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Renaissance Festivals: Jousting About!

Every summer, I see knights, noble lords and ladies, wizards, faeries, a walking plant twice as tall as I am, and even the queen. Do I travel through time? Kind of—it’s time for the Renaissance Festival again!

Renaissance Festivals are annual events, usually held on weekends during the summer and fall. Some attempt historical accuracy, but most are a free-for-all of fun. A few years ago, our local Renaissance Festival debuted a mermaid tank! This is a fun opportunity for children and adults to dress up and play at medieval life. There are often theme weekends, such as Pirates & Pups (dogs are usually very welcome, but check your local guide), Viking Invasion, and Highland Fling.

One of the main attractions at a Renaissance Festival is jousting. These events usually take place a few times throughout the day—times will probably be posted on your map. It’s open, bleacher-style seating, so if you want a good spot, get there early. Some people think that since jousting is carefully choreographed, it’s “fake.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Jousting is a physical, potentially dangerous sport that takes a great deal of skill and training.

Renaissance Festivals have other kinds of performances as well. Small plays are popular, and skills such as juggling, fire eating, or knife throwing can be combined with a comedy act. Audience members are frequently pulled up on stage to take part, which only adds to the fun! Be aware that not all shows are family friendly, and can be downright R-rated in terms of language and content.

There are many fascinating shops at most Renaissance Festivals. The most common types of items are leather goods, glass, jewelry, carvings, crystals, and clothing, including the infamous corset. Most vendors will encourage you to try things on, but ask that you not take pictures of yourself in the item. The reasoning behind this is that you’re less likely to buy if you already have a picture of yourself in an amazing outfit, or that you might take the image and try to get a similar item from somewhere else. Remember, many of the items are handcrafted and incredibly detailed, taking considerable time and skill, so they aren’t likely to be cheap.

Food at a Renaissance Festival ranges from the ubiquitous smoked turkey leg to modern hamburgers. Chances are good that at some point you will encounter the delectable smell of roasting almonds, cashews, or peanuts. Scotch Eggs—a hard boiled egg encased in pork sausage, rolled in breadcrumbs, and deep fried—are one example of Festival food that you’re less likely to see outside. Apple Dumplings are the “must have” when my family goes to the Renaissance Festival. These are apples baked in a pastry crust until brown, then served with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. Since they are fairly large, we usually share one dumpling for two people.

There are a few things to remember to make your Renaissance Festival experience more enjoyable.

  • Wear good shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking, including to and from your car. Renaissance Festivals seldom have traditional parking lots—instead, you’re more likely to park in a field and have to walk in, which can take some time.
  • Bring cash. Though many vendors take credit and debit cards (“Our Lady of Visa”) these days, having at least some cash will give you more flexibility.
  • Do NOT ask where the bathrooms are! The only facilities available are port-a-johns, but the sign at the entrance to this area will say “PRIVY,” the Medieval term for a toilet. Asking where a “bathroom” is will likely result in mockery.
  • Wear sunscreen, even if it’s cloudy. This isn’t particular to Renaissance Festivals, of course. Any time you’re going to be outdoors for an extended period of time, you want to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.

Every Renaissance Festival is unique, but they all have fun in common, so go and enjoy! To search for a Festival near you, check out TheRenList.


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