Huzzah! It’s time again for the annual trek to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale, California. A whirlwind trip back in time to ye goode olde days of Elizabethan England.
Yes, it is called a Renaissance Faire but to be honest, it’s in reality, an Elizabethan Faire. Three points bring me to this conclusion. First, the Anglicans are clearly in power, speak to any of the Guild members and the will tell you of the persecution of the Catholics. Second, much of the entertainment is Elizabethan, from the music to the Shakespeare parodies. And third and most importantly – the queen in charge is Queen Elizabeth, in all her glory.
I go to people watch. There is a myriad of humanity on display at Ren Fair. I find there are three groups who attend: Historical Reenactors, Cos-Play Fanatics, and Modern Dress attendees.
The Historical Reenactors work hard to “get it right.” Many are members of the guilds that specialize craft or lifestyle. For example, the Guild of St. Cuthbert. They are a group of reenactors that portray the peasant (lower) and middle classes of Elizabethan and Victorian England. Other groups specialize in weaving, glassblowing, military units, and the nobility; to name a few. I have to give them respect. They know their history. But they “English” they speak is not truly Elizabethan/Shakespearean English. Due the Great Vowel Shift, which between 1400 and 1800 (dates vary with the source, but all agree this was the movement from Middle English to Modern English). The sounds of the long vowels shifted dramatically during this period, so how it was pronounced then and now are different. If they truly spoke Elizabethan, we’d not understand half of what they were saying. When you go, make sure you spend some time with them. Their knowledge of the period is encyclopedic.
Cos-Play Fanatics are, let’s just face it, just love to dress up. Any excuse will do. You will see everything from very simple to ridiculously complex costumes. Many will be attempts at Renaissance/Elizabethan dress. Some of the maids take to extremes, squeezing and pushing up “the ladies” high enough to walk with a flagon of ale perched there, without assistance, as they walk through the fair. There will also be witches, wizards, knights and fairy folk. Some are out of period, but on the weekend, I was there it was “Steampunk” so they were there in high numbers. And it if you paid attention, the Doctor and many of his companions were in attendance also. Then there are the “what were they thinking” group – the World War I Doughboy, Klingons, and Stormtroopers.
The last group, the Modern Dress, are just there to have a good time, watch the people in costume, shop and eat.
I started my day out in Modern Dress – with a flower wreath in my hair, but by lunch, I was in a blouse, long skirt, and tight corset. The corset was surprisingly comfortable until I tried to drive home with it on.
It is often for the shopping that I go. The some of the sparkling jewelry there is found in no venue but fairs like Ren Fair. This year after buying the Steampunk costume, I was broke, so my shopping spree was over.
There is also the entertainment. Demonstrations of period crafts around every turn and musicians parading down the roads could keep me well distracted. But there are also the plays (some not so family friendly) and the jousting tournaments. If you’re lucky, you may even get to speak to the queen herself, as she parades several times a day and this year she walked through the food court greeting children.
And what is Ren Fair without the food? There are turkey legs, Scotch eggs, spanakopita, sausages, Italian ice, and mead. If you wanted it, you could probably find it. This year the new menu item was sweet potato fries.
I’ll admit it – I’m a geek. Especially with it come to the Renaissance, the Victorian, or the Wild West periods. Maybe next year, I’ll see you there too.
Wishing you well and remember – the door is always open, and the kettle is always on.
Next time – Cello and the LA Philharmonic.