Things You Learn at Festivals Part One: Texas Renaissance Festival

October is always a very interesting month for me. The weather’s changing, people are gearing up for the holidays, and for whatever reason it always plays host to some of my grandest adventures.  It has ever since I was little, and this year is no different.

Resolution #41: Go to a Renaissance Festival

October also marks the beginning of the Texas Renaissance Festival season so Dru and I headed out for opening weekend.  And, as with anything you do with Dru, if you’re gonna do something you’re going to go all out. With the help of a mutual friend, we got a Ren Faire costume together for me (since exactly none of my clothes really fit the bill) including a rib-cracking corset, poofy sleeves, stockings and my very own pair of pirate boots.

Going all out also means not just going for the day and going back to the comfort of your home at night.  Nope, it means packing up your tent and heading out to the campgrounds for the weekend, because while the faire itself is magnificent, there’s a whole other facet to the faire experience out on the campgrounds.

The camping situation reminds me a lot of the burn we went to a couple of months ago (Orfunner).  Tons of people, some in costume, some half naked, all in varying stages of inebriation. While I’ve never been the “party girl” type, I’m really starting to enjoy these kinds of events. It’s not so much the party aspect as it is HUGE gathering of people bonding over a common interest.  Its not just any campground, with unrelated pockets of strangers who want nothing to do with each other.  Everyone is there for the same reason and are closer because of it. It’s slightly less “We love everyone!” than Orfunner and slightly more “Does anyone know where I can get some [insert intoxicating substance here].”  With a similar amount of drum circle. But, I honestly just love anywhere that I can find like-minded people, which I’m learning is hard to do just anywhere these days.

Saturday morning we woke up early to get into costume and get ready to head into the actual faire grounds.  Lesson One: Bring coffee with you. For god’s sake. Especially if you’re an addict like me.  I really hope to invest in a camping coffee maker one day, but this time around we invested in some of those bottled cappuccino things in order to avoid the terrifying uncertainty around coffee availability like we encountered at Orfunner.  But, I digress.

Lesson Two: Corsets kind of suck, but Jesus Christ your waist will never look so good. I’m not exaggerating.  I let Dru lace me into my corset and immediately lost probably 5 inches from my waist.  This was thrilling…for the 17 steps it took me to get from the tent to the car, when suddenly I succumbed to a bout of claustrophobia and the familiar and terrifying cold, clammy feeling of nearing unconsciousness.  Now I know why you never see anyone smiling in renaissance era portraits.  I had to have him loosen my corset at least 3 times before I finally felt like I’d make it through the day.  But, even with a few inches back…. I still love the thing.

Voila, the complete outfits:

Now, inside the faire grounds is a whole other world that I can’t even really compare to anything else.  I suppose it’s the point to be transported back in time, and they definitely succeed.  I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to walk through an entrance to find yourself surrounded by people calling you “my lady,” and trying to sell you flowers and swords and jewels. …Is the what the renaissance was like?  I would like to go there please. Although I’m sure the renaissance was devoid of things like fairies, demons and an abundance of giant pickles, cotton candy and fried everything, so…maybe I’ll just stick with the festival instead.

We caught some shows.  Adam Crack the fire whip master:

And, a man who would gladly take your money to humiliate and insult you or your friends.  …I would have been crushed…so I didn’t stick around for that one.  I’m a little sensitive.

Tried our hand at some archery.

And, did a LOT of window shopping. Corsets, weaponry, leather work, ceramics, jewelry, anything you could ask for, there was a shop for it. These are no dinky souvenirs, either.  The people who run these shops are seriously skilled craftsmen. Sadly, the prices on their wares also reflect that…which is why I specify ‘window shopping.’ Though I did walk away with a hand-made mug for my coffee mug collection. I couldn’t resist.  And Dru bought me a rose from a flower girl. Otherwise, we were content to browse.

There was so much to see and do that I’m sure that there was stuff that I missed.  Elephant rides. Parades. Petting zoos. Big dragon swings. There was a place where you could get your picture taken with a monkey.  Lesson Three: Bring your children to Ren Faire. It should be a requirement, kind of like Disney World. This place is magical, and seeing the looks on the children’s faces when they got to hug a fairy and cross swords with a pirate was just priceless.  I’m not a child anymore (though my inner child is alive and well) and even I got giddy at all the sights and sounds around me. After hours of walking, though, our feet were protesting loudly in our pirate boots and there was a cold front blowing in, so we decided to head back to camp for some warmer clothes, food and post-faire libations.

