going to the Faire


One of my favorite pictures of my parents was from their honeymoon, a wallet-sized photo my mother kept in the bottom drawer of her jewelry box. They’d gone to a festival, and my mom had managed to persuade dad into dressing up as a Renaissance noble. It was something I couldn’t really picture my father ever doing, but it was an image of him that I carried with me: a knight-errant, carrying his lover’s favor into battle.

I don’t know if it was because of that picture, but ever since I was little I had a fascination for all things Medieval– bordering on obsession, at times. I developed a love for ancient English history, Arthurian legends, Celtic and Norse mythology. I read any book that I could get my hands on that had anything to do with Europe in the Dark Ages– fiction or otherwise. When I discovered fantasy literature… well, now, I basically don’t read any other kind of fiction. I sneaked The Chroncles of Narnia out of the library and hid them under the bathroom sink, reading them a few pages at time. I did the same thing with The Lord of the Rings. When I eventually read Harry Potter three years ago . . . I was instantly in love.

You’d think with that level of obsession, I would’ve known what a Renaissance Festival was, but I didn’t. I had some vague notion of what it was, but the only thing I really knew about it was that people would swallow fire and swords, and that was about it.

Until I met Maria*.

I was at a summer academy for a month, and Maria was the first person I’d ever met that shared my love of all things fantasy. There were some activities that required semi-formal wear, and she’d brought her Lady Guenevere-style gown. I had the biggest girl-crush on her, and probably followed her around like a lost puppy. She described the Renaissance Festival she performed at every year, and that’s when I was hooked.

I wanted to go to a Renaissance Festival.

But, I knew that a public event like that was off-limits. Between the possibility of seeing a costumed man shirtless and the public drinking, it was not a place good Christian girls like me went to. It just . . . wasn’t done. It was inappropriate.

Well, I finally went to one this last weekend. Saying I was excited about it would be an understatement. I was practically bouncing off the walls. I decided to dress up as a Romani– well, the Disney version of one anyway, since I already owned a few of the elements, including a crazy colorful skirt and a peasant-ish-looking blouse. I bought a few colorful scarves, some bangles, and gigantic hoops and called it a day. I also spent the weeks leading up to it watching way too many makeup tutorials on youtube. Which, seriously, some of those are insanely fun.

The end result:

gypsy 1

Also, the actual Festival was pretty darn incredible. The one we went to is located on a permanent fairgrounds, so all the buildings look period. There were well over a hundred vendors– one vendor, Feywood, was absolutely incredible. They make tables and lamps and chairs out of found wood, and it’s gorgeous. There was a haberdashery that made gorgeous lace-and-satin parasols, and one metalworker– Valkyrie’s Armourer— that makes custom Wonder Woman sets– crown, bracers, belt, and breastplate– and they’re amazing. There was some amazing head pieces that I tried on:

head piece 1try on

In the first part of the day, I saw a woman dressed in a beautiful velvet gown with an underbust corset, and I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I’d seen. When I saw it hanging in the window of another vendor–Moresca— I had to go in and try it on.

try on 3

It was way out of my price range, but I felt like a princess just wearing it.

There were some fantastic shows, too– a sword-swallowing act, a joust, a hypnotist, a few comedians, and one of my favorite bands from Celt Fest was also there. It was a pirate-themed weekend, and some of the costumes were amazing. One man looked exactly like Jack Sparrow. I had to do a double take to make sure it wasn’t Johnny Depp. He got a lot of stares, I’m sure. Mostly I just had a blast walking around with people who loved something as much as I did. It was literally a dream come true.

So, what about you? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but were never allowed? Did you eventually get to do it? What was it like?

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  • I don’t really have anything to share, but I am so happy for you that you finally got to do something like this! What a neat experience. My equivalent would either be going to the Harry Potter theme park in Florida, or to the BEA (Book Expo America) in NYC and coming out with ARCs by all my favorite authors. 🙂

  • Sounds like fun! I will have to go to one.

  • I share your obsession. Middle ages and fantasy novels. When I *finally* read Harry Potter, it was instant love. That was just last summer – since then, I’ve read the books three times and now I’m reading them to my six year old. I’ve watched the movies three times too.

  • I have a favorite movie that happens to be rated r (silver linings Playbook), went to the ren faire with kids despite the ‘busty women’ I’d heard of. Read all Harry potter books and watched all the movies, and threw a big party just to celebrate the midnight showing of The Hobbit. I watch Tv shows about magic. I even am reading about druids lately. Basically I’m a rebel ;). Glad you enjoyed the ren faire!

  • I finally went to my first Renn. Faire here in Germany last year. I LOVED it. It was an absolute riot. We had people dressed as Celts, Goths, Gypsies, Romani, Travellers, and other countrymen. We had people bringing their own horn drink cups, wearing full our gear, we had knights and ladies.. oh my gosh!!

