As an avid fan of stories like “Game of Thrones” and “The Lord of the Rings,” where dragons, knights and queens are more reality than fantasy, I’ve always secretly wished that I could be transported back in time to medieval days. On Saturday I finally got that chance, making my way – bow, arrow and all – to the Northern California Renaissance Faire for the first of what I expect to be many trips.
When my boyfriend Seth suggested a couple months ago that we attend the faire, I’ve never been more thankful that we share the same nerdy interests. During “Thrones” season, our Sunday evenings are reserved for the show, so he assured me that an event like this was right up my alley, complete with entertainment like jousting and a plentiful supply of mead.
Since the annual Renaissance faire takes place every weekend at Casa De Fruta over the course of a month, we picked a date and the planning began.
Going into this thing, I was hesitant about dressing up. But, Seth promised that I would feel sillier out of costume than in. Sure enough, when we arrived at the faire, I was glad to be in my Renaissance garb.
I considered a few options: a female Robin Hood, a hobbit, a barmaid or stereotypical, corset-wearing dame, but in the end, I opted for what I can only describe as some kind of medieval archer. While Seth and his family were able to put together convincing Renaissance-era costumes courtesy of some family kilts, the Turlock Flea Market and local thrift stores, I chose the easy way out, purchasing my costume from the Spirit Halloween store. The packaging said “Huntress,” but I just pretended to be some warrior goddess with a bow and arrow.
That’s the best part about the Renaissance faire – for an entire day, you’re transported back in time and can be whoever you want to be. And what’s even greater? Everyone else is in character too! Before I arrived, I didn’t think I would be walking around, talking to people in a British accent like it was the 1600s, but as soon as I was greeted by the doorman at the entrance gate, I couldn’t help myself.
“Good day to you, my lady,” he said, taking my ticket with a goofy grin.
“Good day to you, good sir!” I exclaimed, a little too excitedly. I could hear Seth’s laughter behind me.
For the rest of our time at the faire, I chatted like this with various characters and attendees who were so confident in their portrayals, it was easy to forget they weren’t really of the Renaissance era. I spoke with a wandmaker and asked him if one who wielded a bow, like myself, would be able to wield the power of magic, and we had a nice conversation about his inventory.
Seth thought it was a little bit ridiculous, but I wasn’t the only one shouting “Huzzah!” at every possible opportunity. I met gypsies, peasants, elves, pirates – if it’s related to the Renaissance in any way, you can bet someone at the faire chose it as their costume.
A maze of merchant booths, food vendors, games and stages for shows snaked its way through the Casa De Fruta grounds, and even though it was hot outside, walking around and seeing the various jewelry, toys, clothing and goods from the Renaissance era that were available for purchase made the trek around the faire worthwhile. Goblets encrusted with jewels, swords forged from a blacksmith on site and hand-molded ocarinas were just a few of the items that caught my eye, and while looking at the different shops, it wasn’t uncommon for the Queen and her Royal Guard or a character-filled parade to storm through the aisle loudly.
In the faire’s 21 and up section, the shows were hilarious and the cider was delicious. The Sea Dogs, known as the masters of maritime music, answered the question of what to do with a drunken sailor during their show, and another show featuring The Mermaid Tavern kept me laughing with its raunchy dialogue, true to Renaissance nature. My only regret is that we never made it to the Renaissance faire’s production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
We did make it to the Queen’s Royal Joust at the end of the day, which I had been looking forward to, being the nerd that I am. It didn’t disappoint – the Queen was there and the knights of Scotland, England, Spain and France went sword-to-sword to claim victory for their homelands. Best of all, the horses that the knights jousted on were all rescue animals, according to the event’s announcer.
Each portion of the crowd was assigned a knight to cheer for and ours, the Spanish knight, unfortunately fell in the final seconds to the kilt-wearing Scottish knight. The show was realistic, with each joust ending in splintered lances and the sword fights producing bouts of sparks that even had me fearing for the knights’ safety.
At the day’s finish, I was sad to make the journey back to my homeland and resume my day job as a reporter. I’m considering retiring to become a full-time medieval archer, but for now, dressing up at Renaissance faires will have to do. If you think the Northern California Renaissance Faire might be something you would enjoy, Oct. 14 and 15 is the event’s last weekend, so don’t miss out!
For more information about it, visit www.norcalrenfaire.com.