“I have a really dumb question,” I said last weekend. "What year are we supposed to be in?”
I had been walking around the Louisiana Renaissance Fair for about 15 minutes and had no clue.
I saw castles and people serving port wine, women in corsets and a group of guys with furry foxtails attached to their pants.
“Somewhere around the 1400s,” my friend Aaron said, an avid Renaissance Fair Fan.
He was dressed as some sort of monk and had his own fox tail. I sheepishly looked down at my 21st century outfit and was glad I had the foresight to wear a necklace with a feather on it.
“Huh.” I said.
Was this supposed to be the time frame of Robin Hood (Men in Tights)?? Or more like the Headless Horseman?
Pirates of the Caribbean??
Monk and warrior.
My friends and I wandered around the massive grounds that host the month-long Reniassance Fair each year, a circular space surrounding a large pond with little village stores, primitive rides and plenty of lace up boots.
It’s an hour away from New Orleans, but the time change is way longer.
It surprised me how much in costume everyone was, not just wearing traditional Reniassance outfits, but how they fully embodied their characters. Everyone had English accents. (Pirates of the Caribbean!!)
“All I won't (want) is a piece of choc’late,” said a woman, who was cleary some sort of maid/pauper following around a fancy lady who was wearing a big dress.
I wondered what made her decide to be a servant in this make believe life. And then I wondered who they were putting this ruse on for.
They were simply walking in front of us, not putting on a show on anything.
“NO, YOU WILL NEVER GET CHOC’LATE!” The fair lady said, and they both started laughing and walked up the hill.
We walked into little pop-up shops that sold all kinds of Renaissance gear, everything from hand-woven leather bracelets to blacksmith knives, to harps and larps. It was a bustling little village.
The masks for sale were my favorite, although I was thinking, “this would be perfect for Mardi Gras” rather than, “This would be most excellent for viewing a joust.”
(Can’t take the city out the girl.)
It surprised me at the time all the different characters one could be at a Renaissance Fair.
But now I get it; in this fully-visioned different world, every person has their place.
There were the fancy ladies, the ones who wore heavy dresses and fake curls had lads following them around holding baskets of flowers.
There were wenches, the ladies whose bosoms runneth over out the top of their bustiers and who screeched a lot.
We took in a wench show, where the ladies embarrassed male audience participants by licking the tops of their bald heads as they kneeled before the crowd.
Then there were your “Fringe” characters, the animal people who dressed as foxes and raccoons and other animals that I’m sure were skinned back in the 1400s; the fairies and pixies and people who wore a lot of feathers (chickens?)
And then there was this guy:
“Who are you, a messenger?” my friend asked a guy who had come up to us while we were admiring the pond view.
This guy had fake, big pointy ears that came out from either side of his green felt hat.
“A hobbit?” I offered, to no one’s amusement.
I was impressed with the attractions at the fair; the rides, performers and people who worked there.
They all stayed in character (probably actors and actresses in their 21st century lives) and wore great period clothing. They performed magic tricks with knives, did comedy shows and recited off limericks that I didn't understand, except that lass rhymes with ass.
One game that I did not play had a man (pauper) with his face through a wooden hole and encouraged you to buy three tomatoes for $1 to throw at his face.
“Ye probably couldn’t hit me if ye’tried!” he jeered.
(I was told later that these people are called “barkers.”)
One barker followed me up a hill when I got separated from my friends, pestering me to take a rickshaw ride, which was literally two ox-like men pulling a cart.
"I promise a good ride!" Ha.
Lunch consisted of Shepard’s Pie, because they were all out of turkey legs.
We ate as we saw a comedian on a nearby stage with a billowy top juggle knives while balancing on a ball.
Then we saw the combat fighting. Or, the MMMA (medieval mixed martial arts)
Dressed in HOMEMADE armor (one guy made his chest piece out of SPOONS, Y’ALL) they fought each other with fake swords and spears or whatever (“weapon of choice”) and were awarded a point when they got a clean hit on the other person.
It got pretty gruesome when one knight/fighter (...whatever) ended up winning the match by sitting on his brother’s face.
The spoons won't save ye now!!!
All the rides at the fair had a medieval/Renaissance theme, and I was presented with the opportunity to slay a dragon. For $2, it was a deal.
The grounds had constructed these wooden horses, very basic (they didn’t have eyes) that rolled down a decline and at the bottom, you were supposed to put your “sword” through a hole that killed the dragon.
When the ride was done, the workers pushed the wooden horses back up to the top. No need for electricity or safety measures. This is the 1400s.
I mounted the horse as my friend, Scott, took another.
“Now, what is your name?” A worker-wench asked me.
“Genevieve,” I said, trying to be a proper RenFair lady.
“Is that your real name or are you just getting into character?” she asked.
“It’s my real name,” I said.
She then asked me to come up with an alliterative adjective to announce aloud to the crowd. She frowned when I suggested “Gentle Genevieve.”
“GENTLE DOESN’T KILL A DRAGON!” she said in all seriousness.
We settled on Glorious Genevieve and we were off.
“On the count of, ‘Kill!’ ONE! TWO! KILL!!” the wenches said and down we went.
I killed the dragon NO PROBLEM, but then mistakenly dropped my sword because nobody told me the rules of dragon-slaying.
At the end of the day, all the lords and ladies, including the QUEEN-elect gathered at the front of the grounds to bid everyone adieu (Good 'morrow) and rode off in carts pulled by horses.
(I saw those horses make a three point turn with those carts, they weren’t messing around).
Then, large cannons shot off three, maybe four BOOMS, marking the end of the festival for that weekend.
The foxes scampered home, the fairies flitted away and we returned to 21st century New Orleans.
Fare thee well! we were told. I promised to kill any and all dragons I came in contact with from this day forward.
Same goes for any bottle of port wine. :)