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Fantasy, fun at Festival

From left are Lady Val Schendel, Marina Schendel, Madison Horsch, Anastasiya Horsch, Maryna Horsch and Alana Horsch. (click for larger version)
September 14, 2011 - Sporting a set of wings and pointed ears, Val Schendel of Clarkston runs the Children's Realm of the Michigan Renaissance Festival with a mother's touch.

"My daughter wanted to audition in 1995," Schendel said. "She was shy and she talked me into auditioning with her and I did."

They were both hired, Schendel as a supervisor.

"I started immediately with a pack of teenagers – everyone called me the mom," said Schendel, who recently turned 60. "I've been the mom ever since."

Known as Lady Val, Queen of Fairies, she and her crew offer fairy teas, wands decorated with feathers and sparkles, and other games and activities.

"Everyone gets a magic diamond – the girls' eyes get as big as saucers," Schendel said. "I love my job."

Children make their magic wands, play tic-tac-toe, build things with magic Legos, play in the fairy houses, and compete in pie-eating, costume, and other contests.

"As soon as the cannon goes off at 10, kids come here," Schendel said. "It's very busy."

On weekends during festival season, August-October, her day starts at about 5:30 a.m. Many fairy crewmembers are from out of town and stay at her house.

"They camp out on the floor," she said.

"It's a lot of fun," said Amelia Dutkiewicz, working at the festival for about three years as Keyfob the Browning and Fizzle the Baby Dragon. "It's interesting to see kids' reactions. They don't know what I am. I play off their reaction – some are excited to see you, others run away screaming."

"We get dressed up and do all of these things," said Maryna Horsch. "It's neat to dress up in all these clothes."

"This has always been magic, especially with kids," Schendel said. "My bit is to offer fairy wishes – I've done 300-400 wishes."

One year, she offered a wish to a little girl. The next year, she came back with her mother, who came up to Schendel, crying.

"She said her little girl told her she wanted to come back for her birthday party, which was the first time she spoke in seven years," Schendel said. "It's magic here."

She and her husband, the late Robert Schendel, raised five children, Kris, Kathy, Eric, and Brian, all now adults, and Marina Schendel, 17, who is from Kazakhstan.

"This is my third year here, helping to play with kids and make wands," Marina said. "It's awesome."

They all helped at the festival, including Robert, who passed away in 2006.

"He loved it – he supported me big time," Val said.

"The kids would bring their friends – it's a tradition now. My first grandkids are coming this fall. One of the first kids here now is married with kids."

The festival continues, Sept. 17-17 and 23-25, and concludes with Sweet Endings Chocolate and Wine Festival, Oct. 1-2. Call 248-634-5552.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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