Strolling around FestivALL events since 2007 in a stately pink dress and always wearing a colorful mask, Jude Binder’s character has become a mainstay at Charleston’s annual arts festival.
That year, Larry Groce, the executive director of FestivALL, said event organizers thought her character encapsulated all sorts of art into one character, making it easy for them to use the Binder’s character as a symbol for the annual event.
She’s known as the FestivALL Princess, a name Binder said the children gave to her that first year.
“She encompasses all of the arts: visual, dance, theater and even music,” Groce said. “She’s a great presence to be around.”
For Binder, too, the FestivALL Princess has seemed to gel with the event.
“It was something that seemed to work, especially for the children,” she said. “I’m a visual artist and a dancer so for me to put those two together is special.”
Binder moved to Calhoun County in 1973, establishing Heartwood in the Hills in 1982 to give rural residents a taste of the arts. Heartwood gives children and adults access to performance and visual arts.
Maskmaking is perhaps what Binder is best known for. Typically, Binder sports a bejeweled mask with flowing ribbons at FestivALL as part of the Princess character’s persona.
And that persona is one-of-a-kind. The Princess doesn’t talk, but strolls gracefully and courtly, like a real princess would, Groce said. But that’s not to say her character isn’t approachable. Binder never speaks, but does communicate, Groce said, and “that’s pretty magical.”
Groce said that kind of entertainment is old fashioned and has been going on at festivals for hundreds of years.
“It’s very liberating,” Binder said. She said that in a way, when in costume, she can be most herself.
“I approach people in a way that would make people uncomfortable if I wasn’t in costume.”
Some people do get uncomfortable when she approaches, Binder said, but the FestivALL Princess thrives on good vibes. She tries to steer clear of people who might get unsettled around her.
Her main fan base seems to be children.
“She’s got an air of mystery to her, yet children flock to her,” said Brittany Javins, an assistant to the executive director of FestivALL.
Javins said Binder takes her work seriously, trying to portray a character and display the art she’s wearing appropriately.
“It’s just a unique representation of what we do, which is a little bit of everything,” Javins said.
This year, the FestivALL Princess will attend the opening ceremonies and Live on the Levee on Friday. On Saturday, she’ll be in a convertible at the head of the parade. On Sunday, The Princess will make a stop at Taste-of-ALL and make an appearance at the West Side Ice Cream Social.
More information on FestivALL is available at FestivALL charleston.com.
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