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©02, The Media Desk

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     With Number One Daughter in tow the Desk attended the second day of the 2002 Edition of the Maryland Renaissance Festival with one goal in mind. OK, well, two goals, first was to find a tall cool glass of hard cider, the other was to learn how to spell 'Renaissance'.

     Billed as the 'Most Historically Accurate RenFaire' in the country the operators, players, staff, and vendors take great pride in speaking the English most often heard in Shakespearean Plays or the King James Bible, wearing period costumes, and keeping completely in character. Mostly.
     The Desk's experience with this foreign language began when it picked up its press packet from a 'Devil Wench' with some sort of British accent at the Will Call Window. When it became clear the Desk was completely hopeless at understanding her she broke character to explain what needed explained. Something some of the characters inside wouldn't do no matter how flustered you become. (Hint: if you really can't make heads or tales out of what a vendor who is in character is saying, put your money back in your wallet, they quickly skip some five hundred years into the future and speak American.)
     The Security Lady nearby wasn't in character and chatted pleasantly for a few minutes about Opening Day yesterday. She confided that it had been unbearably hot, dusty, and crowded. While there had been thunder storms in the area, they hadn't seen more than three drops of rain in months.
     This was something the Desk had noticed on the way there. The fields on the way to the Bay Bridge had been devastated, some corn had already been written off and cut down. Other fields were nothing but acres and acres of the dried cornstalks most usually seen as props for grade school Thanksgiving plays. Soybeans stood wilted and dying. Even the sorghum looked sick. The only green around was on golf courses and it was painfully obvious where the irrigation pipes stopped. The Green was green, a few feet away the turf was as brown as the cornfield across the highway.

     The Story side of the Renaissance Faire began even before the gates opened. Characters on the walls shouted and hollered to each other about Anne Boleyn and whether or not she was the rightful Queen. And their speeches did justice to the historical figures and the way England became divided almost to the point of one of their famous civil wars or insurrections.
     Historically the time of King Henry the Eighth and his many wives is a fascinating bit of reading. Anne replaced Catherine, and was herself replaced by Jane Seymour. There were many trials, and invalidated marriages, and charges of everything from incest to treason involving almost everybody in the court. The headsman was kept rather busy disposing of former royals and some of the court even faced burning at the stake.
     Fortunately for some of us who didn't come to see the ultimate in reality entertainment, the Festival stops short on some of these points.

     About a quarter of those paying for admission were in costume, but period dress is not required. If you catch that spirit, and it is rather thick in the air at times, you can rent a costume for the day. Everything from standard peasant garb up to outfits almost rivaling the Queen herself can be had in their shop.
     No. The Desk did not rent a costume for the day.

     "Fish and Chips and CRABCAKE Sandwiches" a chorus of lunchmongers sings every once in awhile from a stand selling just that.
     Singing. Music. Dance. Its all here. And in some good quantity. And usually with pretty good quality as well. But as with the food, and the beer, the quality depends a lot on your taste.
     In the British... the British... well, it was almost an outpost as much as anything else. On a hill over the Globe Theater where the Big Magic Act was going on and later the Queen was to receive her crown there as well, there is an almost forgotten dead end path with an English Craft stand and a pavilion for wine and beer vendors. In the pavilion was a duet singing period songs to entertain you while you sampled your British dark beer. OK, the Desk doesn't like thick dark beer, but it did like 'Tom Laurie'. He was Tom, she wasn't Laurie but the girl before her was. Nevermind. Guitar and flute and singing, a cool breeze and a chewy beer.
     Down the hill on something called Mary's Dale Way were other street musicians, and even Mother Goose. In another setting was another singing group. On stage around the corner, a bagpipe band.
     The Desk had made the acquaintance of one Mr. John Rothe (daughter number one took this picture), who was an acquaintance of the mastermind and soul of the Scottish Rogues. Lars Sloan IS Scottish Music, it's that simple. The man runs a bagpipe store, and school, in Houston, Texas, so he has to bleed plaid in order to not only avoid starving to death, but to have his band's last album nominated for a Grammy Award. Up until this weekend it had been years since the Desk had met anybody with even one Grammy Nomination. Now its met guys with Six! But alas, they didn't win. Oh well.
      The Bad Boys of Celtic Music are actually GOOD! OK, the Desk is weird, it likes bagpipe music. But these guys know more than three songs. Every time you hear pipers they are playing something on the order of 'Scotland the Brave Minstrel Boy's Amazing Grace'. Since when have you heard the 'Marine Hymn' on the pipes? Or something completely original? If you haven't, you haven't heard the Rogues.
     "Buy a CD, You'll Like It!" - Lars Sloan
     [The Rouge's website has been purged of evil Scottish spirits or too much Haggis (from one of their album covers- Hollerin for Haggis), here's the link Thank you]


     Puke and Snot.
     That's the name of an act, and a taproom. The comedy is clever, and well done, playing off the audience...

