How to travel back in time (A.K.A. I went to a Renaissance Festival)

Posted: August 24, 2012 in Wandering Bard
Tags: , , ,

Two years ago I went to my local Renaissance Festival for the first time. It was quite an experience. I didn’t realize how immersive and truly amazing it would be. It was one of the highlights of that summer and I knew I had to eventually go back.

I didn’t get a chance to go last year, so I made it a top priority this year. It’s a couple of hours away and it’s a little pricey to get into, but it’s absolutely worth it. No other festival or fair I’ve ever been to comes close to the time and effort these people put into a presentation like this.

Let me walk you through it, using pictures from both 2010 and 2012.

There are essentially three highlights to the Ren Fest, the first of which is the immersive quality. Right off the bat you’ll notice signs like this:

(2010)

And objects like this:

(2010)

These things are everywhere. Even signs for napkins said something like, “sleeve alternative for the gluttonous.” Everything looks like it came straight out of the Renaissance, with the various wooden objects supported by pullies and brute strength. Even the rides are built in this way.

(2010)

And that’s not to mention all the stands! Jewelry, clothes, accessories, food, herbs – you name it, they have it. Not only do they have it, but they’ve put a Renaissance spin on it. Jewelry is made of chain mail. Purses are leather or suede. Clothing is all in the style that was fashionable in the 1500s.

Don’t laugh. I’m sure this was all the rage back then. (2012)

And what would a festival be without the food? (Dad and I pretty much go to these things just to eat.) I can’t go to the Ren Fest and NOT eat one of these:

The vendors ask you, “Wouldst thou like that saucy or naked?” The look on my dad’s face when he was first asked that was hysterical! (2012)

Yep, that’s 1 lb turkey leg. I might not be able to eat the whole thing myself, but that doesn’t stop me from trying! It’s so worth it.

And while they do have things like Mountain Dew and plastic spoons for your ice cream, you can pretty much guarantee everything is going to feel like you just hopped in the TARDIS and landed in the Middle Ages.

The second highlight for me comes in the shape of the actors. This sort of falls in line with the immersive quality, but I feel like they go above and beyond every year.

I mentioned that the festival is a little expensive to get into, but I also think it’s completely worth it. The entire place is like one big show. Everyone speaks with English or Spanish accents and they never, ever break character. Sometimes they even perform little skits right in the middle of a road or outside a shop. Two years ago, someone came whizzing by us, holding a bag of money in one hand. A few seconds later came his pursuer – a man with a very, very large axe! It was 30 seconds worth of entertainment, but it was really funny.

If I remember correctly, the guy on the right told the man in the middle (who was just an attendee) to direct the girl on the left as if she were fighting off invisible monsters. It was pretty hilarious. (2010)

They even have camel rides:

(2010)

And a stockade where people can throw tomatoes at ruffians!

This guy was brutal! But it was really fun to watch and everyone cheered whenever he got pegged in the face. (2012)

Each year at noon, the Queen and her entourage make their way down the main road:

(2010)

The third (and best) highlight of the Renaissance Festival is the shows. They have several of them, all throughout the day, all over the village. They’re all free to get into (another reason why that entrance fee is worth it) and they have some really, really spectacular performers.

The main attraction is usually the jousting. It’s full-on contact, and they wear real armor and everything. A whole crowd gathers and you can cheer for your champion and boo for the opposing side. Here are some pictures:

Two years ago they had some prince watching the show. This year, they had the Queen (who looked much more believable than the one pictured above from a few years ago). (2010)

Dad and I happened to pick the right side in 2010 – we got Sir Orion, who ended up being the champion! (2010)

This was the bad guy, sir William. (2010)

And this guy was the moderator of the joust. Look at that sweet mustache! (2010)

He had to put the knights in their places on more than one occasion. (2010)

This year things got switched up. Our Sir Orion from 2010 became the moderator (I miss the guy with the ‘stache!) and a new knight (still dubbed Orion) took his place. There was even a third knight that illegally entered the dual! (2012)

We were on the bad guy’s side this time (and it felt so good). He ended up losing, but it was fun while it lasted! (2012)

Another show that I’d highly recommend (because these guys travel all over the place, so they might come somewhere near you!), is Don Juan and Miguel’s. These guys are right up there with my all-time favorite comedian Gabriel Iglesias.

