A Day At: The Sterling Renaissance Festival (Sterling, NY)
No summer would be complete for me without a visit to merry olde England and the community of Warwick. I am referring, of course, to the Renaissance Festival, held each year throughout the month of July and through mid-August in the tiny community of Sterling, NY, west of Fulton. This is their 37th year at the fairgrounds location
The fun begins with the drive. No matter the direction you’re coming from, once you get in proximity of the grounds, you just need to follow the well-placed brown and yellow signs. Most of the land you’ll travel through is farm country, which lends itself to the idea that you’re leaving civilization for a different time.
The entrance to the grounds are like a massive stone edifice, a wall that will either keep visitors out, or the crazy denizens of Warwick from escaping. Once you pass through the gates, however, you have entered a different world.
The actors have worked diligently to create characters and situations that hearken back to another time. Visitors are greeted by cast members using old English dialects and accents. Each cast member remains in character throughout the day and should be properly addressed by their titles or character names.
One can bow to the Queen of England, kiss the ring of the cardinal, wiggle their noses at the sheriff of Warwick or converse with beggars and thieves who wander the shire.
Or you can take in a show. There are dozens to choose from, including the comedic revelries of Don Juan and Miguel (they debuted a brand new show this season), witness the hysterical acrobatics of Daniel, Duke of Danger, sing along with the silly strains and harmonies of those sisters of mirth with Hey Nunnie Nunnie (yes, you can be a nunnion, too) or see the new stunts performed by The Nature of Mercy at the Dunke Pond. Or you can stop under a shady tree and listen to the dulcet tones of the folk singers who regularly perform at many venues and along the many footpaths.
Throughout the day, too, there are formal performances by the Bless the Mark players, who play witness, for instance, to armored jousts, dunking trials (at the aforementioned Dunke Pond), washer women, wench auctions and the formal parade at 2:15 pm daily.
Along the paths, one can encounter dozens of merchants and you can buy hundreds of unique and hand made gifts. There are bookmarks, medallions, stained glass trinkets, wood carvings, wall hangings and decorative candles galore to choose from. You may even get lucky and see the artisan at work making one of his creations.
If period costuming is more your thing, you can, like me, go about creating the perfect ensemble. There are several garment creators on site who can help you design the perfect costume from in stock items, or they can help you to develop your own custom disguise from the ground up.
You can order accessories there as well. What costume, for instance, would be complete without the proper form of footwear? You know you’re a Renaissance Faire junkie when your boots cost more than your monthly rent.
Once your basic costume is complete, you can add your accessories. Several shops can design outer vestments, or help you to find the perfect belt, change purse, mug holders, or hats. For the discerning duelist, add either gloves or bracers to complete the look.
You can even get your hands on authentic period weaponry, including swords, knives or axes. Weaponry is available in wood or steel, depending on your age group and the level of authenticity you are seeking.
There’s even a chainmail vendor, by the way…if that’s your thing, of course.
And the food! Wrap your fist around a giant Turkey Legge or savor a juicy Steak on a Stake. Add a baked potato for a few dollars more or try a slice of pizza. Save room for desserts, there are dozens of choices to pick from including strawberry shortcake, waffles, ice cream and lots more. There are adult beverages for those of legal age and soft drinks for everyone else. And there are plenty of places that sell water bottles, too, so you can stay hydrated on those warmer days.
I highly recommend the Faire. Whether it be your first time visiting or if you be a long time (30 years plus) veteran like me, there’s always something new and fresh to see and do. Huzzah!
For more information and complete directions to the Fairgrounds, visit SterlingFestival.com online.