Where else can you meet a decent knight–or pirate, or troll, or elf–these days?
Where else can you watch a joust, a coronation, or have tea with with the Queen (Elizabeth I, that is)?
I love coming to such places, especially here in Minnesota where the fairground buildings are permanent and the dimensions those of a good-sized village. It takes hours to stroll through the dusty streets, where you might see jugglers, singers, horses…and chickens. You can stop into a “real” pub, sit down for a pint and a sing-along. You can buy all manner of necessary items, like swords and bucklers, cloaks and daggers, crowns and corsets. You can feast on roasted turkey legs, drink cottage mead, and watch the funeral procession of the empty cask (if you have never seen one, imagine the grim reaper leading a line of empty beer kegs, followed by weeping men in tights and codpieces).
Welcome, friends, to Neverland. It is here that long-ago children–the ones who read big books all alone on the playground– never grow up. To those on the fringe of ordinary, who long for a safe place to be odd, outlandish and well-costumed, the Renaissance Faire is a mecca of the carnivalesque. And frankly, the faire, generally, has always provided such places. Did you ever wonder: why Mardi Gras? why Halloween? why fancy dress and masquerade balls? Critic Mikhail Bakhtin traces this to the Feast of Fools, where the high church officials would turn the ceremonial order on its head (a kind of free-for-all, anything goes event). To Bakhtin, events like these subvert and liberate, creating a space where the last becomes first; those with the least amount of power (slaves, women, lower classes) are suddenly the bells of the ball.
All literary criticism and history aside, I think this is still quite true. So come geek-out with the “dorks,” the “weirdos” and the “brainy kids”–and remember what you may have forgotten: there is room for us all, and here, you are among friends.
Andrea and I went twice this year…Which is, of course, an excuse to wear two costumes, you know. Have a look at our festival selves–knights, merry men and all: RenFaire