I recently spent a pleasant autumn morning with several hundred other people at the Renaissance Festival.
I am not able to attend every year, but I always enjoy it when I’m there.
The spectacle of people in costumes (some of which have nothing to do with the Renaissance, but are still entertaining), the sounds, aromas, and festive atmosphere can make for a memorable outing.
My recent visit reminded me of one of the first times I visited the festival decades ago.
Skippy, Mingo, and I took a road trip from Duluth to Shakopee to have an adventure at the festival.
We passed through the gate and were transported into an exotic world.
People in elaborate costumes surrounded us, and the banter of performers mingled with the voices of the crowd.
Anticipating a thirsty sort of day, we stopped at the first place we saw that sold ale and bought ourselves a round to ward off dehydration. Then we continued our exploration of the festival.
As we strolled along, Skippy found himself accosted by a young lady in period costume.
“’Tis a shame to see a man such as this,” she challenged loudly enough for anyone in the vicinity to hear. “Sure, one would think he’d be ashamed to appear in public swilling ale from such an inferior vessel.”
People talk that way at Renaissance fairs.
She was referring to the plastic cup of beer he was holding. It was the same as Mingo and I had, but she targeted Skippy.
“Hold up, comrades,” Skippy said, pausing. “Yon guttersnipe has challenged the method of my quaffing. I would hear more of the reason for her insolence.”
“Clear it should be for anyone with eyes in his head that were he a gentleman and not a blackguard, he’d quaff his ale from a vessel befitting a fine strong man as he appears to be,” the woman continued. “The type of quality vessel that can be had for a pittance right here in my humble shop.” With a sweeping gesture she indicated the space behind her, the shelves of which were lined with mugs and tankards of all varieties.
Skippy took a step or two closer to the shop and surveyed the merchandise.
“’Lads, ’tis true I might find among this rubbish a vessel befitting a gentleman,” he replied. “But I fear it might turn my ale sour when it reminded me of the shrew who nagged me into buying it.
Especially,” he added, “A shrew to whom I have not been properly introduced.”
“Let that not stop you,” the woman replied. “I am Anne of the Golden Valley, and my wares are of a quality that would be sure to improve the taste of your ale.”
The exchange between Skippy and the young lady went on for a bit, both of them clearly enjoying themselves. It was fun for Mingo and me as well. We always enjoyed it when women gave Skippy the business.
Assuming a character is part of the fun of a festival, and both of them threw themselves into their roles.
Eventually, after a number of colorful insults and a certain amount of cash had been exchanged, Skippy was the proud owner of a new tankard of rustic design.
“Any gentleman would be proud to own such a superior vessel,” the lass said in parting.
We continued on our way, stopping periodically to watch the various entertainments that were provided.
There were groups of minstrels, energetic Morris dancers, and a troupe of gypsies juggling flaming objects.
At the next tavern, Skippy got the proprietor to rinse his new tankard before filling it with ale.
We saw exhibitions of fencing, and watched a jousting match between combatants on large horses.
There were booths staffed by craftsmen offering leather goods, swords, and knives of all kinds.
Many of them pounced on Skippy and gave him their sales pitch.
I wondered if this was because they saw his fancy new tankard and realized he could be persuaded to part with some cash.
This provided a good deal of entertainment for Mingo and me.
Skippy was a good sport, and was happy to banter with the tradesmen.
We found plenty to eat and drink as we made our way through the festival, and had plenty of laughs.
Mingo and I speculated as to whether or not Skippy would get out of there with any of his money.
Before we left, he made one final purchase. He had studied the item soon after we entered the fair, and when we passed the booth again on our way to the exit, the temptation became too much for him.
After a lively round of negotiating, he acquired a stylish black hat complete with an enormous crimson ostrich feather.
Renaissance festivals are wonderful places for people watching, and some of the most interesting people to watch can be the ones we bring with us.