Entertainers at the Golden Gate Renaissance Festival 2005.
For the song "Renaissance Faire" Medival Festivals by The Byrds, see Younger Than Yesterday.
For the song "Renaissance Faire" Medeival Festivals by Blackmore’s Night, see Shadow of the Medeval Festivals Moon.
A Renaissance fair or Renaissance festival is an outdoor weekend gathering ostensibly focused on recreating life as it was Mediveal Festivals during the English Renaissance, a period usually set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I , Medieal Festivals but sometimes earlier, during the reign of Meideval Festivals Henry VIII.
While historical reenactments are by no means exclusive to the United States, the Renaissance Fair is, arguably, a uniquely American variation on the theme, having as much the flavor of an amusement park or mall as of a historical reenactment. Since the mid-nineties, their popularity has been spreading into western Canada. The people acting the roles ('participants' or 'actors'), frequently young volunteers, often attempt to recreate swashbuckling movies, The Lord of the Rings, or Monty Python and the Holy Grail as fervently as other participants attempt to be 'historically accurate', while guests ('patrons') may be more interested in drinking, eating, shopping, and watching farce than in some sort of educational experience. Experienced fairgoers often admit that attempts at re-enactment vary in their degree of success, being heavily dependent upon the ethos of fair management/direction, the culture and precedent of the specific fair, and the demographics of its audience. Some fairs endeavor to limit their scope to a comparatively narrow slice of history, while others may attempt to cram approximately six hundred years of history from the High Medieval period to the High Renaissance into one place, juxtaposed with recognizable fictional characters and events (Three Musketeers or Dragonslayers). Although religion was a very important part of life in the renaissance era, this aspect is often downplayed.
Spinoffs of Renaissance Fairs include fairs set in other time periods, such as Christmas fairs set in Charles Dickens' London.
- 1 Environment
- 2 History of the fairs in America
- 3 Myths
- 4 Notable entertainers
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 External links
- 7.1 Official sites of fairs noted above
- 7.2 Official site of other fairs
- 7.3 Other sites
Sword-fighting is a staple activity at most fairs.
Jousting Knights on horseback perform 3 shows daily at The Carolina Renaissance Festival
Most Renaissance Fairs are arranged to represent an imagined village in England during the reign of Elizabeth I, as this period is generally considered to correspond to the flowering of the English Renaissance (most especially because this was the time of Shakespeare).
There are stages or performance areas set up for scheduled shows such as plays in Shakespearean or commedia dell' arte tradition, or (frequently anachronistic) audience participation comedy routines. Other performances include dancers, musicians, jugglers, and singers. Between the stages the "streets" are lined with stores ('shoppes') where independent vendors sell their wares, alongside food and beer vendors, as well as game and ride areas. Fairs will also often include a joust as a main attraction. Meanwhile, strolling minstrels, mimes, fools, jugglers and jesters mingle with the fairgoers. Actors (often called participants) portray historical figures and common people, from royalty and nobility to merchants and peasants, and are often organized into thematic "guilds" (such as the peasant guild, Scottish guild, or parade guild). Actors wear period costumes, some meticulously researched recreations and others more generic impressions, and speak using an approximation of the vocabulary and accents of the time. The accompanying bazaar features traditional crafts, from jewelry and stained glass to metal and woodwork, as well as traditional English foods like bangers and mash. Visitors are encouraged to wear period costumes as well, which are available for sale or rental.
While every fair is unique and holds its own complex history, many include one key event. At the end of each day, the musicians and performers gather together on a single stage in order to perform the Pub Sing, where patrons and actors alike come together to end the day's festivities. The tunes played can often be sung along to, and many times the musicians all play together for one final piece before closing. For those who work at the Fair, the last Pub Sing that a festival holds is traditionally an emotional moment, as it also is their last goodbye to the festival before it comes back next year. At other fairs, the closing parade becomes the focus for the final day of the run. At the two main California fairs, the final closing parade on the final day is called Grand Ringout, and the procession, in a tradition dating back to the earliest Faires, includes most of the cast, crew and staff.
At its peak, the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Black Point, Novato, California hosted as many as 18,000 visitors in a day. For a time in the 1980s the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Agoura, California held the Guinness Book of Records record for most beer sold at a single venue.
