Mary Margaret Skears
I was born and raised in the river town of Phillipsburg, N.J. After graduating from Trinity College of Burlington, Vt. with a dual BA in English Lit. and Theater Arts l went starry-eyed into big bad NYC to seek my fortune as an actress.
It was there, after a few years of theater, modeling, lots of waitressing, odd jobs, and tons of classes, that my college buddy Sean and I (Spring '77) auditioned for the movie "Grease" and were cast as dancers. Thus, off to L.A.
Got the coveted SAG and AFTRA cards, several small roles on various T.V. shows, including a fleeting moment of glory as a guest star on "Happy Days".
Spring 1978, Sean found an ad in the papers for the Renaissance Faire. "Do you want to go with me and a few friends?" An emphatic YES was my reply! Donning some mediaeval costumes from Sean's traveling production of "St. George and the Dragon", mine having a 5' train and pointy princess hat, complete with veil, we set out for the fair.
The 4 of us got to the gate, purchased our tickets, and then realized that we forgot our camera in the car… Sean went back while the three of us waited on a hay bale, outside the gate. As we waited, a handsome, costumed fellow approached us and said: "Would you like a job at the Faire?" "We're waiting for a friend.", we replied. "Oh good. We can use all four of you." Sean returned. "So, would you like to work for 2 hours or 4? And if you haven't bought your tickets yet, I can get you in the employee gate." Oh darn! We already paid for our tickets. Since we never saw the faire before, we opted for the 2 hours so we could have enough time to enjoy it. Then he led us through the faire to a line of booths on Game Hill, where he left is to get a shift. This was heaven!!! The faire was awesome! So much creativity in one place and a treat for all the senses! The beautiful majestic mountains back dropping the explosion of colorful booths and costumes and crafts, the smells of all kinds of food, the music and laughter, shows and parades. I particularly remember the freshly dyed costumes of Diane Longdo hanging cheerfully across the path near the front gate as if greeting customers in. Another was "the bead booth" (Amsbury), where one could afford to buy small gifts and souvenirs. It reminded me of an old-time candy shop.
We made enough in our 2 hours of work to cover the cost of our tickets, plus! AND we were asked to work the rest of the faire and were handed get passes! We worked Montgomery Games that year and a few more years until all dwindled out except me. My film career had settled into fairly consistent work as a file extra and stand-in, and in those days, the faire always occurred during the industry's hiatus so it was an opportunity to make a little extra money.
I became one of the top money making game hawkers, especially for darts. I wasn't especially witty or clever, just persistent and consistent.
In 1985, I thought I'd try a different booth. I did for one day and went back to the games. But I was bored hawking and wanted a new challenge. I found out the owner needed a new manager, and when I approached him, he was more than happy to give me the promotion. It turned out to be close to if not the best year he ever had!
In 1986, I drove across country in my 1965 Mustang after a broken engagement. So I skipped the faire that year. 1987, I came back but my old employer was gone…
Word around the faire has always been that the best money to be made was as a server at the Ale Stands. While back in N.J. I had learned that one of my best friend's sister had worked as an Ale Stand manager for years! I when through the usual job app procedure and them contacted Jesse for good measure. I got Don Mills stand, the infamous Ale 5!
While on a break that year, I walked by Game Hill, and ran into Robert (who now works for the company) and Daniel, two teenagers I recruited the year I managed the games. They were working some new game booth and were happy to see me. "We wish you were back here with games. We had fun working for you!" At that very moment, an impression came to my heart that said: "It'll be called Good Shepherd Games."…………Hummmmm, I thought to myself. "Me own a booth at the faire? It never occurred to me….." I asked questions and found where to get on the list for an application.
Early 1988, the application arrived and I decided to make a go of it.. I was good at running Darts, maybe I could start with a dart game and run it myself. I called my old employer for some advice and suddenly I was sending in an application for 5 games and a prize booth. A few months later, an acceptance letter. I'm in!
S'88 Stakeout. Where was I staked out? On Game Hill, right where I received the impression and where I had worked for so many years. Amazing!! My first year was a success. It ran in the black with a decent profit. 1989, the faire moved to Glen Helen Park, and business increased, and continued to increase until the year of the L.A. riots. There was a considerable drop in attendance related to civil unrest. After that business continued to incline until 1996. it was a year of great transition for the company (faire) and for me and the Good Shepherd Games as well.
Over the years, I have had as few as five games and as many as thirteen in a show. I've been in the best locations, and some of the worst. I've been highly favored in the office, and at one point suffered a semi-rumor that I was not going to be invited back. Some years have gone easy and others extremely hard, but this is my fourteenth Southern Faire, and I'm happy to say: "I'm still here with Good Shepherd Games - fun for children 2 to 92!".
Do you recognize these games? Bowl a Troll, Village Ring Toss, Castle Siege, Heart Darts, Hunter's Darts, Fruit of the Spirit, Choke the Demon, Feed the Sheep, Save the Sheep, Free the Unicorn, Wake the Fool, Slay the Dragon, Fish Pond, Ye Olde Fishing Well, Marble Maze, Planet ball, Virtues and Vises, Seven Deadly Sins Crossbows, Drake's Darts, Walk of Life, Treasures of the Castle, Ye Olde Carousel Ride, Center of the Universe Earth Darts, and Turtle Races. Most of you faire brats played them while growing up at the faire!
Heartfelt thanks to the hundreds of folks who helped make Good Shepherd Games a success. From the builders and artists, to hawkers and helpers, to the numerous office personnel and the decision makers, friends, and my family, your talent and support has been a gift to me. My greatest thanks goes to THE Good Shepherd for which my booth is named, and without whom, I fully believe the Good Shepherd Games would not exist.