Don Juan is on the left, and that funny looking guy on the right in Miguel. (2010)

Two years ago I just sawthe end of one of their last shows (I found out this year it was “The Weird Show,” which is probably the best one). They played with whips and swords and it was dangerous and hilarious. Plus they have cool Spanish accents. You really can’t get much better than that.

When they work with swords, they usually use the sabre – and they’re real! They also do tricks with whips, which is a lot more dangerous and a lot more exciting! (2010)

“Just keep squeezing until something happens.” (2010)

This year I pretty much went to the Ren Fest in order to see them again. We can to see their show called “The Renaissance Man,” which wasn’t nearly as funny as the one I saw before, but was still great!

The shows star Don Juan and his sidekick Miguel, plus Don Juan’s daughter Esmeralda. My dad asked her if she was new because we didn’t see her two years ago. She said she wasn’t and that she had been doing this for 18 years (Wow! She couldn’t have been much older than me!). Come to find out, she’s only ever missed one show…and it was two years ago! She was just as talented with the whip (sometimes even more so!) than her dad.

Did I buy a shirt? Is that even a question? (2012)

But the absolute best part of the whole Ren Fest was when I actually got to take a picture with these guys. They were great!!!

(2012)

This place is definitely inspiring as far as writing goes. I wanted to head home and begin working on some novel set in the Middle Ages. This would be a great place to do some light research and really get the feel of the Renaissance.

Have you ever been to one of these before? What’s your favorite part?

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Comments
  1. ddog13 says:

    Very cool post. I’ve never been to a Renaissance Fair, but now it’s something I definitely want to do. That 1 pound leg of meat, however, is too big to make it on the Meat Scale. Haha.

  2. theinnerwildkat says:

    I’ve never been to a Renaissance festival. Based on your pictures and story….it looks like a blast. Now I’m going to have to research if they come to my area…

  3. Seriously, seriously cool! And awesome fun – thank you for sharing. Am very jealous you have things like this in the States! There is a local medieval warfare club here in Wellington NZ, and they occasionally do demos at other events, but nothing regular and not to this scale. Or with food.

    • Karen Rought says:

      No food? I’d boycott. That sounds interesting though. What kind of demos do they do?

      • Serious walloping with real maces and swords on real shields and real armour, though very carefully choreographed. I knew the guy that organises it – he taught me martial arts at one point. They are exceptionally careful with each other, but skilled and experienced enough to make it all look pretty realistic without too much risk of doing each other an injury.Peter Jackson hired most of them to run the battle scenes in The Lord Of The Rings. They turn up every so often as an add-on to farmers’ markets or similar…and no food… 😦

        • Karen Rought says:

          That sounds great though, and good for them for getting in on the LotR action! The jousting at this Ren Fest was definitely real too. And that armor looked so heavy! The guys are just pouring with sweat when they get done.

  4. oh, that looked like so much fun! we have one every year fairly close to us in the spring that was always think about going to and then something always comes up. i went with my kids several years ago and they both had a great time – hubs missed it. he was so jealous. his d&d playing-self would kill to go. we’ll have to just plan it this year.

  5. Julie Glover says:

    I’ve been to the Texas Renaissance Festival (north of Houston) several times, but it’s been many years since I went. My favorite experiences were riding both the elephant and the camel; seeing the hawk show (that guy was amazing with his birds of prey); the baudy British juggler/comic who drew a crowd in the streets and made up laugh ’til our sides split; and oh yeah, food, food, and more food. I recall eating every single bit of that big turkey leg; Henry VIII had nothing on me! My favorite souvenir was a lovely floral head wreath.

    I have a friend who works regularly at the Renaissance fair near Dallas. He posts his pics, and they are great. (He’s also the photographer listed on my blog header.)

    Love your pics here, Karen! What a wonderful event!

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