    I geeked myself out.

    We never got to really do festivals much when I was growing up, so the few times we did, it made for a wonderful experience. I try to squeeze in things like that for the children, and we go every year to the local Christmas Markets, and we missed most of this year’s Winzerfest (local wineries have wine tastings and the cities/towns/villages have county fairs), but we’re planning on the local Kerwe (Kermis). We don’t do Fezzenacht (Mardi Gras) but the kids are allowed to dress up at kindergarten which has been so much fun.

    We went to the Games Com in Cologne and oh my gosh, how have I never done that before? It was so much fun! I want to go again and not just let the kids dress up, I want to also do my own cosplay. Hopefully it won’t be too far away to drive next year.

    • Ha, scratch *our in “full our gear” and make that OUT. 😉

  • notleia

    Confession: I have a corset. I bought it, of all places, at an anime convention (well, it’s one of the very few cons in the state, so it was anime/sci-fi/fantasy/video game/steampunk/etc). Currently my corset is hiding in the closet because my parents would give it judgey looks (though not so much for being inappropriate as that I spent too much money on something frivolous). I still need to adjust the boning properly and get used to wearing it for long periods of time.

  • Kenetha

    I love Renaissance Festivals! That reminds me that I need to make sure I get to my favorite one soon! It’s several hours drive from here, but so worth it! (And yes, I do have my own costume!)

  • Kesara

    I am a huge fantasy nerd, from reading to writing to playing videogames to my wardrobe. 🙂 My mom and I go to our Renaissance Faire every year for my birthday. I pull out my bellydance costume pieces, and my mom’s a princess. We get fairy dusted, enjoy getting called ‘my lady’ all day, get henna done, learn about different ways to kiss a lady’s hand for levels of affection, find new costume pieces, catch fire dancing and humor shows, and get our feet as dirty as possible walking around. When we take off our shoes after getting back, how much dirt we picked up shows how much fun we had.

  • V

    I spent about ten years working in the performance company for the Texas Renaissance Festival and there definitely days when I miss it. I love Moresca’s bodices, but since I’m no longer working there, I can’t really justify another purchase, especially when my costume closet is already so full.

    My parents were pretty lenient, but I remember when I was younger desperately wanting Cookie Crisp cereal. My mother refused to succumb to the marketing, but I was fascinated. One day after she had made chocolate chip cookies, I tip-toed into the kitchen to try a copy cat recipe. I crumbled up the cookies and poured in the milk. It was disgusting. Have you ever gotten cookie crumble in the bottom of a glass of milk? Imagine a whole bowl of that. It wasn’t a well thought out idea, but I was only a child. Sadly, this is around the time when my mother discovered me and forced me to finish my “cereal”.

    Years later, I tried the real stuff and was sorely disappointed. I’ve stuck to real cookies ever since.

  • Love the outfit with the skirt. When I was in college in the ’60’s I had outfits like that–only they weren’t costumes, they were my regular clothes! (As I said, it was the “60’s.) :->

  • Don

    I wish my personal photographer could do as well as yours did.

  • Her Mama

    Freedom looks FABULOUS on you darling!!!!

  • First, you look fabulous!

    I have been to several Ren Faires both here in the US and in Europe, always have great fun.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Since you’re into Fantasy, I’d like to recommend a couple of my favorites:

    From “The Deryni Chronicles” by Katherine Kurtz, the first and second Kelson trilogies (“Deryni Rising”, “Deryni Checkmate”, “High Deryni”; “Bishop’s Heir”, “King’s Justice”, “Quest for Saint Camber”). I discovered the first three during my college days in the Seventies (tipped off by another D&Der); they were the first Medieval fantasy I’d read where the Church played a major role. Magic, Racism, Rebellion, Church vs State, and a young king in the middle of it all. (Good palate-cleanser after the downer of Game of Thrones.)

    And two from Diana Wynne Jones, “Tough Guide to Fantasyland” and “Dark Lord of Derkholm”. The first is a catalog of every overused fantasy shtick (“Elves, Dwarves, etc”) done in the form of a cross-referenced travel guide. The second is a spoof of these Conventional Fantasy shticks that has to be read to be believed: A conventional fantasy world with all the above shticks is being forced to host live D&D games from offworld; the locals provide the setting, act as orcs and red shirts, and take all the casualties and property damage so the tourist/gamers can have their LOTR-like “experience”. The locals would like to get out of this arrangement, especially the one who drew the short straw and has to be this year’s Dark Lord. This time around, Sauron for the Year has fallen upon a high-level wizard named Derk, a college professor-type whose main worry is his marriage (mages don’t tend to have stable marriages) and his seven kids, most of whom are approaching or in adolescence. When Derk gets racked up by a dragon early in the prepwork, his wife and kids (two human, five griffin) have to keep all the balls in the air while working behind the scene to sabotage the whole exploitive arrangement. And things get weird.