This morning I went to the 29th annual Central Coast Renaissance Festival. The festival was held at Laguna Lake Park this year, which is a first. Last week when I was at the Thursday night farmer’s market I talked to someone promoting the festival. I had never been to a renaissance fair or festival before, so I jumped at the chance.
Many people were in costume. The people running the booths and providing entertainment were in very elaborate costumes. I was surprised at how many of the attendees were also in costume, ranging from the very simple to the very elaborate (I also saw a Star Trek flight suit, a dragon, and Captain America). As morning turned to afternoon the sun was bright and the temperature rose. I think those heavy costumes must have been uncomfortable.
A group of participants were acting out a scene from courtly life. One nobleman was pleading with the queen, it seemed he was advocating either war or a more aggressive foreign policy. The queen wasn’t buying it.
A few times I saw people in costume using cell phones. It was amusing. One performer came over to talk about my camera, and I appreciated that he broke character and we had a real camera conversation (this was not during his act).
While the royal folks and upper class had large and heavy costumes, the performers playing common people were dressed much more informally. Lots of skin (skin that usually does not see the sun, for good reason). A few costumes were too disturbing to photograph.
An archery range was set up, and you could purchase shooting privileges. At another range several archers were shooting arrows as an exhibition. One of them (the guy pictured below) was very good.
Beside the archers was a tower (you can see part of the base in the right foreground of the picture below). A spotter was sitting in that tower. When someone would use the trail behind the archery range a cry would emerge from the tower: “Cease fire! Cease fire!” In the picture below notice the guy walking the dog. The archer remarked loudly: “Lunch on a leash!” I laughed.
A performer was canvasing the grounds with three bright parrots. I saw another carrying a large snake around. One of my favorite moments from the festival was when I walked past a few kids petting the snake, and the handler remarked to them: “He’s got his own Facebook page.” This is the world we live in; snakes that perform at renaissance fairs have Facebook pages.
I think many of the performers are families (or at least couples). I noticed that a lot of the kids wandering the grounds selling things or working the crowds would check in with their parents. The little girl in red in the picture below engaged in some swordplay with a performer. My favorite part of this picture is the little guy wearing a cape in the lower right corner. He’s bent on rescuing his damsel in distress but he’s being restrained. He was concerned for good reason, she was “killed” moments later.
The festival seemed to be going well. Attendance was strong. People seemed to be buying things. I stopped at a tavern for some mead (how often do you get to drink mead, after all?).
Food was plentiful. I was happy to see large legs of turkey being sold. I did not get one, but people would walk by gnawing on one, and it added to the atmosphere. I saw several people walking from the stand holding their turkey leg gleefully–you’d never see someone so excited about a hot dog or vegetable wrap.
At the little arena in the middle of the grounds some knights met to rumble. The primary competition was between the two French knights below. The crowd was divided in half, my half rooted for the knight on the right (I forget her name). Her opponent was the guy on the left.
There were two commentators in the arena with microphones to announce the events, explain rules, and work the crowd. Their banter was definitely targeted toward the adults in the crowd. After several very dirty double entendres this line was delivered: “If your children get any of our jokes you are a terrible parent.”
Before the main event, the joust, the knights engaged in some tests of skills. They hit targets with their lances, collected rings with lances, threw javelins, and sliced cabbages with swords.
It was evident the enemy knight was considerably physically dominant to the knight my section was assigned. I’m afraid their message of equality (girls can be knights too!) was ruined when they blatantly broke the rules to allow her to win one of the events. Before the joust the knights left the arena to get suited up in their armor. Two new knights stepped into the arena to engage in some combat on foot.
The fight was pretty intense. They really went after each other. They didn’t just knock swords together and call that a fight. They were striking each other with both swords and fists and kicking each other. The dark knight landed three head shots with his sword on the silver knight. The last head shot ended the fight. I think they might have a concussion rule like the NFL. The blow dented his helmet enough that opening his visor was difficult.
When the original two knights returned they were in full armor. The joust followed. I’m not convinced that the knights were fully invested in destroying each other. It wasn’t much of a match. The enemy knight won easily. In the picture below the enemy knight’s lance has been shattered (which is good for him, it scores higher than a strike with an unbroken lance). This competition definitely has a measure of risk involved, things could go wrong.
At the conclusion of the event they honored the champion. He remarked that he competed for his queen. Suddenly Queen’s We are the Champions came across the PA system.
I enjoyed seeing the renaissance festival; it was worth attending.