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Woodbury resident Alyssa Adair portrays one of the mermaids at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival's Mermaid Cove. Submitted photo.

Woodbury woman goes all fin at Renaissance Festival

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Alyssa Adair has spent most of her life in the water.

The Woodbury resident swam competitively for 13 years.

"My friends would always call me a fish," she said. "I've always had a love for being in the water."

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Adair can really say she is a "fish" now that she is portraying one of the mermaids at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival's Mermaid Cove.

"I love it," she said. "When we put on those fins we become mermaids. It's really fun to be in the cove and see the reactions and the little kids who are completely enthralled in the whole thing."

The Renaissance Festival will continue every Saturday and Sunday through Sept. 29 and on Friday, Sept. 27 at the festival grounds in Shakopee.

A history with the Renaissance

This year marks Adair's sixth season with the Renaissance Festival.

"I kind of just fell into it because I've always had a love of doing theater and performing," she said. "I was heavily involved in that in high school and I really missed it once I was out of high school, so one year I took a trip out to the Renaissance Festival and I said 'I want to work here. So, the next year I auditioned and became a part of the cast."

Adair said she never really visited the Renaissance Festival as a child -- she only started going as an adult.

"I actually was very uncomfortable at the Renaissance Festival when I was little, I was very shy," she said. "But after I got older and did the theater thing, I came out of my shell a little more. I loved going there.

"It's something completely other worldly — it's not something you get to do every day."

Over the years, Adair has portrayed a variety of characters at the Renaissance Festival as part of the Head Over Heels "acrobalance" group and she even just wandered around the Renaissance Festival with her dogs.

"When you do street stuff, you have to be thinking on your feet the whole time," she said. "You have to just roll with the punches."

Additionally, Adair has worked as a belly dancer, where she dances with a python.

"Anybody can belly dance, any body shape," she said. "It's about just being yourself and being free within the dance and just kind of moving with the music."

When Adair first started worked at the Renaissance Festival, she had to go through the academy, which helped her perfect her character and learn improvisation skills.

"Everyone works together to keep the story going or keep the moment going," she said. "It's the whole concept of don't drop the ball and keep passing it around."

Adair said knowing who to interact with at the Renaissance Festival can be challenging at times.

"You have to be careful who you approach with what kind of joke," she said. "Usually you start with a general conversation to get a feel for the person first."

Working at the Renaissance Festival can be long days for Adair, since her days begin at 8:30 a.m. and last until around 7 p.m.

Adair and the other cast members also camp onsite at night.

"The people there become your family," she said.

'Alora'

This is the first year Adair has portrayed one of the mermaids at the Renaissance Festival.

The Mermaid Cove started last year when two of women formed Finfolk Productions, which designed and made the mermaid fins.

The fins are made out of silicone and are completely water soluble.

Adair, who is friends with the two designers, approached them about being a mermaid this year.

As a mermaid, Adair had to develop her own character, which she named Alora, and create her backstory.

Alora is an Arctic mermaid who likes pearls, likes to sing and loves animals.

"Everybody goes for the pacific, warm weather mermaids," she said, "but I really love arctic things, so I made my mermaid a frozen mermaid.

Being a mermaid doesn't require as much crowd interaction or improvisation as other cast members at the Renaissance Festival, Adair said, since they only speak occasionally and speak "Mermish."

"We try not to speak too much because it helps keep up the illusion," she said.

Adair said she was grateful for the Mermaid Cove in recent weeks.

"I'm not going to lie, on hot days it's a nice day to be a mermaid," she said. "We get to spend a lot of time in the water."

Adair has expanded her mermaid career outside of the Renaissance Festival now that she and the other mermaids have participated in an underwater photoshoot in Hawaii with the designers of Finfolk Productions.

"I really love being a mermaid," she said. "I think I've found my niche in being a mermaid."

Adair said she hopes to continue working at the Renaissance Festival for years to come.

"Although it makes your schedule crazy during this time of the year, I love it," she said. "You get to be somebody else for a day and it helps people get out of their box and relax a little bit and just enjoy life.

"(The Renaissance Festival) is great energy, great stories and a lot of great memories there."

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
(651) 702-0976
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