Saturday I finally went to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale, CA with my uncle. I’ve been wanting to go for years, but it just never ended up happening.
First of all, I didn’t even realize the vast expanse that is the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area existed. We drove a winding gravel and dirt road to the “parking area” which was just a more organized section of dirt. Instead of having to remember something like Minnie 4B, we had a single yellow flag to help us find our car upon returning.
Before we get out of the car, we’ve already seen 30-40 people in costume. I knew that this was the norm, but after feeling how hot it was, I couldn’t believe people actually adorn themselves in all those layers and walk around all day.
As we approached the ticket booth, a man in costume turned to me and asked “Did you encounter any robbers on your travels, m’lady?”
Oh boy, here we go…I haven’t even set foot in the faire yet and my experience has begun. I’m grinning like an idiot. This is like entering another world. A million questions start running through my brain: do these people spend a ton of money making their own costumes? Do they all know each other? Do they go to other ren faires in other places? What IS this world I’ve just entered?
The first thing we see when we enter the grounds is a brothel, naturally. A bunch of women in white face makeup sitting on a porch, taunting passersby. The next sight to behold is a minstrel group performing in a small amphitheater.
More questions arise: Where does one learn how to play outdated instruments? Do you suppose they got into the world of ren faire and then decided to learn an applicable instrument or was it the other way around?
As we make our way through the booths and past the activities, we observe many different types of people. Some are dressed as royalty, others are dressed as common folk, still others look more like pirates. The level of detail in their outfits vary. Although it looks like any accessories you’re missing can easily be purchased here at the faire.
We were watching people shoot bows and arrows when suddenly the queen and her procession came down the road. So we stopped to watch them pass by.
After the processional, we found the equivalent of a food court with such tasty offerings as toad-in-a-hole, bratwurst, many varieties of potatoes, and beer, naturally. Many people even had their drinking vessels tied to their belts like goblets, flasks, and pewter mugs. After we picked some food and found some shade, I found out one of my friends was also at the faire. We connected and she gave me some pointers on sights to see and shows to experience.
On to the shopping! We passed row after row of vendors selling many handmade items. Even a blacksmith who creates beautiful (and sharp!) blade, knives, and swords. At one of the stalls, I saw someone dressed as a character from Game of Thrones. I couldn’t resist asking him if I could take a picture. His outfit was so spot on! And you’ll notice in the background, the thrilling adventure of turtle racing….yep, actual turtles.
We passed a reading of a dramatic scene:
A group of aristocrats dining and chatting among themselves:
And some viking warriors wearing animal pelts and armor. Seriously, this looks sweltering. I don’t know how they did it.
At one of the amphitheaters, we stopped to watch the Moonie Show. It’s a mix between comedy, tricks, and general audience harassment. Most of the time, he communicated via whistling. While it sounds impossible, I can tell you that when you whistle at a certain pitch and cadence, it really does communicate “get the F&%# out” quite effectively. It was hilarious.
Just up the road was the joust, where we took a seat in the section of Sir Maximilian, the vain. He lived up to his name.
He also happened to be be excellent at jousting. The woman leading our section in cheers of “huzzah!” and “God save the Queen!” was very good at her job. She had all sorts of information about Sir Max and was able to get us cheering and booing as was appropriate throughout the match.
After a bit more wandering and window shopping we headed toward the exit. One of the vendors I stopped at was selling wooden frames and mounts for family crests and family trees. He asked “are you enjoying my wood?” Hardy har har.
Last, but not least, we spied Gandalf wandering the faire and made our way to the parking dirt.
Overall we did a bit of walking, a bit of eating, and a whole lot of people watching. Although I felt coated in a layer of dust and sweat, it was a fun day.
Who knows? Maybe next year I’ll find a suitable costume and blend right in.
P.S. After telling multiple people about my experience, the most common reaction is “That was your first ren faire? You seem like the kind of person who goes all the time.” I’m not entirely sure what t hat means about me…