Monday, August 8, 2016

We Went to RenFaire! : Fantasy and Festival Fun

There's plenty of reasons as to why I've dreamed about attending a Renaissance Faire. Let's be real: the kinds of books that I read throughout my adolescence and girlhood basically primed me to live in a world packed with knights and maidens, fairies and farmers, and, of course, the bubonic plague.

Tamora Pierce's complex world-building constructed what laid along the winding roads of Tortall through books like the Beka Cooper series, while Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsong trilogy populated towns and cities with magical winged beasts working alongside their human counterparts. Gail Carson Levine's fairy tale re-tellings, like Ella Enchanted, raised up relatable heroines to the status of princesses, and novels that had nothing to do with the Fantasy genre  - like Karen Cushman's Matilda Bone, or Catherine, Called Birdy - made for a vividly descriptive narrative of the Renaissance time period, as well as the girls who lived through them.

As it turns out, my younger sister, Delaney, has always wanted to go to Ren Faire, too, so when I broached up the topic earlier this year, we decided that this was the summer we would finally make it happen. Soon enough, we had roped in some friends - including yet another sister, joining in as we were practically running out the front door! - and we put on some sunscreen, laced up our bodices (well, some of us), and pointed our caravan towards Bonney Lake, WA, for the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire! 

I cannot express to you how great a time we had. As soon as we walked in the front gates, we grabbed a map and a schedule of events, in order to make sure we could fit in as much as possible into our one-day passes. Some fan favorites:

  • Jousting! We made a beeline for the tournament arena, in order to take in some good ol' (really, really ol') fashioned horseback jousting, as soon as we'd reached the Faire. Each corner of the arena was repped by a different country, and came complete with a requisite rider and accompanying retinue, straight out of A Knight's Tale. Gaps in the tournament were filled by members of these two-legged groups taking part in bouts of broadsword and hand weapon fighting, in a tournament all their own. In the end, France's steel and Germany's steeds were decided the best, but England's champion was still kind enough to talk with a us a little bit, and take a cute picture! 
  • Tournaments! Naturally, jousting and sword fights were not the only sports on display. Our youngest sister ended up striking the bulls-eye at the archery booth, thus qualifying her for the Faire-wide archery tournament, while Delaney's friend from high school did the same at the hand-axe wielding field. 
  • Turkey legs! Okay, so $12 for a giant hunk of poultry was a bit of a splurge, but it definitely fit the atmosphere! Plus lemonade, plus crepes from a nearby stand, plus delicious small-batch cream soda and root beer, we were left plenty happy and not at all hungry, despite the fact that Delaney and I both bemoaned the fact we'd overlooked the meat pie concessions stand. And due to the number of bards wandering the grounds, we were treated to a special song after we'd eaten (He left us with one of the most imaginative business cards I'd ever seen: a homemade Magic: The Gathering card of himself!). 
  • Shopping! Our youngest sister took home a blue coin skirt, while Delaney had already splurged on the outfit she wore to the event, which she had gotten off of Etsy. I picked up a commemorative tee shirt and a pair of crazy beautiful shaped-wire elf ears, and one of our friends took home a leather pouch for her D&D dice. Plenty of goods abound, including Renaissance-appropriate chain mail and other outfits, worked-leather accessories, swords, and jewelry. 
  • And, of course, much more! We took in an amazing magic show and a rat circus, and there were plenty of other performers we missed, too. You can take out bounties on friends, and get them thrown in the town jail, or you can drink the day away with mead in the Faire's two beer gardens. Plus, I can't explain to you the number of adorable dogs and children that were there... so cute! We were there for about six hours and still ran out of time to do everything we'd wanted! 

As you can see, some of us were more prepared than others. Yup, that's me in the middle! 
The most adorable baby dragons!

I Went to Ren Faire, and All I Got Was This (Gorgeous!) Tee Shirt (and these amazing shaped-wire elf ears!)

Naturally, we're already making plans for next year, which may or may not involve making use of the Faire's campgrounds, which lay adjacent to the event grounds. The Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire is multi-weekend, too, each with a different theme: "Piratical  Plunder" weekend was pretty fun, but I'm really pulling for "Fantastical Faeries" weekend on our next excursion.

It's not all good news, though: I had so much fun, I left with a pretty ridiculous sunburn, cringe-worthy dirty feet (word to the wise: do not wear sandals!), and especially tragic, a missing set of apartment keys! Still, while I'm busy hunting down some aloe vera, and coordinating schedules with my busy roommate so that I don't get locked out, I've made plenty of good memories this weekend to look back on... and that deserves a HUZZAH! 

Have you ever gone to a Ren Faire? What is your favorite novel set in a Renaissance time period? Let me know, in the comments below!

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