"I'm under a curse Tom old boy." "How can we break this curse?" "This beautiful woman must kiss me." "And that will break the curse?" "Who cares?"
     And the taproom poured the Desk something called 'Stella Artois'. Well. The Desk isn't much for bitters.
     Other acts include various degrees of magic, like a aforementioned Big Magic Show (fools on stage with tricks might be a better name); Whipflash a skill show with whips and fire; jugglers and stilt-walkers; and more comedy. Some of the comedy is very good, some is... well... calling it a Farce would be kind to it. And then there is the joust.

     This is what most people think of when they think Renaissance Faire.
      Armored men on horseback tilting at each other with the intent to do bodily harm, or at least pretend like it.
NOTE: Per information from another contact, the Joust part and 'some' of the hand to hand contact is scripted to avoid injury, however, the skill contests and other trials are NOT.
     OK, everybody in the place except kids in strollers knew it was all carefully choreographed, the actual chance of one of the knights being injured was remote, and the outcome had been determined long before hand. But... The horses were real, the armor was as real as battle cans fabricated in the Space Age can be (Real metal plating and joints based on original period objects with a few new additions. One undergarment had Velcro straps for adjustments.), the skills were real, trying to get your sword through a brass ring while a full gallop, aiming at a small wooden block with a spear, and so on. Guys had been hurt doing this. Horsefalls happen. All of them had been bumped and bruised, as much from incidents with the armor as from combat, but they really didn't pull their swings, and the horses galloped at nearly full speed.
     Something else you think of is hard cider.
     The Desk finally got his cider. It was good and cold, and a little too sweet. But it hit the spot. Note: The Desk's last spirited drink was a full three hours before it was time to drive back.


     This is something else that comes to mind when one thinks of the RenFaire.
     Broccoli and Chedder Cheese soup in a bread bowl. Roast Turkey Legs. And... whatever that is on a stick that guy is eating.
     There is food for every taste to be had almost everywhere. From your basic chicken sandwich to bangers and peasant bread. And a selection of beverages ranging from bottled water and regular coffee to those bitters and ales the Desk kept trying with varied degrees of satisfaction.


     Another acquaintance of Mr. Rothe's was the Scale Man.
     Yes. The Scale Man. Larry Rockwell.
     Weighing For Beer (or other refreshment).
     The Man in the Kilt's weight equaled two pretty young women and a bag of rocks. They had guessed wrong, so he won a coupon for a buck off a beer. Next was a kid who was there for the ride as much as a coupon for a Mylde Drink. Even though the scale operator had guessed the kid's weight right, three bags of rocks, he got to ride the thing up and down for a minute while the assembled passersby laughed and clapped.
      This contraption stops traffic along the Valley Meade path. Made from heavy beams, chains, an old church pew, and attended by Mr. Rockwell and a rotating crew of pretty girls and at least one strapping young man who tosses bags of rocks on the platform, it not only works, it is fun to watch.
     He's been doing it for fifteen years or so and owns the machine. Since the scale looks to be a permanent part of the countryside here, he's evidently here for the duration, as is his partner.
     Who's his partner? The good Cardinal to the Common Man- Sinius Vice.
     The Desk didn't have any further questions.

     Other services were offered here and there, palm reading, oils and essences...

