The Joy of Ren Faires

I’m normally a pretty cheerful person, but nothing gets me grinning like the Cheshire Cat for seven hours straight like attending a Renaissance Faire. I’m doing an exercise in frowning now to stretch those muscles in the other direction.

Theoretically, I grew up pretty steeped in Ren Faires. My mother was an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism for many years, my father was the site manager for a Renaissance Faire in Oregon for some time, and the home business that kept us happily supplied with things like food and cows required a great deal of vending at Renaissance Faires all over the place.

Unfortunately, we moved away from civilization when I was seven, and it just wasn’t economical or easy to take a few kids along to whatever Ren Faire my father was selling at, so in my active memory I’ve only ever been to the few small Ren Faires that dared attempt a start in the really north part of the Pacific Northwest. Those Ren Faires were like grass growing through cracks in the sidewalk: Pretty, but… well, I don’t know where I’m going with that metaphor. “Pretty but not really feasible”, maybe.

The point being, upon moving to the east coast, I was practically bulldozed by available Renaissance Faires. There were, like, three of them within 200 miles! Amazing!

Which is why I’ve been to the Tuxedo NY Renaissance Faire three times this year, and today I attended the Pennsylvania Renaissance Fair. I don’t have a problem, you have a problem.

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My Generic Peasant outfit for Renaissance Faires. Complete with illiteracy and tooth problems!

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The outfit I actually wear out of the house because I don’t want my employers to see how completely crazy I am. Everything gets tucked into the coat like I’m trying to smuggle electronics out of a store.

The Generic Peasant outfit is a relatively new addition to my costume collection. It replaced my old Renaissance Faire outfit that I used since I was around twelve, an outfit I kept for many years because I never grew tall enough to officially outgrow it. The Generic Peasant outfit has a unique quality to it: It makes everyone, guests and staff alike, believe that I work at whatever Renaissance Faire I happen to be attending.

This is a little bit sad, in a way, because it means the actors and performers rarely interact with me anymore, since I’m not part of the general public they are there to entertain. It’s still highly entertaining when they try to place me, though. (“Are you… on break, now?” “I don’t work here.” “Ohhhh.”)

Anyway… the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire!

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I’m still in awe of Renaissance Faires that actually have buildings. The tiny ones are more like county fairs; lots of temporary tents and stalls. This works great for county fairs because county fairs are not meant to be historically accurate to anything. It works less great for Ren Faires- at least, when the tents are clearly made of polyester and plastic.

But these buildings stay up year round! They are, in fact, like actual buildings!

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I find Renaissance Faires to be such beautiful places. They have some genuinely strange people among their ranks, and that’s what makes it so phenomenal. Everyone’s allowed to be slightly crazy. Probably expected to be, even. In ten minutes you will pass three pretend witches, half a dozen actual Wiccans, fourteen pirates, a dozen historically accurate costumes, three furries, hundreds of little fairy princesses, and at least one steampunk Pikachu.

And again, I’m still slightly tripped up by the size of them. In my head, a Renaissance Faire takes place in a flat rented field, with twenty polyester stalls and a dozen actors who can’t quite shake the Redneck from their vocabulary.

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My father used to say, “Look for the crowd pictures. If the Renaissance Faire doesn’t have any pictures of crowds on their website, they’re not pulling enough people.”

I always spend an obscene amount of money at Renaissance Faires. They’re expensive as a rule, but where I’m normally fairly conservative with my money (this is a lie), at Renaissance Faires I’m practically throwing my money at passerby in the hopes that they will hand me some kind of trinket. Unfortunately, as things are expensive, I usually only come back with one or two items.

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There was a tea shop. A SHOP for TEA. Look, I don’t know if you understand me, they had a permanent vending area in which they sold dried leaves for flavoring water!

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Pictured here: The best shot I could get of the chess match from where I was sitting. Renaissance Faires are big on human chess matches. It’s like regular chess, but with people who hit each other with dangerous weapons. As opposed to harmless weapons?

I didn’t take too many pictures of the Renaissance Faire, since I was too busy being head over heels in love with everything and everyone. I’ll be riding this high for days. Renaissance Faires are, truly, a masterpiece of creativity, history, and fantasy. And the men are beautiful because men look a million times more attractive in historically accurate garb.

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Various baubles I’ve picked up at both Renaissance Faires. This is not all of it. I buy a lot of things. It’s not good.

And, I have to say, even if Renaissance Faires aren’t your thing, everyone ought to experience the feeling of walking around in a bodice and snood all day, and then taking them off at the end.

Everyone.

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Ahhh, loose hair. I didn’t spontaneously buy a new Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire (or PRF for short!) cap. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

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