Once upon a time in a land far away… well, actually, it is just a few miles down the road. There was a magical kingdom called the Renaissance Faire. These festivals apparently take place all over the country as a celebration of something or another – I’m not exactly sure what.
Basically, the participants try to go back in time to days of yore, i.e., medieval times, chivalry, and 16th century life. While these are not exactly the merry old days they are cracked up to be, what with all the duels, wars, and beheadings attributed to this period, there still seems to be a sort of story-book romance attached to this period – the stuff that fairy tales are made of.
At a Renaissance Festival, folks dress up in medieval costumes and run around in the woods in a recreation of a former lifestyle. For purposes of entertainment, not to mention filling their purses with gold, various loosely related entertainment acts and activities are also brought in. People come from places far and wide to see them, paying a high shilling for the privilege.
There are magicians, jugglers, comedians, fortunetellers, belly dancers, singing mistrals and other exotic sorts of entertainment scattered throughout the faire grounds. These are intermingled with food booths and medieval crafts, and all are tangled together in a festival of merry-making. It is rather fun in a “once-upon-a-time” kind of way.
We sit on crude wooden benches and watch the sword fights and musicians along with the rest of the audience. Some of the onlookers join in the spirit of the day by wearing costumes themselves, many of which are not exactly in keeping with the medieval theme, but more like Halloween leftovers or old prom dresses. But, oh well, it’s the thought that counts, I suppose.
Some of the more elaborate costumes are authentic and specially created and worn by the “royal court.” They preside over the festival and also participate in a live chess match for the amusement of the crowd. Most of the characters are ordinary people who do this as a hobby and are not professionals. There are also knights who wear authentic looking suits of armor and joust on real horses, an interesting, if somewhat violent, spectacle as they attempt to knock each other off galloping horses with lances and sometimes succeed.
It is necessary to join into the spirit of the event to enjoy it. So, we clap and cheer the various performers along with everyone else. I spend time prowling through the craft booths looking at renaissance costumes and eating fish and chips. I even have my palm read by a seer, who is about 50/50 correct in her observations. I’m still looking for the angels she saw in the palm of my hand and sneaking peeks at the long wrinkle in my palm that represents intellect. Who would have thought?
My mind is jumbled with sword fighting, fire-eaters and dulcimer players. My purse is much lighter, having been relieved of it’s monetary content to buy cheap jewelry and other trinkets. My grandson, who has no frame of reference for such an event, is delighted and takes it all in stride, especially the trained birds and falcons.
Like most fantasy, Camelot has been overly romanticized and the reality, or even the recreation of reality, cannot measure up. In spite of the element of mystique, the days of chivalry where not quite as chivalrous as they are supposed to be. But for an escapade in time and recreation of a literary reality, it is an adventure that will leave you wishing for a castle with a drawbridge. It is a step into a fairytale world where knights are bold, maidens fair, and where everyone with admission price lives happily ever after.