We made our annual pilgrimage to the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Of course I make this sound like a huge trek, when at most it’s a half-hour drive. We always go when a friend of mine is visiting from Massachusetts, so she can go with us. The place is pretty amazing; it takes place in a permanent location, so it’s like going to a whole village full of shops and people.
We spend the first half of our visit strolling around, window-shopping and making mental notes of things we want to come back to. Sometimes we stop to watch an event or show, and of course we grab some bad-for-us faire food. Finally we do a pass back through to buy things we wanted earlier in the day, so we don’t have to carry them around the whole time. We always know we’ll spend more than we should, but we’ve been good about spending a whole lot less than we want to. What we really would love to get is a dining room table made by W. Gerry Grant, who takes slabs of dead trees and turns them into the most gorgeous natural-looking tables you’ve ever seen. Of course, it’ll be years, if not decades, before we can afford that (especially if major systems like the furnace keep breaking down!).
There’s so much nifty stuff to look at. We try to look at almost everything, and of course we have our favorites. We always have to drop by and visit the Bee Folk, who produce the most amazing honeys ever. Normally when you see, say, blueberry honey, it means it’s ordinary clover honey with artificial blueberry flavor. With their honey it means it’s made from blueberry blossoms. This makes for subtler differences in flavor, but they’re delicious, natural, and wonderful. The Bee Folk also sell candles, soaps, and other wonderful things made from beeswax.
Then there’s the awesome dude who makes wood inlay items. He saws different woods into these intricate patterns in boxes, art pieces, and so on. The artistry is incredible, and the boxes would make incredible props for a D&D game. Apparently this is just something he does in his spare time!
The Catskill Mountain Moccasin company custom-makes boots to fit your feet; the process takes months once they’ve measured your feet. We skipped them this year because that was our insane splurge last year, and one pair should be enough at those prices. But boy are they comfortable for long walks around the festival grounds!
The food is okay, but you really can’t expect wonders from stuff that has to be preserved and sold all day on hot festival grounds. It’s fun to get things like “steak on a stake” just for the amusement value, and we found some sweet potato fry-like things that were very tasty. They also had Scotch Eggs that were probably the yummiest discovery this year–hard-boiled eggs wrapped in a mixture of sausage and bread crumbs and fried. Or something like that. Hardly healthy, but at least we were getting our exercise.
In the past we’ve watched jousts or our favorite stage-show, “Fight Club,” which is comedy combined with demonstration sword fights combined with a history lesson on swords and sword-fighting. It’s very clever and very fun. Today we mostly felt like wandering, so we skipped the shows.
For the first time I walked out with pseudo-garb. I call it pseudo-garb because it’s hardly period-accurate, but it’s nifty, and that’s fun. We kind of agreed to go to a costume party next month after all, and I suck at costumes, so that made a fun excuse. The hard part is finding things that fit me; I really don’t feel like having to hem any skirts or dresses by half a foot to a foot because they’re all made for tall people.
…Okay, to be fair, I’m quite short.
Last year I also got a coin minted–there’s a company that lets you choose among dozens of designs and you put one on each side, in bronze, silver, or gold. Then you can have it strung on a cord to wear.
People-watching is fun. Some folks wear truly gorgeous garb. Then there was the guy oh-so-randomly dressed as a box of McDonald’s fries. No, I’m not joking. There are the folks who seem to be trying to do something creative, but mostly have succeeded in doing something… disturbing. Plenty of folks take “garb” to mean “costume” and dress up as things that have nothing at all to do with the theme of the festival, but that just adds to the surreality of the whole thing. Then there are the women of all sizes who use it as an excuse to show off most of their bodies (truthfully, I envy the confidence and body-comfortableness of large women who feel comfortable doing that), and then the women who use it as an excuse to present their breasts as though on a platter shoved out over tight bodices–which just kind of amazes me. Watching someone in garb chatter away on a cell phone induces a unique sort of cognitive dissonance. But the only real negative is all the folks walking the byways smoking like chimneys. My eyes still itch.
So, eventually we walked out with garb, intricate wooden boxes, and honeys of various types. And we look forward to going again next year!