Oct 012012

Thou hast our Royale permission to enjoy this column
Disappointingly yet predictably, no one is falling-down drunk

Back in the day (oh great, another post that begins “back in the day”) I used to spend a lot of time at the Renaissance Festival. I knew people who had a vendor booth there, and dressing up in renaissance attire while camping in the woods for a weekend made for a pretty good time.

Also, we drank a lot.

It was easy to get carried away with the drinking thing, one would tie a flagon to one’s belt and bring it along at all times. Many vendors would fill another vendor’s guests at a steep discount, sometimes for free. One of my friends was in a group that was even more dedicated to RenFaire drinking. They wandered from one tap to the next in matching knight outfits (their crest was a goblet) and gave themselves “knight names”. Sir Loin. Sir Rendippity. Sir Roundsound. etc.

Hard cider and mead may be drinks of the renaissance era, but they still work, and a renaissance hangover feels just the same as any other.

But then, as all things do, we grew up. I grew up, the Knights of Iniquity grew up, the Renaissance Faire itself grew. Over the years it hardened, becoming less of an amateur gathering where locals would sell hand-made crafts from tents and more of a big business where traveling professionals go from Faire to Faire selling $500 boots from permanent storefronts. And something else happened too, it stopped being Elizabethan.

The original Ren Faires were an attempt to have fun while recreating 15th-16th century England. People could get a little uptight about costuming and wares that were out of era. Not any longer, anything vaguely “Olde” goes now. Medieval, fairies, pirates, doesn’t have to make sense, it’s all about having a good time and selling a lot of very expensive gear.

DDO Cosmetic Armor Kits

DDO cosmetic armor kits!
I didn’t even bother to ask how much

The most commonly-sold items at the Maryland Renaissance Festival this year were ersatz magic wands. Some wooden, some crystalline, and all capable of getting you burned at the stake in Elizabethan times; it was not a witch-friendly era. But the irony is lost on the general populace, or ignored in the name of commerce: did I mention the $500 boots?

Yet it remains fun. I kept going when I got married, enlisting my family and kids in the costumery and foolishness. We went every year at least once, so ingrained that when we returned this year my grown daughter kept mentioning how much it reminded her of her childhood. The jugglers are still juggling, the ribald jokes are still off-color, the cider is still hard.

Sure there are a lot more people now, and an even greater focus on merchants selling stuff, but to be fair it was always about the merchandizing. The boots that are $500 now were $125 then but they were still there.

Eat, Drink and be Hearty!
Dirt Cake?

Maybe the real difference is in me. Back then I could pretend that the fun was the main purpose. For me, and for those I knew, it really was, no pretending needed. I imagine there still are those who spend the faire running about in threadbare costumes, putting aside the real world for a weekend or a season and using the festival as an excuse for good times.

I certainly hope so.


πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€ πŸ™‚

  2 Responses to “Party Like It’s 1499”

Comments (2)
  1. Woo for booze and cheese on a Stick! Haha. Almost fainted at the thought of 500$ boots man. That’s crazy!

  2. Maryland? I don’t remember it ever being terribly Elizabethan, at least not by 1990 or so. The Pennsylvania one is said to be (at least back in 2000). Haven’t been there for awhile. The shrimp and shorts were also a great deal.

What do you think?

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