“My good sir! My dear Madame!” Right from the get-go, the dialect pretty much goes like this, along with crazy costumes, props and cleavage galore at the PA Ren Faire. Although, this is not regarded as a scary, Halloween-type event that would typically appear on my site, it has enough cross-over appeal to gain attention from at least some of my faithful regulars.
I attended this with my girlfriend Kate. My buddy Joel met us there and brought his wife Jenn, and their two teenage children. Joel is always up for a good time, but Jenn really took the experience to heart with a full era-appropriate costume. She had purchased the dress the year before (pictured below).
Just a quick jaunt from the Lebanon–Lancaster exit of the PA Turnpike (#266) is a fantasy time-capsule, encapsulated in the no-name town of Manheim. The parking lot goes on forever, and I am sure it is always packed no matter what day you attend. The fun begins while maneuvering your car amid the distractions of staggering attendees dressed in all sorts of Olde Age costume….from the hand-crafted to the mass-manufactured. Either way, cleavage abounds! It is highly recommended that you come dressed for the period to really get the total experience. I didn’t have any such garb, but did I unfortunately have a medieval-style toothache which could not be treated until the middle of the following week! The pain was exacerbated by the sight of antiquated blacksmith tools, and the knowledge that living in that era meant your blacksmith was also your dentist. With my uncontrollably vivid imagination, I pictured myself sitting on top of an iron anvil as a blacksmith took a steel rod and a hammer to my tooth. Please, no comments regarding any phallic implications of this unwanted visual.
With Halloween being my favorite holiday, and this visit only 10 days before the 31st, I was pleased to see the entrance was well-decorated with pumpkins and a host of other varieties of squash/gourds. This would be their Halloween Daze and Spooky Knights II weekend. On the schedule, this was described as a “weekend of mayhem with spooky creatures of every variety haunting the shire”. I saw maybe one person on stilts dressed as a spooky creature, which was pretty cool. The rest of it was more or less stationary-type decorative stuff. Fine with me though. I didn’t come to the Faire expecting Eastern State Penitentiary.
U.S. currency will do you no good here, except to purchase your admission ticket. Once inside, you must exchange your money for replica coins of Olde English pounds I guess? I was surprised the website doesn’t really make mention of this. With these coins, you are enabled to purchase food and beverages. I just remember spending $40 on an even conversion rate of loose gold coins which I barely used. I think I may have used one coin on a bowl of soup. I was eyeing up the turkey legs and cold beer, but of course the damn toothache prevented any chance of that happening.
Guys and gals who love speaking in early-English dialect with stock phrases like those in the intro, will no doubt enjoy a bonding experience. It was fun to see the comradery among these folk and the lengths at which the banter is sustained.
Towards the end of the day, we were sitting off to the side as a person dressed almost entirely in a fur costume walks by. Kate inquires what on earth that is, and Joel quickly identifies it as a “furry”. None of us were familiar with the term, and he went on to explain that there is a contingent of people who only feel comfortable in their skin while wearing animal skin/fur. As with many under-the-radar groups like this (Bronies, Cosplayers, etc), it has been suggested that their costumes are tied to sexual fetishism, and this is when they are at their best. I honestly don’t know, nor do I really care. Joel wrapped up his furry infomercial by mentioning a recent Furry convention in California. Apparently, one of the adjoining host hotels featured a larger than life litterbox for their guests to use and live out their dream of defecating in public just as an animal would. At this point, the toothache was really getting on my nerves.
Speaking of Joel, I almost forgot the showdown between him and Jenn. There is a mini-arena where 2 people get dressed as soldiers with swords and duel it out in front of the crowd (for a fee). Joel wanted me to be his adversary, but I preferred to document the action, and suggested he and Jenn go at it. From a distance, each pair of people battling it out is a pretty cool-looking spectacle. Upon closer observation, the scene becomes a little sillier as the battle is only an effort to stab at three black balloons fastened on to various parts of each other’s body.
You may not swipe, swing or swat the sword on each other, mind you….only poking. Jenn proved to be the better poker as she poked out all Joel’s balloons in less than 60 seconds.
Definitely a shameful performance on Joel’s part, but I give him credit for the effort regardless of his 3 flaccid balloons.
This is a family-friendly event which no-doubt cashes-in on anyone young or old with the vaguest Renaissance interest (me) to hardcore fans who circle their calendars months in advance, and make it part of their summer routine. The payoff is worthwhile though, with some visuals I was not expecting, fun sing-along songs, and some well-orchestrated jousting at the end. I wish I had as strong an interest in something (well, anything), as some of the attendees did in this event.
I have heard of more adult-oriented similar events. One by the name of “Pennsic”, I believe? An ex-girlfriend informed me that this was a closed, invite-only, more scandalous type of event. Nudity abounds, and apparently raucous, beer-fueled orgies are not entirely out of the realm of possibilities. She didn’t elaborate too much on the specific goings-on, but she did have pictures to prove her attendance. A quick google search does turn up some vague details on Pennsic, and it confirms the fact that this one is invite-only, and the general public is discouraged from coming around uninvited. So if the Ren Faire gets old, and you have a thirst for something more hardcore, I guess try and find a Pennsic member and make friends with them.
Admittedly, the bad timing of the toothache prevented me from fully enjoying the event. It was my first time experiencing such tooth pain which was capable of overpowering Advil, Tylenol, gum-numbing agents and Whiskey. If I can manage to keep track of my sack of leftover gold coins, I will definitely make every effort to attend in the summer of ’19.