History of the fairs in America
The real thing: Peasant's Fair
, German etching c1530 by Daniel Hopfer
In 1963, schoolteachers Ronald and Phyllis Patterson originated the Renaissance Pleasure Faire as an outgrowth of school projects. The first Faire was held in North Hollywood and drew some 8,000 people for the one-weekend event. Some claim that this event was based on an even earlier event held in Santa Barbara, California. The Patterson family's company, Theme Events Limited, and its non-profit affiliate, The Living History Center, are generally credited with developing the Renaissance Faire concept as it exists today.
Since that original event, Renaissance Faires have sprung up all over North America, most unconnected to the original Faire. Examples include large gatherings in Texas, Minnesota, Arizona, New York and Florida. Often drawing people with nomadic lifestyles, other events such as the Oregon Country Fair and Burning Man festivals are frequently staffed by the same crew and performers that have worked at Pleasure Faires in the same year. Faire vendors, participants and crew often work the "faire circuit", going from event to event as one faire ends and another begins.
For decades, the Renaissance Pleasure Faire was held in the spring at the Paramount Ranch in Agoura, CA and in the fall at the Black Point Forest in Novato, CA. The event showcased a large ensemble of performers, fine artists and craftspeople and crew. These yearly events drew on the rich variety arts movement in Los Angeles, and the explosion of outdoor public events. Interactive environmental theatre and stage shows were overlaid with large scale processions featuring giant puppets and courtly displays. The London-based Reduced Shakespeare Company, San Francisco's i Fratelli Bologna, Tutti Frutti, St. Stupid and the Los Angeles Fools Guild all developed from improvisationally-focused ensembles that initially worked together at the Pleasure Faire. Famous actors who worked at the Pleasure Faire in their youth include Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Rosanna Arquette and Penn Jillette.
In 1995, the Patterson family sold the original Renaissance Pleasure Faire to Renaissance Entertainment Corporation ("REC"), a publicly-traded company operating faires in several states. Several years later, Kevin Patterson (the son the Faire's originators) and his wife, Leslie, incorporated As You Like It Productions (later Red Barn Productions), and produced small faires until 2005.
In 2004, following abandonment by REC of the Northern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire, participants of the original Patterson faires formed Play Faire Productions, Inc., a self-funded, participant-owned corporation which presently operates the Northern California Renaissance Faire™ in Hollister, CA.
While many of those who remember the idyllic and transportative nature of the earlier fairs (especially those fairs operating with a non-profit spirit) lament the growth of the fairs as businesses, new generations of "Rennies" continue to find the same sort of joy in their work at the still-popular modern fairs.
Robin Hood's Merry Band is often the focus of faires, such as the New York Renaissance Faire
Belly Dancer from the 2004 New York Renaissance Faire
Faire-goers at the 2005 Pleasure Faire in Irwindale, California
Juggling Jester performs the lanes at The 2004 Arizona Renaissance Festival
"The Lost Boys" performing at the 2005 Georgia Renaissance Festival
The New York Renaissance Faire is located in Tuxedo, New York off Route 17a. NYRF, along with the faires of Southern California and Bristol, is one of the three American Renaissance Faires owned by the Renaissance Entertainment Corporation. This annual event, now in its 30th season, takes place in Sterling Forest Gardens, New York, from the first weekend of August until the last weekend of September.
The Northern California Renaissance Faire is produced by Play Faire Productions, Inc., a production company formed and owned by long-time participants of the original Renaissance Pleasure Faire and its successor faires, and combines the magic of the original faires with participant management to preserve the genre for future generations to enjoy. NCRF is the first participant-owned, participant-operated Renaissance Faire and traces its roots to the earliest California faires. Now in its third season, the Northern California Renaissance Faire™ takes place in the fall at the Casa de Fruta off of Hwy. 152 in Hollister, CA near Gilroy, and runs for six weekends beginning the first weekend after Labor Day.
The Renaissance Pleasure Faire of Southern California is hosted by Renaissance Entertainment Corporation, which took over control of the Pleasure Faire from the Living History Center. The annual event, now in Irwindale (formerly Devore, originating in Agoura). It is usually held in late spring for 6 weekends. While the Devore location was often hot, dry and dusty, the new Irwindale location is green and pleasant. However, it is sometimes very warm, so cool beverages and shady spots in which to relax a moment are very popular features at 'Faire'. In 2006 its weekends are April 8 to May 21.
