A couple of weekends ago, some friends and I went to the Maryland Renaissance Festival for a day of vicarious wenching, weaponry, and what-have-you. It took FOREVER to get there because the last 2 miles of road are 2 lanes, which aren’t enough to accommodate the traffic. The last 2 miles probably took about 45 minutes. The volunteer who pointed us to our parking spot looked EXACTLY like my little brother circa 2008, from hair in eyes to prominent nose. Kind of freaky.
Anyway. We missed the opening ceremonies, where the King and Queen ride up with their entourage and proclaim that Revel Grove is now open. But as we were buying our tickets, a couple of elephants and camels rode by. Real elephants. Real camels. Real cool.
Most of the activities cost money and we were all channeling our inner Ferengi. But it was nice to wander around and pretend to be vaguely medieval. We did get to see a human chess match, where red and black fought for primacy, much like Wizard’s Chess. The difference was that there were designated teams for fighting while the actual pieces observed. I suppose this was a good thing because many of the pawns were children and it wouldn’t be good for the RennFest’s liability if they had a grown man with a sword beating a 6-year old.
This particular weekend was Celtic weekend, so there was this drum and bagpipe group called Cu Dubh. Their music was pretty powerful. The tall guy reminded me of Thor from the recent movies. They were also very serious, although I suppose if one is busy blowing one’s brains out via bagpipe, one doesn’t have a lot of opportunity to crack a smile.
This event also attracts many vendors with various talents who can only sell their wares at events like this. The authentic bowmaker? The ironsmith? The woman’s accessorizer selling wimples and hair sticks? The tanner’s bodices of authentic, cured leather? One of the best ones was the tapestry maker, who had a number of embroidered pillows, wall hangings, and carpets. Their quality was exquisite. If I had an extra $200 to spare, I would have gotten a replica of a piece of the Bayeux Tapestry. I remember learning about the Tapestry and the tale of William the Conqueror in 8th grade (see, dad, not renting my education) and for some reason it has always stuck with me.
In the afternoon, we got to see a local comedy troupe, Shakespeare’s Skum, perform a tag-team version of Romeo and Juliet, where it was the guys versus the girls and they traded off, relay style. At the end, it was up to the audience to vote on which team won. These guys are great. I highly recommend them. And I have discovered that they have other shows NOT at the RennFest, which I will be sure to investigate. Seriously, click the link above and peruse the pictures.
The last show of the day was another Celtic band, but while Cu Dubh played very angry, we-are-going-to-war music, this band played dances and reels. They were called Wolgemut, which is either German or old/middle English for “good time.” According to their website, they’re a minstrel troupe, which explains why their music was lighter. Anyway, they were a lot of fun and really got the audience into their music, clapping on rhythm (more or less) and cheering for more.
Then we decided it was time to go home. The temperature was freakishly hot for October and we were covered in dust so it was time to go cheer the Irish to victory over Arizona State.
One thing that could bother me, if I let it, is that the Renaissance Festival has become another excuse for, basically, a fantasy con. People dressed up like aliens, there was on very well steampunk’d gentleman, about five Assassin Creed-ers, a half dozen Princess Meridas, this guy. The vendors accommodated, one metalsmith going so far as to make personally fitted Wonder Woman bras and WW waistband things. A lot of people had furry tails. I never understood the Furry movement. But I suppose if I let that bother me, I would have to nitpick at the other vague historical contexts. That is, the whole event spanned more-or-less, ALL THE MEDIEVAL TIMES. Although, because the Renaissance lasted roughly three centuries, I suppose the RennFest has a lot of material with which to work. But to get back to my point – fantasy con. *sigh* Why?
Last week was the Day of Wrong, so everyone dressed up Wrong. That is, Boba Fett in a Kilt, innumerable Doctors Eleven doing things, etc. (All this is hearsay from a coworker who thinks me getting my knickers in a twist over the whole fantasy con thing is absurd.) I could rant about how weak history leads to weak knowledge and how everything MEDIEVAL is generally painted with the same YAY CASTLES brush. (I actually looked up swordfighting classes. Outside of fencing, the best school is located in Houston. Poo.) But I won’t. Because Renaissance Festivals aren’t the place for seriousness (see: Shakespeare’s Skum).
The point of these things is having a Wolgemut, right? And that was certainly achieved.