This year’s Moscow Renaissance Fair king and queen planted their roots here 25 years ago, and have been accepted locally as business owners and activists fighting to keep their kingdom pristine.
Bill and Dianne French grew up together in Lincoln, Nebraska, eventually moving to Indiana where Bill studied to be an optometrist.
“I got my eyes dilated a lot when he was going through optometry school,” said Dianne. “…We knew that we wanted to be self-employed, so we started looking at communities around the country.”
The Frenchs were drawn to Moscow in 1988, because they said it was a good place to raise a family, affect local change, and be heard.
“And the downtown was alive,” Dianne said, “and we saw a lot of towns in ’88 where the downtown was boarded up.”
Together the Frenchs own and operate Palouse Ocularium and recently purchased Ex-Sightment Optical in Moscow. Dianne is also a client.
“You better not be going anyplace else,” Bill said.
“I have an optician on the side,” Dianne said. “I just didn’t have the heart to tell you.”
Dianne served on the city’s health and environment commission off and on for nine years starting in the early ’90s, and said that one the group’s greatest accomplishments was reducing the use of pesticides and finding alternatives for the street spraying program and aerial farm spray.
“I think maybe we’ve gone backward on some of those things, but we did make some good work on that,” she said.
The Frenchs also began the Palouse Water Conservation Network in 2002, and are currently involved in a lawsuit with Washington State University regarding its use of its water rights.
“Bill and Dianne, of course, were instrumental in the work that the city is doing now to preserve the aquifer,” said LuAnn Scott, this year’s Moscow Renaissance Fair president, “so that’s mainly why I chose them. They’re very humble people. It actually took me a lot of time to get them to accept the nomination.”
“We feel we get a lot of support because we stand up for what we believe in,” Bill said.
The Frenchs are also involved with environmental preservation groups, Friends of the Clearwater and Wild Idaho Rising Tide.
Dianne said she loves the Moscow Renaissance Fair because it gives people a chance to come out and see friends they might not have seen all winter. One of her royal decrees will be that the sun shines for the event that celebrates its 40th year on Saturday and Sunday at East City Park in Moscow.
“It’s a great time to kind of celebrate your community and also shop for Mother’s Day,” she said.
They raised their two daughters, Alissa and Amy, in Moscow, with both attending the University of Idaho and Amy graduating there.
“They still have fond memories of Moscow Day School,” said Dianne. “I think they enjoyed growing up here.”
The Frenchs say they don’t have any plans to relocate, and have no idea when they’ll settle down.
“I’ll retire when they won’t give me a license anymore,” Bill said. “Then I’ll have to figure out what my next career is going to be.”
(By Brandon Macz, staff writer, The Moscow-Pullman Daily News)