Promised Renaissance Festival post

I am waiting for a large, graphics-heavy file to load, so I will try and use the time effectively and tell you why we are Ren Faire geeks.

Because it is fun.

BH and I went to one of the earliest Sterling Renaissance Festival a million years ago when we were teenagers. Sterling is medium-sized, smaller than Maryland or Pennsylvania, but that means you don’t have to battle hundreds of people to get to the front of the turkey leg line. The location is about 10 miles west of Oswego, which makes it about a half hour from our house. The prices are reasonable, the people are kind, and it is my favorite way to spend a summer day,

Wait, you don’t know what a Ren Faire is? Research and read.

What do I love the most? The atmosphere.

Imagine a forest with a high canopy. The ground is covered with mulch, the shade is cool. No poison ivy. Turn a corner and see barrels planted with flowers. Look down the lane and see people walking hand in hand, little kids running ahead, giggling. You can smell the woods and the food cooking. You can hear music; a harp, a mandolin. In the distance, you hear bagpipes, and then the roar of the crowd as swords clash and horses gallop. Everyone is relaxed. There are no arcade games, but you can try your luck at throwing axes or hitting a target with a bow and arrow. (You can also ride a camel or an elephant.)

As you wander through the forest, past the games, past the artisans with their crafts displayed, past tempting food, you can’t help but relax. At least I can’t. BH and I are among the 10-15% of attenders who dress up in period appropriate garb. It is our one true vice. (We were married in our Ren Faire clothes.) Our favorite shop is the Needle Fairy, though I just got an outfit at Wolfstone Kilt Company. I have a long blue skirt that I wear with a white chemise and red brocade bodice. He has a linen shirt, fancy pants (don’t know the proper name of them) and a jacket (again, I can’t remember the right name for it. He looks hot in it, that’s all I care about.) The clothes are very comfortable. We would love to buy period-appropriate footwear, but that is too expensive right now. We will be going back to the Festival on the 30th – I’ll try and get pictures of us dressed up.

If you are looking for adrenaline rushes, screaming children, blaring music, obnoxious people, then do not go to a Ren faire. If you want to relax, dial life back to a simpler time (if only for a couple of hours), then it is the place for you.

(edited to add) Have you ever been to a Ren Faire/Festival? Did you like it, or were you a scornful, world-weary cynic who mocked everyone? Any recommendations about other Faires/ Festivals to visit?


32 Replies to “Promised Renaissance Festival post”

  1. Yay!

    OMG That sounds like so much fun! Maybe someday (probably when I’m in college or something) I’ll be able to make it up there. My boyfriend has family there, so we could use that as an excuse to go. lol Maybe we’ll see you! How often does it happen?

  2. Re: Yay!

    The Sterling Festival runs every summer, on the weekends from July – mid-August. We go a couple of times each summer.

  3. sounds fantastic! i’ve never been to the Sterling, but i understand it’s quite lovely. also, if memory serves me right, i think it’s the oldest operating faire in the country, or the second oldest…i don’t remember where the Texas faire fits in. it’s nice to hear that it’s still small and relaxed, like the PA Faire. if you’re up for an interesting time, you should check out the Sterling Forest Faire in Tuxedo, NY, sometime. it’s a lot bigger and noisier and less…how shall we say…”refined”. the events are also not quite as nice as they are at PA. however, they do have some of the best vendors that hit the east coast, including Angel Sword, Moresca, and House of Dra, which is run by the Lady Dra who, now that i think of it, is possibly you from an alternate dimension.

    yes indeedy, Sterling Forest is definatly the place to go when you want to drop a lot of money on some amazing stuff. but i’m glad to hear you guys had a great and peaceful experience.

    oh, and you and scot getting married in rennwear? adorable.

  4. The closest thing to a Ren Faire I’ve ever attended was probably the only festival I ever attended—the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival at Duke Farms (New Jersey) in 2004. It is held every other year and this September, my best friend and I will be be going for the second time.

