What I Saw at the Renaissance Fair
Georgia Renaissance Festival - GaRenfest
My husband, Johnny, and I try to make it to the Georgia Renaissance Fair every year if we can. It’s held just south of Atlanta, in a permanent renaissance village. Most of the various shops, taverns, and pubs each has its own renaissance building that looks as if it came from the historic period. We both enjoy the festival immensely. I fell in love with the period as a teacher of British Literature, and Johnny likes the ale and all the cleavage!
You would have a blast at a good renaissance festival or renaissance fair even if you did nothing but parked yourself on a bench or in a tavern or some other renaissance building and watched the people go by while listening to a great renaissance band. Such an event is an open invitation to dress in unusual costumes and to take on a different persona for a day. Some of the attendees even change their speech to suit the occasion!
Although every renaissance festival is a little different, many of them have the same basic attractions. Below are some of the things we see at our Georgia renaissance fair.
We’ve seen hobbits that speak as if they’re from Tolkien’s Shire, and elves who speak Elvish. We always see lots of pirates, and most of them speak piratese. The cute little fairies, sprites, and nymphs barely speak at all, but they do smile a lot. The serfs and tavern wenches do their best to speak Middle English, and King Henry VIII and the nobles speak Elizabethan English. The Scottish warriors are always dressed in great kilts with a claymore by their side, and they speak with a rough yet musical brogue. The leprechauns speak in a lilting Irish. The knights have deep, powerful voices, but their horses are generally mute. The village idiot traipses about spewing nonsense, much to the bemusement of the crowd.
You’ll also see people being placed in the village stocks and a couple of characters walking around on tall stilts.
The kissing wenches try to kiss all the men in attendance, leaving their red lip prints on the cheeks of their “victims.”
The animals of the renaissance fair
We’ve seen herding dogs herding sheep, and braces of graceful greyhounds on leashes held by ladies fair. Horses pull carts around the village, while the great warhorses carry the knights into battle. Mother Goose is always in attendance with her ducks and geese, and birds of prey are part of the falconing exhibit. There’s a petting zoo for the kids, complete with calves, pigs, lambs, rabbits, and goats.
Renaissance food and drink
The food at the renaissance fair is everywhere! We saw steak on a stake, a big hotdog called “the king’s wiener,” fish and chips, “fryed” cheese, pizza, giant roasted turkey legs, corn-on-the-cob, fried shrimp, grilled pork loin, chicken wings, garlic bread, roasted nuts, skewered chicken breasts, hamburgers, fried potatoes, stuffed peppers, onion rings, cheese fries, fried pickles, cheese bread, broccoli and cheese pie, bangers and mash, Scotch eggs, meat pies, croissants, mushrooms, fried green beans, and sandwiches. Something offered that I’ve never witnessed and can’t quite imagine is macaroni and cheese on a stick. How do they do that?
For dessert, there were fried fruit pies, ice cream, funnel cakes, cookies, candies, sundaes, cobblers, strawberry shortcake, Belgian waffles, scones, floats, snow cones, and assorted pastries.
To wash all this grub down, there’s homemade lemonade, juices, milk, soft drinks, ale, wine, beer, and mead.
The live shows at the festival are fascinating! Some are educational, some are thrilling, and some are just downright funny! There’s a guy who swallows fire, and there are always some agile acrobats. Several comedy acts are always performed, and some of them are pretty bawdy.
The last time we went to the Georgia Renaissance Festival, the famous Lipizzaner stallions were there, and they mesmerized the audience with their deft ballet movements and leaps. A group of knights perform several jousts each day, and this show is really cool. the king and queen and their royal entourage watch from a platform between two renaissance towers. I don’t see how these knights manage not to kill each other! You’ll also witness some pretty cool sword fights.
Dancing is always part of the festival. We’ve seen Celtic dances, belly dances, and the Highland Fling performed.
Another highlight of the festival is the coronation of King Henry VIII. This is done with much pomp and blaring of trumpets, as the king enters from one of the renaissance towers..
Since the fair is set in a medieval-renaissance village, there are lots of live demonstrations that take place. These might include spinning, leatherworking, shoemaking, coin minting, hair wrapping and beading, sculpting, pottery making, weaving, glass blowing, blacksmithing, perfume making, carving, jewelry making, and the linking of chain mail.
I’ve already mentioned the Birds of Prey exhibition and the herding dogs.
Music at the renaissance fair
One of our favorite parts of the Georgia Renaissance Festival is the music. There’s always a lady playing a huge harp, and there’s a marching bagpipe band that performs several times a day. Modern renaissance band music also fills the air.
We like to sit at the open-air tavern and listen to our favorite renaissance band, Three Quarter Ale. They play and sing old Celtic folk songs, along with some original material. They’re great at getting the audience involved, so their performances are really fun and lively.
If you enjoy shopping, a good renaissance festival will not disappoint! You’ll find all kinds of unique treasures to take home. At our festival, you’ll find handcrafted jewelry, kilts from Scotland, handmade boots, swords, knives, wooden toys, exotic perfumes, herbs, devil horns, wool scarves, belts, carvings, Celtic drums and other handmade musical instruments, beadwork, pewter, and shields. You'll find each shop housed in an appropriate renaissance building that looks very authentic.
The heraldry shop allows you to look up your family’s coat of arms, and you can buy items that display the crest.
Several shops sell all kinds of period clothing, including dresses, skirts, peasant blouses, hats, caps, trousers, leggings, balmorals, and shoes.
One of the neatest things I’ve purchased was a pet wyvern. These are hand-carved from resin, and they have realistic eyes and real feathers for wings. Mine sits on my shoulder, and it had a device that fits down my sleeve that allows me to make the creatures head turn. They also have dragons and gryphons. I “wore” my wyvern to school one day, and my students thought it was a live animal!
The rides and games
All the rides at the fair depend on gravity or manpower – no electricity is involved. The rides are mostly for kids and include a twisting side the exits from a castle turret, a drunken barrel, and swinging sailing ships. There’s also a jousting ride that my grands really like. It’s a carved gryphon that glides down a cable. The kids ride the creature, lance in hand, and try to hit the quintain with their weapon.
There are also games of skill and games of strength, for kids and adults alike. Shoot a bow and arrow, test your skills with a crossbow, or see how good you are tossing hatchets or knives at a target!
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