For many a southern folk, the Fall and Winter months are welcomed with arms wide-open as we look forward to the semi-cooler weather, the delicious comfort food, and the lighthearted spirit that surrounds the holiday season. All of these traits are fine-and-dandy, but the geeks and history buffs of the South have been waiting all year for one thing:
According to their website, the Texas Renaissance Festival is the nation’s largest, most acclaimed Renaissance themed park. With over 500,000 guests passing through this festival’s gates each year, there’s no wonder the park has needed to expand to 55 acres of land in it’s 41 years of business.
As a long time festival fan, my annual pilgrimage up to Todd Mission, Texas is an exciting one. My birthday falls right in the middle of the RenFest season, and splurging on a day at the park is a treat every year. There’s just something about the chill of the wind and the smell of the funnel cakes that helps to make this festival so incredibly special for those with a passion for the stories of the past.
Growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s, I was introduced to the romance of Renaissance times through two particular films that caught my fancy. Firstly, the beautiful Drew Barrymore as Danielle in Ever After taught me to be courageous and “just breathe”, and then Heath Ledger came along in A Knight’s Tale simply took my breath away.
It’s fun to watch these films and reminisce, imagining what it might be like to live in their world, but it’s far more fun to actually dress up and spend a few hours at your local renaissance fair.
Danielle: Yards of fabric and I still feel naked.
Gustav: If you’re going to be a noblewoman… you must play the part.
The decision to dress-up for a renaissance festival can sometimes be a difficult one. Our Houston area festival has different themed weekends which make the variety of costume choices exciting, but doling out the dough and spending time on the outfits themselves can be tiresome and hard on the wallet.
Not to mention the bipolar weather we tend to have. The worry that comes along with dressing too heavily or lightly has kept me from costuming up just about every year, but I’m making this trip an exception. When a costume does finally come together it’s such a thrill, and I already have an particular character in mind. (No, not Danielle. I wish!)
The excitement at the front gate
Henry: I feel as if my skin is the only thing keeping me from going everywhere at once.
By the time I make it through the front gates of the festival, the thrill of the day’s coming adventures has my excitement level built to bursting. Musicians, photographers, and costumed greeters welcome you right as you step foot onto the soil and off of the city streets. You’ve arrived in the glorious past, prepare for the magic.
Wat: We’re the sons of peasants. Glory, and riches, and stars are beyond our grasps. But a full stomach, that dream can come true.
The team at TexRenFest continues to bring new grub to the table every year. All new items for 2015 include nachos on a stick, friend sauerkraut balls, placki ziemniaczane (potato pancakes), and a flourless (gluten-free) chocolate tort.
But if you’re like me, you’ll have your eye on some of the more classic dishes that have made their way into festival goers hearts over the years. I’m going straight for the turkey legs, cajun chips, and funnel cakes, though a good gyro seems to be calling my name, as well.
Danielle: It makes me want to cry.
Henry: Pick one.
Danielle: I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens.
If you’re in the market for any sort of renaissance era garb, you’re certainly in the right place. From full on outfits, to accessories, to home decor, there are vendors set up on every inch of the kingdom ready to sell you a little piece of RenFest.
Your name lady, I still need to hear it.
Sir hunter, you persist.
Well perhaps angels have no names, only beautiful faces.
Light a candle and straighten your toga, for the kingdom is swarming with eligible bachelors and bachelorettes looking for love. If finding someone with similar interests to yours has been a challenge, festivals and conventions are great ways to meet new people who you already know you have one thing in common with. From true passion to festival flirtation, love is in the air. Can you feel it?
Things to do and things to see
Roland: What are you doing?
Roland: I don’t understand!
William: Neither do I!
The number one attraction at most any renaissance event you’ll attend is the jousting competition.
With a lance, hello!
Jousting at the Texas RenFest has steadily improved over the years, with the most recent addition being the pyrotechnics we’ve seen in the past few seasons. But, you can always rely on the trusty over-dramatized flailing and top-notch costumes to win you over every time.
Another must see at this particular festival is The Mud Show performed by The Sturdy Beggars every year. Don’t judge them by their outdated website, the beggars are a staple at renaissance fairs across the country.
With these alongside plenty of other shows, games, and attractions, make sure to plan your day accordingly so you don’t end up missing out on something spectacular.
Danielle: Signore, my name is Danielle de Barbarac, and I am but a servant.
Leonardo da Vinci: Yes, and I’m the bastard son of a peasant. What does that have to do with anything?
A proper Ren Fest is basically a huge role playing party, with costumes of course, but playing the part of a barbarian or fairy comes with the territory. Even if you’re not quite feeling up to the pirate accent, you’re bound to throw a few “argh, matey”s into the conversation, as it’s easy to get into the spirit once you’ve arrived.
And when you never want to leave
William: Where will we live? In my hovel? With the pigs inside during the winter so they won’t freeze?
Jocelyn: Yes, William. With the pigs.
Though you may wish to hunker down in a shop or restaurant and just move in, we all have to return to the real world at some point.
Just remember to take the magic home with you, and start prepping for next year’s visit.