  5. Other Ren-Fest suggestions

    Hello – If you ever happen to get to Texas, you should check out the Texas Renaissance Festival. it is one of the largest in the United States. It is a Henry VIII festival. I worked out there as a performance company member one year and the experience is unbeatable. Not only to they have jousting and sword fights, but there is a live chess match (where the pieces are played by actual characters who engage in combat to determine who wins a spot), many gardens (including a Magical Fairy Garden), and a festival parade at noon where all of the performance company members march through the enormous park in character.

    Also, if you are looking for a taste of something different, there is a “festival” that happens in Galveston, Texas every Christmas called “Dickens on the Strand” that is a renfestival type atmosphere with entertainment and contests, only set in the times of Charles Dickens novels. The costumes found here are also to be envied.

    I have since moved to Ithaca, New York (I found your website because you will be speaking here at Cornell this afternoon.) and have not heard of the Sterling Festival. I will definitely trot out there to take a look. Thank you so much for sharing the information!

    From fellow-renfaire lover, Jennifer W.

  6. dude, i used to be PART of the (now defunct) ann arbor medieval festival, as an intermezzi performer.

    huzzah, indeed.

    wassail, even. 🙂

  7. Re: Other Ren-Fest suggestions

    Thanks so much for sharing all of this, Jen.

    FYI – I will be at Cornell on Wednesday. If you’re there, please introduce yourself!

  8. I’m pretty sure we’ll be at the PA Faire this year for Mer’s birthday. Maybe we should all go the same day…

  9. If we ever get to do a YA panel together, we should show up in garb…. and never make mention of it. Just be the Rens.

  10. i would love to go. i haven’t been in way too long because i’ve been cash-poor…and i’m still cash poor but i can never pass up a rat party.

    when are you thinking about coming down?

  11. Re: Other Ren-Fest suggestions

    actually i think the Texas Renn Faire is THE largest in the country. you’re in luck, though, because being in Ithaca you have access to Sterling, and the New York Renn Faire in Tuxedo, NY, which are both fantastic.

  12. I just went to the Bristol Ren Faire a couple of weeks ago. It was wonderful, and I bought myself a beautiful new corset/bodice.

    It is an awesome experience, and I’m gonna try to go again after August.

  13. I went to the St. Louis Ren Faire for the second time last June – I found out about it through my roommate, who performs there. It’s nice, albeit (I’m assuming) small, and it’s French-themed, which is (from what I’ve heard) slightly uncommon among ren faires, but makes sense, given the location. I’m hoping to get garb someday (my friend bought a dress there this year), but for now, I’m just sticking with the chainmail I’ve made.

    …well, I do have a Scottish men’s hat, but that’s just because it looks cool. Wearing it would be rather unauthentic.

  14. I went to the Sterling Ren Faire a few years ago with Upward Bound. It was too hot that day, but It was fun. Too expensive for me though. What is it about Ren Faire men that turns me into a terrible flirt?

  15. no, never

    i’ve never been to a ren faire. but i won’t go until i can go with you. how is that? i will even dress up.

  16. I’m currently counting down the days until September when the ren-faire startus up where I live. This will be the 4th year I’ve gone and I’ve enjoyed every year. I go with my friends and usually I’ll go 2-3 times. Although I’m not a true Ren-Faire geek yet because I haven’t had the money to afford a costume, but that will all come in good time. I have to agree that the atmosphere is definetely one of the things I enjoy most about the faire. Everyone is there to relax and have a good time, it’s just a wonderful place to spend an afternoon.

  17. “We were married in our Ren Faire clothes.”

    Are you serious?!? 😛

    little quirk–>food wench at the aforementioned Ren Fair in Sterling for 3 years (yay for Pork Pockets/Steak-on-a-Stake)

  18. Yep – we were married in our garb. At that point he didn’t have the fancy pants and jacket thing so he wore jeans and the cool shirt. I had on my Ren peasant outfit. We were both barefoot. We were married in front of the fireplace in our house, with our kids and siblings watching. Simple and lovely.

