This past weekend I visited King Richard’s Faire in Carver, MA for a day of magic, mischief, comedy, good drink, and fun. Renaissance Fairs are a great way to enjoy the fall season free of modern distractions. The permanent fairgrounds are built right into the forest! There is a tournament field, and two dozen year-round cottages that shops and food vendors rent for the season. This allows the shop-keeps to have a much more elaborate and authentic set-up than other fairs where vendors have to set up and break down every single weekend. The setting is important to the overall experience, and being nestled in the woods is the perfect backdrop for the fantasy affair. The trees provide shade and shelter from undesirable weather, without the claustrophobia of an indoor event. My boyfriend and I were lucky enough to have the perfect weather for our day at the fair: 75 and sunny with a light breeze.
Our first stop of the day was the Tournament of Champions, set in a large field and featuring knights on horseback in real armor. We saw jousting, and ring catching and knights stealing beer from the audience. The rest of the day was spent primarily drinking mead and taking in the routines of other performers. Acts included whip tricks, juggling, comedy routines, and a lot of begging for money. It was easy to have a good time as long as you could get past the begging for money, which every performer did…loudly and frequently.
The fair is largely a cash-only event, but to buy food or drink you must first trade in your money for food tickets. Once all my cash had been converted to food, it was a little harder to find small bills in my satchel to tip the performers with.
Though the fair experience is largely defined by the food and entertainment, the other patrons have a significant role in dictating the atmosphere. There were far fewer people than expected in costume. Of course I did see the usual cast members in very elaborate dress, and I could tell that there were a handfull of people who rented their outfits. But I was very surprised at the lack of hand-made, original design costumes. Most people were in street clothes! Where’s the fun in that?
Overall, I have very few complaints that the Faire can control. The food was great, the entertainment was first-rate, and the fairgrounds were as beautiful as ever. I had a wonderful time dressing up and receiving compliments and being called, “My Lady.” But I would have had a more authentic experience if the common folk weren’t all dressed so common. Get creative people! It’s easy, fun, and will make your fair-going all the more special.