Ah, summer is here. I know this not because the air conditioning is wreaking havoc with my electric bill or because my lawn is already charring around the edges, but rather due to the arrival of the season’s true harbinger. The Renaissance Festival has opened for business.
Time to renew old friendships with overly-expressive sorts dressed in peasant garb and brandishing swords and turkey drumsticks with equal abandon. Time to shell out twenty bucks a head to tromp around in the mud (at least you hope it’s mud) while these wanna-be actors – who last starred in their high school’s production of The Music Man – try to lure you into some medieval feat of strength by calling you things like “knave” and “wench” in a variety of mangled British accents that only Kevin Costner could love. But be sure and wait for the hottest, most humid day imaginable so the sweat will be dripping off both you and those whose job it is to transport you back to jolly old England in the age of non-existent sanitary facilities, not to mention that pesky Black Death. This way the experience will be enhanced when, by mid-afternoon, the scent of horse droppings, overwhelmed antiperspirant and festering mead will hang like an acrid pall over waft blithely throughout the proceedings.
A jester blocks your path, juggling bowling pins (as I recall, bowling was invented by the Visigoths, who brought it to England during the first Bronze Age, using the heads of their vanquished enemies as the ball) from behind a blindfold while admonishing anyone within earshot to clear a path lest they risk being struck by an errant toss. All are happy to comply. Close behind are the troubadours, strumming on lutes and singing songs that seem to bring them great joy (an assumption based on the fact that, though not a single word is discernible, they stop and laugh raucously after every few stanzas). An offer to join in on the merriment is dismissed with the wave of your half-eaten turkey leg.
(I’m neither an historian or dietician, but I find it astounding that humanity survived the period considering the only foodstuff available to the general populace appears to have been turkey drumsticks. In a related note, I’m equally surprised that turkeys survived, considering the extreme demand for their haunches.)
After a few hours of “authentically costumed” frivolity it’s time to find a bathroom. Thankfully, the organizers have not insisted on historical accuracy in this arena, but even so you nearly soil yourself before realizing that all the porta-johns have been cleverly disguised – in some cases as turrets, in others, trees, replete with arched doors through which you would expect the Keebler elf to walk. Of course the ‘tree’ you choose is occupied, and once you finally gain entry it looks as though the fair maiden who went before you used the last of the leaves. Such is the lot of those who stray too far from the castle.
Many attendees slip and slide through the muck with a look of bewildered disappointment on their faces as they come to realize that this is not so much Game of Thrones as it is Robin Hood: Men In Tights. Sadly, there will be no heads crushed like grapes or eviscerations by long blade, just irritatingly jovial fire-breathers, jugglers and jousters.
And, of course, an Artisan’s marketplace, where one can purchase an original 14th century WWE belt buckle, ye olde Chinese Finger Traps and walking staffs carved by King Henry the Eighth himself.
So once more, summer is awakened by the heralding trumpets of the Renaissance Festival. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano or the Lions falling short of the Super Bowl, this yearly ritual remains as timeless and steadfast as ever. Hurry in before they’re all out of turkey legs.