Ye Stand in a Puddle $13.00 -foot massage and bath-

The Coronation of Anne Boleyn

     This is the high point of the day.
     The Globe Theater is packed. Standing Room Only. People, including the Desk, are lined up around the outside shoulder to shoulder to watch. The walkway outside is stopped. People up the hill at the English pub are squinting to see.
     The Queen can't stop for one of those bitter ales without being mobbed by both attendees and characters. She has to attend birthday parties people have booked into the various venues, and must use the Royal Plural Pronoun. She is 'we'. Of course, being the Queen has its perks. Such as armed guards to clear the way when she walks about, and she gets the best seat for the afternoon joust.
     In just three years the real Anne Boleyn came to a bad end.
     But for today, especially today they would have you believe, she is the Queen and she is here in our theater under two towering walnut trees to be crowned.
     The procession arrives to a blast from the herald trumpets and much singing and 'God Save the Queen' chanting.
     Now a bit about the REAL Anne. She was rumored to be 'averagely pretty'. Her best feature were her large dark eyes which King Henry found irresistible. She had several moles, some of which were said to be a bit on the large side. An unconfirmed and un-confirmable rumor says she had an extra finger on one hand. She was average in height with a slight build and not much of a figure.
     So the actress playing the Queen for our Faire may be too pretty for historical accuracy. Oh well. Life's tough. But she carries the part well, and seems to be actually having a good time. And why not? As long as it is in her contract that she is NOT beheaded at the end of the season, why not go with it?
     The Coronation is all about establishing her as the true Queen. It is done with all the pageantry they can muster with much ritual and lots of prayers. She is presented with the symbols of her authority, the rod of this and the staff of that, and then she is crowned and given the scepter and she gets to make her speech about how 'we shall be fair'.
     The players stood down front in rapt attention. The crowd sat in much the same way. From through the trees sounds of music and laughter carried on the breeze. A baby cries. You could smell something cooking just over yonder. Somebody's beeper brings them back to the present. 2002 interrupts 1533.
     It's almost time to go.
     Number One Daughter wants a flower garland to wear next weekend. The Desk wants to shop for something for Mrs. Desk. Must check in with Mr. Rothe again with a question or three.
     Our day at the Faire is almost done.
     But the Faire is far from done.
     As the Desk is talking to the Man in the Kilt the King and Queen and their entourage parade by greeting the people and posing for pictures. But they are on their way to the human chess game.

"Make Way Make Way. Make Way for the King and the Queen."

     Mr. Rothe's costume, if you were to go out and write a check for it, would run you about two thousand dollars. And the leatherwork on it is irreplaceable. He designed it and had it all hand made by a friend of his.
     Others spend more on their 'fancy dress' for the occasion, many spend a lot less. Buying material and sewing their own T-Tunic.
     Is any of it authentic? Well... Define authentic. Several years ago the Desk was there and talked to a lady who was wearing a large broach that was 'very old'. Was it four hundred years old? Probably not. But it was at least from the US Colonial Period.
     Some of the skills demonstrated are fairly authentic. Wool spinning, glass blowing, leatherwork, even the flower garland was hand woven. A lot of the construction on site is (within limits of the Safety Code for Public Use Buildings) authentic post and beam. There isn't an electric light readily visible anywhere, no security cameras. The cash registers, for the most part, are leather pouches or wooden trays. Of course, sixteenth century merchants didn't have a credit card reader machine under the counter, but, hey, everybody has to make a living.
     Now a word about security.
     This is 2002 in the Post Attack on America World. Security is as much a part of the landscape as royal banners and tree stumps.
     Security is there in their blue T-shirts (and some, rumor has it, in plainclothes and in period dress as well). As are paramedics. Deputy Sheriffs are wandering around. Guys with two way radios do make an appearance now and again.
     But they all keep to the background more than you would see at say, the State Fair. The Security Presence, while there, does not detract from the enjoyment of the Faire in the least.
     "Just don't get drunk and rowdy me'lord."
     Not today anyway.
     And now for the obligatory gratuitous picture of pretty women and the links to the Faire and other things...

     The grounds are located on Crownsville Road just north of Annapolis Maryland. The Village can be seen from Interstate 97 and signs abound in the area pointing you that way. Parking is free.
     Admission. Adults sixteen dollars admission, but remember, all the jousting, music, magic, and comedy is free for the admission price. Children 7 - 16 are seven dollars, under 7 free. Senior Citizens fourteen dollars. Group prices available, see their website for more info.
     The Faire runs weekends through October 20th. Gates open at 10:30 and close at Seven PM.
     The Faire is open all Labor Day Weekend including Monday which is Senior Citizens Day, free admission.
     Special Dates include: Sept. 14th & 15th - Scottish Celebration.
     28th & 29th Singles Weekend with the Mediaeval Babes singing troupe.
     Oktoberfest Oct. 12th and 13th.
     And the final weekend's Joust Competition.

Selah... oh, no, for this it should be...


Picture Page 1

[Thanks to Ms. Karine Z, Special Friend of the 'Scale Man', for some corrections to this story. HUZZAH!]

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