A Complete Guide to the Renaissance Fair
Renaissance Fair Fire Dancer
A Complete Guide to the Renaissance Fair
The Renaissance fair is a vast array of performance art, craft fair, and historical reenactment. Costumes are worn by the workers, typically in representation of the later part of the Elizabethan period. There are an abundance of booths selling representative crafts and fabulous food. Parades wind through the crowds, and there are a plethora of musicians, jugglers, magicians, and various other entertainers that will delight you with performances throughout the day.
Your mission is to allow yourself to be corrupted by the amazing character, wander around, examine the crafts, sample the food, appreciate the performers, and drink a lot of English ale.
If it is your first time attending a Renaissance fair, be forewarned, there is a lot to take in, and you may easily become overwhelmed. It is a busy atmosphere with sounds of bells, lutes, and ocarinas soaring through the air, flags and ribbons waving in the wind and an abundance of foreign accents. The smell of flowers and foods envelope you while the sun shines down and warms your face. The setting in unlike anything you will ever see.
To fully transport you to the Renaissance era, the people that work there are in full character, not because it's their job but because they love to play the role and truly want to help you appreciate the whole experience. If you're willing to play along with them, they will love nothing more than to banter with you.
Renaissance Fair Characteristics
Many Renaissance fairs are designed to be a representation of an English village during Elizabeth I's reign. There are generally stages set up for performance of plays such as Shakespearean or anachronistic comedy routines that require audience participation.
The lanes are filled with stores and stalls where vendors sell Renaissance and medieval clothing, crafts, art and books. There is usually a game area with such games as archery and Soak a Bloke or Drench a Wench where you throw an object at a target to dunk the wench or bloke in water. Various animal rides and displays are present and the main attraction is usually the joust.
A joust is described as two knights that are mounted on horses, in full gear, that battle each other with weapons including a lance, axe, dagger and sword. This was a very popular game of the Middle Ages.
The stage performers are not the only forms of entertainment at a Renaissance fair. Amateur and professional actors roam the fair and interact with guests, allowing for guests to get into character a bit more during their visit.
Most Renaissance fairs have a concert or a parade at the end of the last day as a ritual to bid farewell to everyone who has worked there and those that are in attendance that day. This is usually a fairly emotional event yet heart warming to view and feel the appreciation, dedication and love that these people have toward the Renaissance era.
Renaissance Fair Jousting
History of the Renaissance Fair
An early music revival came in the 1950s, causing a great resurgence in Renaissance and medieval culture, primarily the music. John Langstaff was a great folk musician produced by that era who held a few traditional revels in New York City and Washington.
Later in 1963, Phyllis Paterson, a Los Angeles teacher, set up a small Renaissance fair in her huge backyard as a class activity. Her and her husband had the first fair hosted as a fundraiser for a radio station, attracting around 8,000 people.
The Renaissance Pleasure Faire was held in Southern California as a tradition for many years at the Paramount Ranch. This spread a movement across the country. It is arguably an American event, but there are European historical fairs as well that are a bit similar, but they are geared more toward the education aspect rather than any form of entertainment. The American style of the Renaissance fair has also spread into Canada since the 1990s.
Renaissance Fair Girls in Costume
Renaissance Fair Costumes
Renaissance fair workers do not only talk and walk the part, but their costumes play the role to perfection, mimicking what would have been the traditional apparel worn during the Elizabethan era.
During the time of the reign of Elizabeth, clothing always was a reflection of social status. There would never be a question to who was nobility walking through a crowd. Clothing directly indicated wealth and price of clothing was made in relation to the type of fabric. Cotton, velvet, corduroy, and satins were reserved primarily for the wealthy, while garments made of wool and flax were worn by the lower class.
As you stroll through the Renaissance fair, you will get an idea of who is playing which role by their costumes. Additionally, you are always welcome to dress the part when you attend; however, there is not a dress code, so there are no requirements.
The Original Renaissance Fair
Food at the Renaissance Fair
The Renaissance fair, above everything else, is known for its assortment of “hands-on” and hearty foods. Gigantic turkey legs, corn on the cob and plenty of crepes are always on hand as well as extra-large pickles. Brats are popular as are the bread bowls that are often filled with beer cheese soup and snacks such as fried cheese curds, nut rolls, scotch eggs can usually be found if you search through all the vendors.
If you have managed to save room for dessert, you can often find peasant pastries, cheesecake on a stick, apple dumplings, chocolate-covered bananas and strawberries, crumpets, and scones.
Above all, you will find strong beer and plenty of it!
Renaissance Fair Tips
It is advised to not wear flip flops, or open toes shoes no matter how hot it is outside. The Renaissance fair usually consists of dirt and wood chips, and parking in a large grass lot can leave you walking through mud, bees, and broken glass that careless visitors have left behind.
Although most vendors do take Visa and MasterCard, cash is much easier to have on hand at this event. The food commons are not plastic friendly, so be sure to stop at the ATM or bank on the way.
Remember to bring your sense of humor, as it is likely that you will get picked on by actors and workers. Everyone is there to have a good time, so this is not the place to bring an attitude or shyness.
The Renaissance fair is not only extremely fun but educational as well. It is a great place to take the whole family to be surrounded by a bit of culture for the day. It is important to give recognition to an era that played such a huge role in affecting society today.
© 2010 JLaszlo