TRF. Our founder and first King, George Coulam, has always enjoyed horticulture. When he bought this land, it was razed of its resources and over-grown pastures covered scrub and thickets gone wild. For the last 46 years, he helped restore the land to life. His love of horticulture and architectural skills. His classical study, artistic eye and love of the fanciful have been foremost in TRF's creation. He has taken personal care in the placement of the festival's rich variety of gardens, which serve as unique venues for weddings and other special occasions. George has never missed an opportunity to plant a tree and create pastoral settings throughout the festival and campground. Even the parking areas pay homage to nature, with trees lining every parking row and road throughout the festival. Idyllic meadows and spectacular groves of trees are strategically planted and maintained throughout TRF's, Fields of New Market. Beautiful trees and native plants line the pathway to the front gates of TRF's, New Market Village. Inside the gates, the fairytale trek through time and beauty begins. Everywhere one looks there are flowers and plants; nature reigns supreme. The shoppes and restaurants are storybook perfect tucked in between and built around the trees and glades. TRF's ,"tree-rings" are one New Market's most charming features. Nearly every tree in the kingdom is crowned by a large stone ring built around its base. They are not only shady places to sit and rest, but also serve as planters for the beautiful flowers, vines and lush vegetation. George continues to work hand in hand with his horticulturalist, Shane Roop to maintain beautiful, fanciful nature of the Texas Renaissance Festival.

The rich abundance of land and natural habitat are essential to the nature of TRF, as they say, "location, location, location". The birds have taken notice; be ye not afraid, there is nothing "Hitchcockian" about the variety and number of birds that are at home here. Bluebirds, finches, cardinals, jays and even, elusive roadrunners enjoy TRF's bounty. Hawk, buzzards, falcons, crows, wrens, ducks and many more will live their lives in every corner of TRF. For instance, the swifts have claimed the eaves of TRF's main office. Every year freewheeling swifts set-up their nurseries, while their babies' chirps and chatters greet all who visit. The parents build amazing, mud nests and fill them with hungry mouths. Theses attentive parents them spend their days hunting for and returning with food for the waiting chicks. One nest, filled with chicks, just above an entrance is an alarm of sorts; whenever the chicks sense a movement, the begin to loudly chirp. Their nearly featherless heads pop up and their chirps grow more demanding, all the while holding their mouths wide open in anticipation of food. For several weeks this continues until suddenly they are gone. Perhaps, to return next year and raise families of their own.

I have marveled at the diversity of birds that migrate here throughout the year. Flocks of birds, from around the world, are able take advantage of our wooded areas, ponds and fields. Ducks, geese, songbirds and more take a moment rest here enjoying TRF's bounty of resources. Even the beautiful monarch butterflies take a moment of their arduous journey to flit and sip from a kaleidoscope of flowers that bloom throughout the spring, summer and fall. It is quite a surprise when a honking flock of Canadian geese settle in for a few days rest. They move about the Fields of New Market eating and drinking; while honking greetings at each other; no doubt they're catching up. When they are sated, they continue their journey in hopes of returning next year. The birds are not the only ones to make yearly visits to the realm. During the festival, folks gather from all over the world to "flock together". They shop, eat, and drink for 9 weekends, and can often be heard honking at one another coming and going, how curious? Apparently, all can and will find ample amounts of food and drink, as well as, entertainment and relaxation at the Texas Renaissance Festival.

Many animals make their home at TRF; none more prevalent then the deer. I hath seen them grow fawn to adulthood and have gained a great appreciation for them. TRF is only a part of their range, but many spend a large part their life here. In the late spring, the gangly and "bambi-esque" fawns, wobbly-legs and all, begin learning the many winding trails and paths through around TRF. They emerge and disappear into places, only they could find and move through. Early morning is the perfect time to observe a doe with her fawn feeding in the mist, while nearby, "daddy buck" vigilantly guards watches over, until a flick of his tail, signals it is time to move on and in an instant they are gone. I like to imagine the fawns are learning the locations of best morning grasses, or tasty afternoon greens and finally the best places for a siesta. Occasionally, a dozen or so deer will herd up and seemingly run pell-mell through the through the parking areas; moving from row to row, leaping hedges, fences and dodging through trees. It is a most exhilarating round of follow the leader.

One morning; I was distracted from the deer, by a skunk. It was rather strange to see a skunk during the day. I soon realized that this skunk was also, odd looking. I exited my carriage, for a better look, and approached it curiously, with an added abundance of caution. It was quickly apparent, that the beguiled creature had lodged its entire head, down to the neck, in a small, plastic container. The sensory deprived skunk ran about the participant's camping area in frenetic spiraling circles. I watched in horror, there was no doubt it would either asphyxiate, or crash into tree or sign post. It suddenly stopped and then began several valiant, arduous attempts to remove the container from its head to no avail. I suppose it must have panicked in self-realization of its predicament and like many us began running about in blind circles again. I had no choice, but to intervene. There was no time to call for help, so I quickly grabbed a large piece of fabric from my carriage. A risky course of action was required in order to assist the imperiled skunk. So, after much thought and deliberation I began running in circles after it. A ridiculously long chase ensued, but somehow, I managed to cover it with the cloth. Far more adroitly, than even I would have thought. Then, I was able to lightly pin its body beneath the cloth with one hand. As it wriggled to escape my grasp, its "helmeted head" emerged from under the fabric. That was moment I had been waiting for; carefully, I grabbed the container with my other hand and in one smooth motion removed it from the skunk's head. I quickly retreated, hastily leaving the fabric and the skunk to their own devices. The skunk waddled away, as it slowly regained its senses and then it made straight for a nearby brush covered hillock. Victorious, I returned for the fabric, which was none the worse for the wear, or so I thought. Upon my return to the carriage, it became quite apparent that it had acquired a new scent, "Eau du Skunk". It was then that I realized that the fabric I had grabbed was a shirt gifted to me from the land of "Nuevo Chili". The musky shirt was washed countless times and the scent remained. I finally accepted the hapless skunk's unforgettable appreciation and buried the shirt.

