The Laurel Petting Zoo

At July Coronation, I organized a “Laurel Petting Zoo.” Here’s the description I put out in advance:

Have you ever wondered why someone would be an apprentice, or what it takes to become an apprentice? Would you like to ask a Laurel a question about a project you’re working on or about how the Laurels’ council works? Are you a Laurel interested in meeting new people? Are you brand new to the SCA and interested in finding out what the heck a Laurel is? Would you like to find out if Laurels really do bite?

Come to the Laurels Petting Zoo* at July Coronation! Join us in the A&S pavilion at 5pm on Saturday. (Feel free to trickle in a little early to catch the Dirty Half Dozen largesse competition!) The idea behind the Laurels Petting Zoo is to allow Laurels and the general populace to mingle in a non intimidating, relaxed atmosphere. All are welcome, regardless or rank or affiliation or absence of either.

Bring a drink for yourself definitely, consider bringing a “lap project” to work on or a homemade snack to share (especially if its historical!)

Looking forward to seeing you (yes, YOU!) there,
Eulalia

*Please obtain consent prior to initiating petting.

This event was a smashing success (if I say so myself!) — lots of Laurels and non-Laurels came, there were snacks, there was mingling, and some musicians showed up toward the end for a live performance, which led to dancing! I felt like I got to use my superpower (being a golden retriever of love) for good. I am definitely going to put on more of these!

One of the things I did in advance of the event was prepare some conversation starters:

laurelminglequestions

These were a series of questions designed to get people talking to each other. (Can you tell I’m a teacher? I think it’s the color coding that gives it away!) Sometimes I think it’s really hard to approach a stranger and just start talking to them, which is the problem something like a Laurel Petting Zoo is intended to alleviate, so I figured that having a few slips of paper with questions that ranged from silly (“Explain fealty in pig Latin”) to serious (“What’s the most important real lesson you’ve learned from the SCA?”) would help break the ice. They were a hit! I’ve put up a copy of the questions I wrote in the files section, feel free to use them yourself.

To help you organize an event like this yourself, here’s a quick checklist and some tips:

In advance:

  • Pick an event
  • Contact the event steward; be prepared to have them hand you off to a member of their team, especially if someone is coordinating A&S activities
  • Ask for space for mingling next to the main List Field — we used our Kingdom MoAS pavilion
  • Decide on a good time; immediately after the Laurels’ meeting is a good one, or immediately after A&S classes finish. Opposite Court is not a good idea 🙂
  • Publicize your event using Facebook, email lists, etc. If possible, try to get listed in the site copy
  • Contact a few “ringers” — people who are always the life of the party — to make sure they’ll be there
  • If you’re using them, print conversation starters
  • Make some tasty period snacks to share

Day of:

  • Consider posting fliers in the privies, making an announcement during Court, or hiring a herald to spread the word
  • Set out snacks and conversations starters
  • Stand outside of the actual area where the mingle is happening and invite people in. I follow the Svava in Litla school of hospitality, which involves a lot of yelling at people to come eat snacks. You’d be surprised how well this works.
  • Work the room! Scoop up non-Laurels and engage them in conversation by asking them what they’re interested in; if you know someone who specializes in an area they want to learn more about, or who lives near them, make an introduction! Pick up snacks and wander around. Smile a lot. Make sure to watch for Laurels clumping together and inspiring peer fear. If there’s just a group of a dozen Laurels sitting around talking to each other, no one will want to break into that, so keep an eye out. Have fun. Mingle. Be petted, if you’re into that.

Happy mingling!