What do history, art, science and hand crafted goods have to do with a typical vacation? You can find all of these things at the annual Big Bear Renaissance Faire.
As a Renaissance Faire veteran, there isn’t much I haven’t seen at these fun, yet educational, events. That is, until this year. My wife and I had the pleasure of showing friends from out of town around the faire grounds, and helping their children on The Quest!
Big Bear Renaissance Faire – Passado Action Theatre
This was the first time visit to a Renaissance Faire for all of our visitors from out of town, so it turned our tradition of attending the Faire into a very different experience. Our group was about as diverse as you can get, with children ranging in age from 5 to 17, and adults of numerous and varied backgrounds. Each year, my wife and I make an attempt to attend the Faire in period attire (known as garb to the initiated). In doing so, we have the chance to create our own clothing by hand for the event is something we look forward to. We were even able to get one family of friends to join in on the fun!
Most Renaissance Faires are at least two days in length. However, we wanted to try and cram in as much of the experience into a single day as possible, especially considering most of our group could only attent the Saturday session of the Faire. As such, we got our young friends started on The Quest right away. The Quest is an educationally focused scavanger hunt for children of most ages. Even the teenagers had a blast! We spent the morning learning about the Romani (or Gypsies) people and their culture, how the economy and government of Elizabethan villages worked, and about the Guild of Torc Dubh’s function as a work military unit that would serve as the first line of defense in royal castles. I also managed to learn some new things while helping the kids on their quests. Did you know that the Gypsy word, “mishto” means good? We learn something new every day at the Renaissance Faire!
As for the adults, most of us were excited to see handmade clothing and leather goods. I managed to find a hat that my wife had been looking for during the last two times to the Faire, as well as a custom made drinking horn. Our friends who attended in full garb also purchased items such as leather belts, swords, and even custom made books! All-in-all, we brought home an excellent haul of original items that could even be used in our day-to-day lives.
The morning went by very fast, since we were all so focused on the kids having a good time. Just before lunch, one of the youngest boys in our group was awarded a special suovenier coin from the Lord Mayor of The Shire (yet another period term, used in regards to our local Faire grounds), for asking a number of questions about his duties and life. This happened just before one of several jousting tournaments, featuring the Kights of Mayhem. These men and women (yes, there were lady jousters) charge along the lists at eachother, aiming their hemlock lances in the hopes of connecting with a specially plated area of armor known as the Grand Guard. If they strike any part of their opponent’s body other than this specially designed shield, they earn no points and must ride again!
This was the first time the Knights had female jousters, and those women were able to take a beating and dish one out as well. It was a great tournament and we managed to attend to all of them, the second just as exciting as the first; complete with spear throwing and $5 horse rides to all takers – young and old. The action of the tournament went well with our lunches that were bought for a reasonable price within the confines of The Shire. The food was excellent, and was only topped by the dragon’s ale that we got at the ale stand nearest to the tournament field. I managed to convince the serving maid to tell me the secret recipe for this cocktail-like brew. Alas I can not repeat it, for I was sworn to secrecy! Needless to say, it is worth enjoying of the beverages if you enjoy a good beer or mixed drink.
As the joust came to a close and we finished our lunches, we resumed The Quest. The day was winding down and we had so much to complete on the quest list, we split into two groups to try and tackle them faster. My group moved onto an area known as the Wunderkammer or “Wonder Room”. It was a shop of curiosities that very from an Alicorn which was sold by Vikings as a unicorns tusk, to a Fiji mermaid. It was the first year that our Faire had a Wunderkammer, and it made for quite an eccentric but entertaining section of the Faire.
The questing party, including myself, was particularly enraptured by the scale replica of a trebuchet that actually works! We were taught about its inner workings and how they were used during the period in history where they were one of the most predominant seige-engines in the world. There was so much to do at the first of three weekends of the Big Bear Renaissance Faire that the teenagers weren’t able to complete their quests. This was unfortunate, when you consider the prize for completing The Quest…
Big Bear Renaissance Faire – The Climb Nottingham
You become a knight of Queen Elizabeth! Two of the young men were so determined to be knighted, that they intend to return to the third weekend of the Faire and complete The Quest. As our friends departed due to the youngest of the children needing to be put down for naps, my wife and I remained behind with my teenaged brother-in-law. We missed a regular stop for us, which was the very entertaining Gypsy magic show; but managed to experience another first.
An actual Shakespearian play, complete with sword fights! The show was put on by Shakespeare Unplugged; a group of performers who started their troop with the mission of increased educational resources for schools that are seeing their budges being reduced in areas such as the arts. They put on an audience participation show, that consisted of a mashup of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and (my personal favorite) Hamlet. The sections where audience members were brought onto the stage was hilarious and had all of us in stitches. My brother-in-law found to be the sword fight that serves as the climax of Hamlet particularly riveting.
This year’s Faire was loaded with so many activities that we weren’t able to enjoy all of them in a single day. As such, we plan to return with our friends during on the next two weekends to enjoy the things we missed. Some of these include; The Queen’s Tea and Warrior’s Table where you can enjoy a bit of social time with the royal court of the Faire or even rub elbows with the Knights of Mayhem themselves. We also intend to participate in a regular Ren Faire tradition of ours, Ciran the Gypsy Magician and the musical styling of Birds of a Feather.
This trip to one of my favorite events was splendid experience for both my wife and I. Having been to numerous Faire’s and even volunteered at this year’s Faire, we were so excited to see both children and adults having fun learning about a period in history that we no only love, but recognize as one of the most important periods in human development. It was a time when art entered into a new era of mastery, and science shed light on a world that was just beginning to recover from the Dark Ages. It was a point in time, where a person could be anything and everything they wanted if they had the talent and skill to do so. And to share that with the people we love was the best part of all.
It’s an experience that I can’t wait to have again. So much so, that I’ll be joining my young friends again to help them complete their quests. After all, who would be better than someone who completed the quested and was knighted themselves?