Well, I can check one more item off of my bucket list. All my life I’ve heard about Renaissance Fairs, and yesterday I finally got to attend one in person. Let’s just say it was quite the experience. Billed as a Renaissance Festival and Fantasy Faire, this one had it all; knights, fairies, pirates, princesses…and that was just in the parking lot. Of course, when I say parking lot, I really mean a field where we could abandon our futuristic driving machines, and change out of our modern garb in order to assume our characters for the day. Therefore, after settling into our parking spot, we propped open the trunk of the car and began changing into and assembling our costumes in what was easily the weirdest tailgate party I’ve ever been a part of. My identity for the day was that of a serving wench; not the most glamorous of roles, but it was the costume my friends had picked out for me, and any misgivings I may have had about the implications of that choice were quickly forgotten as soon as I felt the cool breeze around my legs that was created by the costume’s billowing skirt, because the sun was out and the day promised to be a scorcher.
Once inside, we began our leisurely stroll through the grounds of the faire, causally taking in all manner of vendors, food, entertainers, and old fashioned drinks. It was quite the sight to see a magician entertaining on lookers, while just across the path mermaids swam in a pool next to a pirate ship. A bit further on we came upon an exhibition of belly dancing, a Shakespeare company performing As You Like It, and a beer garden where we took a much needed refuge from the sun and indulged in some Henry VIII Porter. However, the highlight of the day promised to be a demonstration of jousting, during which the Knights of Honor would be competing for our enjoyment, and presumably theirs, because why else would you willingly gallop towards another person in full armour, all while hoping to avoid getting hit in the chest with a rather imposing wooden stick?
Unfortunately, on this day, the horses needed for said jousting were out of commission, and therefore the event could not go on as planned; a disappointment for sure, but a medieval re-enactment society was there to fill in the gap, and this group did not disappoint. Clad head to toe in shiny, freshly polished armour, and holding genuine, albeit blunted, swords and axes, these knights were now the featured entertainment of the day, and as we approached the viewing area for the first show, two knights stood centre stage, swords causally slung over their shoulders, as they cordially discussed how the imminent fight was going to go down.
Because of this discussion, I assumed that we were in for a choreographed fight, during which swords would clang, shields would deflect hits, and axes would swing, but all in a controlled and planned out manner. Something along the lines of a Lord of the Rings Live! Therefore, I was utterly unprepared for what ensued once the group’s announcer gave the signal for the fight to start. Two grown men, each wearing over 60 lbs of armour, ran headlong at each other, hacking away with their swords, their shields, and in times of need, their heads. This would go on for a couple of minutes, until eventually one or both would lose their weapons in the chaos, at which point the two would simply grab at each other and attempt to throw the other to the ground. Whoever hit the ground first was the loser of the match. It was violent, brutal, and spectacularly unrehearsed, and as I took it all in, it occurred to me that this was giving us spectators a rather genuine look at what battles in the Middle Ages must have looked like before stunt choreographers became a thing. And if anyone had any doubt as to the authenticity of the fighting, a conversation with the announcer later in the day, during which he gleefully detailed the time a sword caught his finger and the flesh in that finger exploded out the side of his hand, was enough to convince me that while these people certainly were passionate about what they do, they are also slightly insane.
After watching two shows of knights bashing each other’s faces in, not to mention the hysterical spectacle of two knights having to be pried apart after their armour became entangled as they hit the ground together, my group particular of knights, minstrels, and princesses decided that it was time to go, because the sun was making us all crispy and we longed for the modern marvel that is air conditioning. As we headed out of the grounds, I took one last look around me and had to smile at what I saw. People in costumes of every imaginable genre were wandering around the grounds, taking in the sights, browsing the many hand-crafted wares on sale, and watching as the various entertainers jockeyed to amaze them. According to pop culture, Renaissance Fairs aren’t exactly the pinnacle of cool, but that didn’t stop the day from being completely awesome. With events like these, you’re only going to have as much fun as you decide to have, and believe me, high levels of fun were being had by everyone around me. I mean, if watching knights go at each other with real swords while a man rumbles along behind you pulling a cart of fake dead bodies and calling out “Bring out your dead!” isn’t a good day, then what is?