Ambivalent

I’m not sure what to say about yesterday’s visit to a Renaissance faire. I have very strong feelings about it. Very strong very mixed feelings. The faire we attended yesterday is a new faire, just finishing its first season. It’s a faire that I have been referring to as the “spite faire” ever since I learned of the plans to open it a year ago.

There were some people associated with my “home” faire who had a falling out with the faire owner. They were angry, bitter and disgruntled. One of them happens to own a large piece of land in a pretty good location, so they put their heads together and decided to start their own faire and to run it in direct competition with “my” faire. In fact some of them came right out and said that their goal was to put “my” faire out of business.

Now the reality is that if they had chosen to have their faire at a different time of year, I would have been thrilled to support them and promote them in any way I could. However, I have a huge problem with any enterprise that is founded out of motives of spite or revenge. I was further grieved when I discovered that several people whom I thought were loyal to the “old” faire had in fact defected to the “new” faire. And others, who claimed they were getting out of the renfaire business, were in fact also defecting to the new faire.

I was deeply dismayed when “my” faire was cancelled for this year, in part because the appearance was that it had surrendered without even putting up a fight. The reality was much more complicated, and involved business and land tax issues. So, suddenly the “new” faire had no competition at all, and I had no faire to go to. Last year I went virtually every weekend in the spring, and worked doing interviews and helping out at a booth.

This year I have had so much going on every weekend that it would have been difficult to get to the faire even once or twice, but I sure did miss it. I was also very curious about the new faire. I decided that it wouldn’t be disloyal for me to go check it out, seeing as “my” faire had been cancelled. I thought it would be a fun birthday excursion for Jasper, so we planned to go on Saturday, which was his birthday.

Then, of course, we found out that we would be spending Saturday at the bee farm, and that meant that if we were going to go at all, it would have to be yesterday (Sunday) because that was the very last day of the faire’s five-week run. So, we played hooky and went–Jasper, Lucy and me.

This faire is much closer and more convenient–only about a 20 minute drive away. Walking through the gate was more than a little surreal. Everywhere we looked, we saw familiar people and familiar booths. Our beloved “white tent” was there with its kindly proprietor.

4-26-15 white tent

As we walked through the heavily wooded area, we came upon booth after booth that we recognized. People we had gotten to know well over the last 12 years greeted us from their new locations, and almost all the performers we saw were familiar.

I wasn’t sure how to react. I was glad to see them, but at the same time it hurt to see them somewhere new. In most cases, I didn’t know which ones had defected out of spite and which ones had scrambled to find a new place to do business when they found out that the other faire had been cancelled. It was very unsettling.

However, even with all that emotional baggage, it was good to be at a faire. The faire (“my” faire) has always been my happy place. I enjoyed sitting and listening to a musical performance, while savoring the lovely outdoor setting. After a very stressful few months, I needed this little break. One of the things that had decided me on going was the fact that they had a bird of prey show, and that was definitely a highlight for all three of us.

This is a beautiful African augur:

4-26-15 open mouthed man & hawk

I love how both the man and the bird have their mouths open in this photo.

And the real star of the show, a European Eagle Owl:

4-26-15 European eagle owl

This particular owl is the very one used in the Harry Potter movies–which I’ve never seen. Gorgeous bird.

We had lunch at a table in a heavily wooded area. At “our” faire, the food was so-so and overpriced. At this faire, the food was also overpriced, but we ate at this Greek place:

 4-26-15 greek food

And it was fabulous.

Since no one had offered us a program or schedule, it was a little frustrating trying to figure out what to do and where to go. We knew that we wanted to see a joust, and it looked like one was imminent, what with a fanfare being blown and all. There was no seating near the arena–none whatever. I was glad to have my chair, but the bars on the fence were placed in such a way that if I sat down, I would see nothing!

As it turns out, the joust was canceled, apparently due to a horse injury. I was disappointed. I was very curious to see how the horses handled jousting on such a short field with almost no turnaround space on the ends.

We found a shady place to sit down, and figured we would just wait to see who showed up to perform. Jasper asked permission to check out some booths we hadn’t been to yet, and I let him go. Moments later he was back, saying he had seen our friend Elliot. Neither Lucy nor I believed him, because we both thought that Elliot was working another faire near Dallas. Lucy finally agreed to go with Jasper, just to make sure, so off they went.

Minutes later I got a text from Lucy saying “It’s him.” She didn’t say where they were, so that’s what got me going in search of my kids. Which led to my fall. Which led to my showing up at Elliot’s booth looking very disheveled, and the kids asking me, “Why are you covered with leaves and sawdust?”

Since I was in dire need of a sit-down by that time, I set up my chair and sat down and we stayed for quite a while visiting with Elliot when he didn’t have customers.

4-26-15 Jasper and Elliot

That was the most “normal” part of the day for all of us, I think. By the time I was recovered enough to walk, we decided to just head home.

So what was my honest evaluation of this new faire, all feelings aside? Well, it’s pretty fantastic for a first-year faire. They had some great performers, most of whom I knew. Everything we saw was family friendly, although they did have a mead stand. They have a pond and a stream and lots of shade (and mosquitos).

4-26-15 stream

They have more and tastier food options. They are quite inexpensive, as faires go–$12. They really need some seating for the joust, which I can’t comment on because they didn’t have one yesterday. They ought to have a blacksmith, in my opinion. Hopefully they will also get some real bathrooms. They had porta-potties but nowhere to wash your hands or refill your water bottle without paying an arm and a leg.

I loved the bird of prey show. The big faire we went to in Houston had one, but it was so huge we couldn’t get close enough to even see the birds. This time we were part of an audience of maybe 20 people. So much better. Parking is limited, which will keep this faire from growing if they can’t find more parking space. It was almost full by the time we left yesterday.

So, I’m not sorry I went, but I still can’t come to grips with how I feel about the whole thing. Also, I’ve been designing my own faire in my head all day.

And yes, I am sore–but also very thankful I’m not hurt worse.

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2 thoughts on “Ambivalent

  1. Oh but I’m glad you got to go to a faire, any faire!! Yes, I would definitely go if I could get in for $12. I might try to make it here the year we turn 50, but I can’t see paying the ticket price for anything less momentous.

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    • That is why we have never been to the big one near Dallas. It’s double the price! Plus the 100+ miles to get there! The one in Houston is even more expensive, but we got free tickets to that or we would never have gone. I actually prefer the smaller faires because they tend to have smaller admission prices, but there is still plenty to see and do and you’re not constantly part of a mob.

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