The group that we camped with prepared a FEAST, complete with chicken, steak, sausage, tortillas, veggies and plenty of beverage to go around.  Though we weren’t official dues-paying members of their group they were still very generous and allowed us to take part with them. There’s nothing better than a belly full of delicious camp-cooked food after a long day.

With our appetites satisfied we set out into the open campgrounds in search of adventures.  We picked up some friends from other camps and wandered a bit.  Lesson Four: There is nothing better than a gigantic bonfire on a cold night.  We hung out there for a while, watching the fire spinners and trying to absorb as much warmth as humanly possible since at this point it was dropping into the 50’s.  (Pretty freaking cold for us Texans.)  Then, we turned to the sound of chanting and cheering behind us.

“What’s going on over there?”

Giant Jenga, was the answer. You know, that Hasbro game from your childhood where you stack up the blocks and the remove and re-stack them one by one until someone knocks it over and loses? But, this was not just any giant Jenga.  This one had a twist.  There is an action written on each Jenga block, and if you play and successfully pull a block, you must do the action on the block you pulled.  As I stood and watched to get a feel for the game I watched things like…”Kiss the Game Master (the one running the game),” “Motorboat the largest breasts in the crowd” and then things as simple as “Do a cart-wheel.” Although, that last one became equally inappropriate when the person that selected it was wearing a skirt.

It wasn’t long before people started getting scared to step up and the game master started drawing people out of the crowd to play. …And of course…guess who got singled out.  Yours truly. I was thrust into the center of a crowd of fifty or more, faced with a Jenga tower that teetered precariously at even the slightest  touch. I poked at each of the blocks, to the sound of cheers, gasps and cat calls around me, trying to find one that might just give.  Finally, and very carefully I might add, I pulled a block from the stack and handed it to the Game Master.  The task on the block–my loyal readers–will remain a secret to all but me and the people in the crowd that night.  😉 I have a reputation to uphold.  But, I was a sport, and did what it said, I’ll tell you that much.  Not to mention, I got out pretty easy compared to girl immediately after me who was the unfortunate soul to knock over the stack…and let me tell you what, if you think the tasks on the blocks are scary, well, just don’t be the one to knock over the stack, okay?

Lesson Five: If you’re shy AT ALL, steer clear of the giant Jenga at TRF.

The rest of the night was spent hopping from fire to fire, hanging out with people we ran into along the way, and in general just having a fun and relaxing night. Then, as the night wound down and our joints started getting stiff with the cold, we headed back to our camp to get some sleep.

We woke to an offering of chorizo tacos and some hot coffee from the quickie mart on site, and with that, we mustered the rest of our energy to pack up and get back on the road back to the real world. Resolution…complete.  And while I don’t think I could do that every weekend all season like some of the more serious Rennies, I can’t wait until my next Ren Faire experience.  I hear Sherwood Forest Faire is closer to Austin and coming up pretty soon!

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3 thoughts on “Things You Learn at Festivals Part One: Texas Renaissance Festival

  1. The only renaissance-ish fair-ish (and I emphasize the “ish”) I’ve ever attended was one in Prague, Czech Republic. It was way smaller than what you’ve went to, but similar in regards to the atmosphere and the costumes. The food was traditionally cooked too, and the wine….. Oh the wine :D…. And like you said. Like going back in time. But for me, I wanna stay there.
    But I have to say, there wasn’t a Giant Jenga (which I’m jealous of you playing it by the way). Just the fact that there are also tasks involved in it makes it even more fun; cause if there’s one thing that I love doing to my self, it’s humiliating my self in front of hundreds of people (and I’m serious, I enjoy doing crazy things in public lol).

    P.S. you did the motorboat. Didn’t you? :p

  2. Pingback: Weekly Image Of Life: Celebration | this man's journey

  3. I’ve attended the TRF on several occasions, always camping for the weekend. This is a wonderful way to escape the normal ‘real’ world. The Fare itself is a shinning example of a well run Renaissance festival and deserves a try by everyone. But the festivities at night in the campground are yet another layer of counter couture. One that many will really enjoy, myself included, but for some may be a little too far removed from their normal day-to day life. Thanks for your great take on the TRF.

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