The Maryland Renaissance Festival, located near Annapolis, Maryland, is considered the second-largest event of its kind in the United States, serving an average of 12,000 customers daily as of 2004. The Maryland Renaissance Festival has been in continuous operation since opening 1977 and runs 9 weekends every fall. Its 2006 weekends are August 26-October 22.
The Bristol Renaissance Faire of Kenosha, Wisconsin has been around for more than thirty years. It started in 1973 as King Richards Faire and reopened in 1988 as the Bristol Renaissance Faire offering fine arts & crafts with food and entertainment of 16th century England. Bristol Academy of Performing Arts auditions are held late spring. It runs for 9 weekends during the summer, starting in early July and ending on Labor Day.
The Minnesota Renaissance Festival, located just outside Shakopee, Minnesota, is in its thirty-fifth year. It started in 1970 and is among the oldest continuously operating Renaissance Festivals/Faires in existence. It runs weekends and Labor Day during August and September. The Minnesota Renaissance Festival which currently boasts the highest seasonal attendance of all the festivals in the Midwest is owned and operated by Mid-America Festivals, Inc., which also manages the Michigan, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay, Florida Renaissance Festivals.
The Arizona Renaissance Festival, located just east of Phoenix, Arizona, has rapidly become one of the largest Renaissance events in the country with over 250,000 patrons visiting over 8 weekends February - April. Its sister production, the Carolina Renaissance Festival, is located just north of Charlotte, North Carolina. The charming Southern fair has been growing and expanding annually and boast an attendance nearing 140,000 over 7 weekends, October - November.
The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, as of 2006, was in its 26th season. It is located just north of Lancaster, PA and just east of Hershey, PA. The 35-acre Shire hosts close to 100 permanent Tudor-style shoppes, 12 stages and one of the largest joust arenas outside of Europe, its own winery and onsite microbrewery. The Faire runs 12 weekends from mid-August through the last weekend of October. 250,000 annual patrons, not counting additional festivals held on the same site.
The Georgia Renaissance Festival, near Atlanta, is the largest in the Southeast and began in 1986 as a spring festival. In 1994, it added a fall season that continued through 1999. It now runs 8 weekends in the spring with 240,000 attendees.
The Texas Renaissance Festival (TRF) in Plantersville, Texas, just north of Houston is well positioned to take advantage of the vast population of that sprawling metroplex. Eight weekends per year in October and November are dominated by "Faire Season". TRF boasts participant numbers in the tens of thousands per weekend. Permanent grounds, lavish stages, shops, and decor are well used in season as well as in occasional off season events. Most notable about TRF is its encroachment into normal Houston life (or "the mundane world" to rennies). During the season one may walk malls, shops, and public streets in full garb with no negative comment.
The Louisiana Renaissance Festival (LARF) in Hammond, Louisiana has been rated one of the "Top 20 Events in the Southeast USA" by the Southeast Tourism Society. The fair, which began in 1999, operates for 6 weeks: from the first weekend in November until the first week in December. The Louisiana Renaissance Festival features 6 stages with over 24 hours' worth of entertainment from the time the gates open until closing time. People of all ages can enjoy themselves in the village of "Albright" during its annual "Fall Harvest Festival." Food and drink are plentiful at various stations around the fair site, and crafts and other goods are offered at the many shops and stalls. Also, entertainment is not limited to stage shows: cast members and musicians stroll the lanes and interact with the patrons, and educational demonstrations abound. Rustic camping is available for those who want to share in after-hours singing and storytelling.
The Oklahoma Renaissance Faire first appeared in the mid 90's in Muskogee, Oklahoma, sporting a continual storyline of the reign of King Henry VIII, with human chess matches with the Spanish king, visits from the Pope, and the growth and perils of the kingdom. The Castle of Muskogee runs through the entire month of May for its Renaissance Festival, but also operates throughout the year with events such as the Boarshead Feast, the Christmas Castle, and the Haunted Castle for the duration of October, with both kid-friendly and adult thrills and horrors of the Halloween history.
Hundreds of other smaller festivals continually spring up (and go under) on a regular basis across America, with attendance from a few hundred to tens of thousands. There is often a split between those who enjoy the larger, corporate theme park events versus the smaller, more intimate independent offerings.
There are several common myths and stereotypes about Renaissance Faires.
One such misconception is they intentionally cater to patrons who associate themselves with witchcraft and other Wicca-like ideals, since those who follow Wicca or Paganism are attracted to the culture of Renaissance or Medieval festivals; further confusion may lie in the fact that many fairs do have actors playing witch-type characters. However, no fairs deliberately and explicitly cater to pagan or Wiccan patrons.
