Renaissance Pleasure Faire

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Renaissance Pleasure Faire

Here are photos from my 1996 excursion to the RenFaire.

Each year a recreation of the Middle Ages is recreated in Northern (Novato) and Southern (Los Angeles) California. The Renaissance Pleasure Faire (the RenFaire) features everyday folk in costume - brings back memories of the Society for Creative Anachronisms - speaking in the tongue of the times. (Those who survive the audition process wind up living on the fairegrounds in small tent for each of the ten consecutive weekends the faire is given (and more, given the long process of workshops and rehearsals that preceed the Faire)). Food, grog, ale, Shakespearean plays, minstrels, sword-play and jousting, falconry, craftspeople plying their trade, and detailed surroundings make for a delightful immersive experience, especially if you play along and dress for the trip, as my sister and her boyfriend did.

To get to the Faire we left San Francisco and drove north over the Golden Gate Bridge.


We arrived at the fairegrounds, a parcel of land rented to the venture by a local farmer. The parking lot, a momentarily unused field, is huge and dusty. Since we arrived early in the day we get rather close to the entrance.

The already enthused crowd is brought to a broil by several barkers. It's comfortably warm, and the sights, sounds, and smells of the simulation begin to erase any short-term thoughts of the modern world. The village is constructed with an eye for detail, a pleasure to behold. As much Old English and Middle English is used in the signage as we modern folk would understand. Much of the village is built in a heavily-wooded lot at the edge of the farmer's fields. The cleared paths are packed dirt. The sun is taking its toll on me today, as has the drive. I'm ready to go in. The village gates are thrown open after a woodwind fanfair.

Shortly after the surging crowd thins out a bit we pass the arena, where a woman and her falcon hold court.

All day we see folks honing their fencing and other martial arts at the combat school. Some of these warriors will later take part in jousting.

From atop the Pewter Shoppe a lass shouts at the crowd.

The main path leads parallel to the tree-line, the only shade coming from the village's buildings. On both sides of the path are shops at which you may buy all sorts of tie-in merchandise - period costume hats, shirts, full costumes, jewelery. (Since this RenFaire and many other across the country have been bought out by a for-profit company I've noticed a huge jump in the availability of items that aren't contemporary to the time of the Faire and don't add to the feeling of being transported to another time and place. I think it's sad, probably because while at the Faire I don't feel a burning need to buy a red and white striped Cat in the Hat chapeau. I'd like to see modern items discouraged from being on display and on sale.)

A parade goes by, complete with drummers, ladies and gentlemen, commoners, and riff-raff.

The flag-bearers lead the landed gentry into the area.

Certainly the high point of the Faire for me are the hard-working actors who turn out in costume to lend an authentic air to the proceedings.

After a long day of entertaining us, the staff takes a well-deserved rest.

Thank you very much for coming along with me to the Faire.

Fare thee well.

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