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Robin Hood Festival gets new president

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Susan Danz replaces Phil McGuigan who held position since 1999 and remains on the board

GAZETTE PHOTO: RAY PITZ - Susan Danz said shes excited by her selection as the new Robin Hood Festival president. Phil McGuigan, the former president, held the position since 1999.Susan Danz, the recently elected president of the Sherwood Robin Hood, knows she has big shoes to fill.

Recently, the Robin Hood Festival Association passed the president's torch to Danz from longtime festival president Phil McGuigan who has held the position since 1999.

"I am so excited," she said of her new position during a recent interview. "It's a huge privilege and I'm really honored by it and just energized."

Danz praised McGuigan for his dedication and the "incredible amounts of hours" he gave to the festival over the course of almost two decades.

What Danz takes over is an event that draws up to 20,000 to the Old Town area, attracting more than 100 vendors as well.

In addition to Danz's new position, festival association members selected Larry Souza, leader of the Sherwood Renaissance Singers, as vice president, filling the seat of longtime festival organizer Alice Thornton.

At the same time, Scott Griggs continues in his position as treasurer for the association and Sandy Wallace, who coordinates the annual archery contest against Nottingham, England, is filling in to help with tasks of the secretarial position formerly occupied by Danz until a replacement is found.

The board is rounded out by new member Kristine Mulkey, who has chaired the Maid Marian Court for several years, and Dianna Tanabe, a returning board member. McGuigan will remain on the board, and Thornton will continue to act as an adviser.

"This is really a family," Danz said of the board. "In a way we're like one big extended family."

Danz said she and the board are working on a vision for the future of the festival, something that will likely include the addition of more medieval-themed events. In addition, more Robin Hood characters might start showing up at various events.

Danz holds a bachelor's degree in math with an emphasis in computer science from the University of Colorado. She also has a Master of Science degree in computer science from the University of Illinois, an institution that is generally considered to be the birthplace of computer science. Her work experience includes being a project lead on numerous software projects for more than 20 years and held a position as communications manager (designed to help engineers communicate) at Mentor Graphics.

"I have had a lot of on-the-job training," she said.

At the same time, Danz is no stranger to the festival. In addition to serving as secretary and publicity chairwoman, Danz has experience managing the festival's stage area in a position where she observes: "You have to think on your feet sometimes and you have to make decisions."

She also has worked extensively on the annual Robin Hood Winter Festival, a popular family event that includes a parade and ends with a tree lighting.

And last year, she even got a taste of what it's like to head the festival for part of the day on a Saturday when McGuigan was suddenly called away and turned the reins over to her.

"I grabbed my clipboard and I was in costume and I just started walking the town," she said.

At one point, someone mentioned there was too much trash. She noted it but before she could even act on it, a dedicated McGuigan returned.

"Phil showed up with trash bags," Danz recalled.

For her part, Danz is sold on the importance of the Robin Hood festival, noting that a variety of festival events — including the annual archery contest between Sherwood and Nottingham, England — make the event unique.

She pointed out that when Money Magazine ranked Sherwood No. 6 its 2015 Best Places to Live issue, it interviewed Kristine Mulkey, who talked about how involved and dedicated she and her family were when it came to the festival. Danz has no doubt that the festival in large part help propel Sherwood to that No. 6 ranking in the national publication.

Meanwhile, McGuigan, the longest-serving president since the association was incorporated on July 12, 1954, said he's confident of Danz's abilities.

"Susan has been a big part of the festival for several years including being the festival secretary, publicity and designing the web site," said McGuigan. "Susan brings a lot of enthusiasm as the new festival's president and plans to continue the festival traditions, but will add some new activities too."