Wildlife families of all sorts find TRF a safe place to be. Squirrels are always amusing me with their antics. Several years ago, a squirrel couple began visiting me at the Entertainment Building. They would run inside to cavort and explore, little did I realize they were "casing the joint" for a heist. When I had returned to work and stopped paying attention; they made their move. They stole a package of granola bar. I found the evidence, an empty package lying by a tree. These little, tree Vikings continue their marauding and pillaging for plunder to this day; though now, I unwrap the granola, if I don't have any nuts or peanuts to pay in tribute.

Squirrels are not the only ones to take advantage of the unique treasures TRF provides. Armadillos are all ways snuffling about turning the soil in search of grubs, insects and worms. Roly-poly raccoon babies waddle about the site following their mother in search of food and adventure. I have seen them navigate the grapevines above the Globe Stage. Under their mother's watchful eye, they move agilely about defying gravity, eating their fill of ripe muscadine grapes. Then they drunkenly search for the most precarious position to fall asleep high above the ground.

Many animals move about the kingdom, filling the days and nights with nature's harmonies of; chirps, whistles, ribbits, snorts, squeaks, croaks and growls. Nightly yips and howls of the local coyote population inform all, that they are nearby. A rare treat to see, are the foxes, sometimes followed their playful kits. There are also reports of large cats, perhaps a bob cat or small panther, but with only a few blurry, silhouetted pictures taken at dusk and an occasional paw print, none can be sure. The abundance the prey and security create the perfect environment. Most of the animals live undercover, just out of sight, moving throughout TRF day and night, All these creatures are essential in maintaining a well-balanced eco-system. There are food sources aplenty, as the roadrunners seem to attest, as they run about feeding upon all number of crawlies, their favorites being the snakes. Texas is a home to a wide variety of snakes and most have found a niche at TRF. The snakes and the roadrunners are a part of the endless food chain. Each has its role; the roadrunners feed on the snakes, the snakes upon the rodents, birds and frogs, and they all feast on the innumerable insects and bugs. They all feast, while trying not to be feasted upon.

As you visit and make your way about the Texas Renaissance Festival, remember there is plenty of nature to be found. Most of the wildlife is passive and is never seen, but sometimes man and animal can surprise one another. These encounters can leave both parties fearful, especially if a snake is disturbed. TRF is also home to a wide variety of arachnids like, spiders and scorpions. Numerous insects like wasps, bees, mosquitoes and the ever present fire ant. The TRF Site team works diligently to keep the public areas of the festival and campground as safe as possible. Most often caution and a hasty retreat will prevent any harm, but here is Fair warning; be on guard, one should always be careful before reaching into places they cannot see into or around. Please take care not to tread off the paths in the Magic Garden, it is wild in there, full of fairies, satyrs and poison ivy. Please do not feed, play with, or harass any of the animals you may encounter. If you come in contact with an animal, insect, spider, or plant and as a result of the contact, receive a sting, bite, scratch, rash, or are otherwise hurt; please visit one of our EMT stations, or contact a TRF employee at any booth or Kiosk. They will radio an EMT to come and assist you. Our guests' safety is our primary concern and we will do whatever we can towards that end. We also have a deep respect for the majesty, beauty and primacy of the nature and strive to create a beneficial compromise.

Like many of you, the festival must contend with the sad scourge of feral animals and strays. Wild hogs have made their way onto site, rutting about, searching for food. In such cases, we enlist the aid of professionals to trap and relocate them to better places. Lost and abandoned dogs and cats also find their way here, oftentimes they are in most heart-rending physical conditions. Fortunately, there is kind staff and loving community that assist in finding these desperate animals' homes, or shelters, as well as, providing food and water. TRF was never intended to be the place for unwanted animals. Any folks who have information or links to share about groups, organizations, or shelters that can provide support and assist in the adoption of these cats and dogs, please do so. Let's find new homes for these once and future pets.

I will hope to share more the nature of TRF with you in the future. I will continue to post pictures in the continuing feature, "TRF Au Naturel". Please share your pictures with us of the flora and fauna from your kingdom. You may send them to us in a reply to this post, or visit our Facebook page, or email TheKing@texrenfest.com.

Huzzah!

-The King

Some resources and websites, where one can get lost for hours

Plants and vegetation:

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Ftpwd.texas.gov%2Fpublications%2Fpwdpubs%2Fpwd_bn_w7000_0120%2F&psig

=AOvVaw2YHSBnblYXU3kftNIhcoFA&ust=1586359059666000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAIQjRxqFwoTCKCL45PO1ugCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

https://www.ckwri.tamuk.edu/research-programs/south-texas-natives/native-plant-list

Mammals

A link to the Texas Almanac

https://images.app.goo.gl/KfSmPXZYajUXEXmD7

https://texasalmanac.com/topics/environment/wildlife

https://www.depts.ttu.edu/nsrl/mammals-of-texas-online-edition/Introduction/index.php

Birds

https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/birding/birding_checklists/index.phtml

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_birds_of_Texas

Reptiles and amphibians

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_reptiles_of_Texas

https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/nongame/listed-species/amphibians-reptiles.phtml

Insects, spiders and others

https://texasinsects.tamu.edu/