A Weekend at Scarborough Faire

Posted by Gia Manry on May 23, 2011 in Fandom |

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My parents are nerds, but they’ve never been the dress-up kind (not including that one Star Trek-themed murder mystery dinner party they went to, shocking me by renting very nice Next Generation outfits). However, this never stopped them from taking my brother, me, and occasionally our friends to our nearest Renaissance Faire for many years. The Faire took place in the Blackpoint Forest in Novato, California, for some years…until the land was sold and it had to relocate to— I kid you not —what was essentially the enormous parking lot of The Nut Tree, the “legendary” road stop in Vacaville, CA. The first year it was held there was the last year I remember going, although the faire continues to this day (now held at the Casa de Fruta, a similarly large truck stop in— *shudder* —Hollister, CA).

Although I missed my childhood Faire, I wasn’t lacking in geek gatherings with costume opportunities thanks to my growing anime fandom and the anime cons popping up in every city you could think of (and some you might not). So I only went to one historical event during the seven years I lived in Portland, where I went to college: it was an Elizabethan faire, as I recall, in southern Washington state. The show was fun and I could appreciate it on a whole new level as a full-fledged adult, but true to Pacific Northwest form, it eventually rained and we didn’t stay very late.

Which brings us to the present! Now based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas, I had the pleasure of attending the Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie, TX, about a 90-minute drive from my home (making it comparable to the ride from San Jose to Novato of my childhood). It was pirate weekend, so I dressed accordingly. I was also accompanied by my boyfriend, who— despite being an accomplished stilt-walker and entertainer —had never made it to a Renaissance festival, for fun or for profit. Since the rest of our group of scallywags had all attended faires for some number of years, it was an interesting contrast to have someone so completely new to the setting.

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Scarborough is a pretty nice faire. The grounds are great— they’re used for the festival every summer, and in the fall it’s also made into a haunted house —and there are at least a half-dozen stages for performers of every kind. We watched Zilch the Torysteller and whip/sword experts Don Juan & Miguel, who are to stand-up comedians what filk is to musicians, I suppose. We heard music and the jingling of bellydancers, and even witnessed what appeared to be a spontaneous choir performance at one of the eating areas. We watched the turtle races, which went faster than expected. And to my surprise there a lot of rides for kids and adults, including the opportunity to ride an elephant or a camel— which I passed up on this year only because the heat and humidity were really getting to me. (“Next year,” I swore violently to myself. “Next year, elephant.”)

And of course, we were lovingly harassed and heckled by costumed attendees, although as usual, it’s hard to know whether they were festival employees or just folks having a good time! This was the tough part for my boyfriend, who is used to either being the entertainer or being ignored by the entertainers due to his own status as staff. My boyfriend, it should be noted, is not a shy guy; he’s an effluent speaker who loves a good banter, so I was surprised to find him a bit nonplussed by these interactions. Then again, one of the first ones he really dealt with involved returning from the restroom to find a man threatening to run away with me, so maybe he didn’t get off entirely on the right foot there.

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Photo © rjzii

But! He said he enjoyed himself, would go back next year, and even suggested attending the nation’s largest Renaissance event, Houston’s Texas Renaissance Festival, this fall.

Mission: success!

Gia Manry is a Texas-based geek who you can hire. Or you could just follow her on Twitter.

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