While some Renaissance Faires will display stocks and pillories, those journeying to a Renaissance Faire to witness actual torture (trapped within the stocks) would be in for a disappointment. For safety reasons, visitors to Renaissance Faires cannot be forcibly locked into stocks or pillories, and most displays provided by the faires are large enough that a "victim" can easily escape if the experience becomes uncomfortable and are used mainly for photographic opportunities. Further lending to the confusion, several faires have "Trial and Punishment acts" that include dunking. There are professional acting troupes that skillfully portray public punishment for entertainment purposes within their larger act, and are hired by professional Renaissance faires for their stunt abilities and highly trained realism. Much like the jousters and swordsmen, these players do not actually harm each other.
Because of the seeming reality of the event, some visitors actually believe that jousting and swordplay are real, happening on an impromptu basis between actors. While the weapons are real, these shows, not unlike professional wrestling, are carefully scripted stage combat performed by specially trained actors and stuntmen with years of practice behind them. The audience's perception of real combat is testimony to the skill of these performers. There are, however, some jousting troupes that do perform real lance passes (using real pine lances), including the New Riders of the Golden Age, The Free Lancers, and the Knights of Avalon, where the outcome of those passes is real.
All acts at a Renaissance fair usually have years of skill behind them and are highly choreographed, taking weeks of classes and, in some respects, years of practice in order to make it appear as authentic as possible.
- Brobdingnagian Bards, the
- Poxy Boggards
- Gunn, Marc
- Mediaeval Baebes
- Macdonald, Steve
- Minstrels of Mayhem
- The Reduced Shakespeare Company
- Medieval reenactment
- ^ Variations on the name include:
- Renaissance Faire
- Elizabethan Faire
- Renaissance Festival
- Ren Fest (usually a colloquialism)
- Medieval Fair
- Ren Faire
- Tudor Fayre
Official sites of fairs noted above
- New York Renaissance Faire
- Northern California Renaissance Faire
- Renaissance Pleasure Faire of Southern California
- Maryland Renaissance Festival
- Bristol Renaissance Faire Wisconsin
- Minnesota Renaissance Festival
- Arizona Renaissance Festival
- Carolina Renaissance Festival
- Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire
- Georgia Renaissance Festival
- Texas Renaissance Festival
- Louisiana Renaissance Festival
- The Oklahoma Renaissance Faire
Official site of other fairs
- Connecticut Renaissance Faire Hebron, CT
- Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire Oregon
- Ohio Renaissance Festival
- Norman Medieval Faire Oklahoma
- Royal Medieval Faire Ontario, Canada
- Greater St.Louis Renaissance Faire
- Scarborough Renaissance Festival Waxahachie, Texas
- King Arthur Faire Stroud, Oklahoma
- Ye Merrie Greenwood Renaissance Faire Richland, Washington
- Renaissance Faire Homepage Everything for the visitor and participant from costumes to accents.
- L.O.O.P.E.D. at Faire Loyal Order Of Pretzels, Eating and Drinking. Large collection of pictures from California Renaissance Faires(Based in Northern California)
- Renaissance festival books. 253 digitised Renaissance festival books selected from over 2,000 in the British Library's collection.
- Mike Bonk's Directorie - index of over 200 operating renaissance festivals around the world.
- Regional Renaissance Reporter - the only (???) publication that focuses exclusively on renaissance festivals (see also: Renaissance Magazine which includes some fair articles from time to time).
- Friends of The Maryland Renaissance Festival The Original Friends of The Maryland Renaissance Festival follows the festival in detail, offers information and membership.
- Maryland Renaissance Festival Wikipaedia Maryland Renaissance Festival Wikipaedia with Renaisasnce Festival information
- MDRF Friends of Faire - The Maryland Renaissance Festival Friends of Faire information site with photo gallery, message boards and the exclusive Ren Faire Wiki.
- Renaissance Faire Wiki Wiki with information about Renaissance Faires, Performers, Vendors, Rennies and terminology.
- Renaissance Festival Podcast - Weekly podcast of Renaissance festival music and entertainment
- www.RenaissanceFestival.com - Largest online forum community of Renaissance festivals and faires.
- Upcomming Faires - List of upcomming faires on Event Zip.
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