    We missed you at the Pork Pockets booth. Things just weren’t the same without you!

  19. Awww…how sweet!

    Yea…I haven’t worked there for a couple of years now. I worked with my mom last summer in Bville and I’m at the East Side Dunkin Donuts this summer. They have me working 2-10pm Wed-Sat for the most part, so stop on by if you’re driving thru!

    little q

  20. Not only did we go as a family- we dressed for the occasion! I even looked into getting a booth (making hats) at the PA Ren Faire! My good friends spent their weekends as Serving Wenches in Sterling, NY! Ah, the memories- thanks for bringing it back!

  21. Lisa (my sister) and I are going to try to make it out to the Ren Fest on the 30th as well, if my schedule permits. I won’t know until the middle of next week either way. If I do get the day off, would you like us to contact you to try and meet up?

    little quirk

  22. Ren Faire

    I went to the Sterling Faire three or four years ago and got a nice surprise when I discovered that a former student of mine was one of the cast members. We also got to see a wedding proposal that day.

    My mother and I went to another Renaissance Fair several years ago and were amazed to discover that my brother was performing there. He was playing the hammered dulcimer, as I recall. Of course, it wasn’t really my brother, and we knew that. But our last name isn’t particularly common, so it was quite surprising to see the name listed in the program. We finally tracked him down and discovered that he actually knew of my brother, having lived in the same college town with him in the late 70s or early 80s. We bought one of his tapes and sent it to my *real* brother.

    I have a brother and sister-in-law close enough to Sterling for my mother and I to have considered going up there this summer and inviting them and my niece and nephew to join us. Unfortunately, we’d be going for the last weekend, so I won’t even get the chance to try to spot you in the crowd.

  23. Clothing Help?!

    I’ve been going to the Sterling Forest Renn Faires for over 20 years! (Did start going in my early adolescence…) and have developed a few outfits over the years. My husband (who emmigrated here from former Soviet Union) is ALSO a Renn Faire Geek and LOVES to dress up as well!

    After a couple of years off, we are taking our 2 year old in costume this year. Here’s where I need help – where do I get a Chemise for a 2-3 year old?

    Am too clumbsy to sew, have found them for either infants or 4-5 year olds, but can’t find one approximately 3T – not too long. Any help would be appreciated. Oh, and am looking for lightweight since Sterling Forest is in the scorching heat of August. Well met and thank yee for thy attention!

  24. Re: Clothing Help?!

    What about looking for a long summer slip, the kind a small child would wear if they had to be in a bridal party?

  25. PA Renaissance

    The PA Renaissance Fair is really amazing. Last year they had some really cool stuff. It was also my first time at a Ren Fair. I definetly want to go to this years when fall rolls around. My sister used to work there and last year finally convinced me to go, I had an amazing time.


  26. Re: Other Ren-Fest suggestions

    Cornell employee here. I too am a Sterling regular … actually .. I’m an independent performer with the show.

    Sterling is about an hour and a half north of Ithaca in Sterling, NY.

    You can get there via 34 or 38, which ever your closer to.

    At this point … 7/31/2006 … we have two more weekends of show to do. Next weekend is Celtic Weekend. There will bagpipes, a session band, dancers and other things of the Irish and Scottish (former to my wife’s tastes … later to mine).

  27. Renaissance Fairs

    Yeah, I’ve been to a Ren Fair. I liked it a little, but my dad made the experience much less enjoyable by pointing out what part of Europe/India everybody’s costumes were from, and all the drunk people also made it less “calming”. Other than that I have no problem with Renaissance Fairs.

  28. student

    hi, well imm doing a literary research on an author and well the author i picked was you! i was wondering if you have the time to answer a few questions.
    Thank you, maries

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