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Tuesday, September 20, 2011  

Young Renaissance Man

I've been to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival three times now. Once when I was about M. Edium's age, once when Trash and I were first dating, and this past weekend, when M. Edium was the same age I was when I first went. I'm not a RenFaire fanatic or anything, but I like to look in on it every couple of decades or so.

Our RenFest is weekends only, running from late summer to early fall. It's easy to make fun of how it's not really faithful to the time period. But then, if the "Privies" were really a latrine trench instead of ranks of modern Porta-Potties, and if you couldn't buy your kid a slice of pizza, and if everyone had to wear period costume (and not just the people who want to), nobody would show up. On the other hand, if it took place during the actual Renaissance and the admission price were still the yearly income of a family of four, nobody would show up for that either, so everything's a tradeoff.

And there really isn't a better place for people-watching. Of course all the people who work there dress up in costume because they have to, but then there are all the other folks who go to the same effort just for fun. It's tough to maintain one's suspension of disbelief, though, when one is looking at a French chevalier wearing Transitions™ lenses, or a perfectly detailed costume that might have come directly from feudal Japan except for how it's topped by the head of a doughy Scandinavian, or a strolling band of musketeers hanging out together while wearing fashions from completely opposite ends of the year 1638. I will say this about a lot of the costumes, though; I appreciate how difficult they make it for some of those people to sneak up on you.

This was M. Edium's first visit, but we met up with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, as well as M. Edium's cousin Deniece, who is one of those people who dressed up (but she's nine, so it's different). For some reason, she's suddenly emerged as a carnival-game ringer, having won a seven-foot banana at the Valleyfair ring toss the day before.

"A stuffed one?" M. Edium asked when I told him about it. "Shit, I hope so," I answered in not those exact words.

Anyway, she and M. Edium both played a slew of the games. She won him a plastic cutlass complete with scabbard at the dart throw, and at the tomato throw she ignored the human target's threat to kick a puppy (dude had an actual, live puppy back there) and pegged him square in the puss.

There's even a midway with rides, but not in the 20th century sense (yes, I know what century it is now, but midway rides don't). They're all run on human power. The swinging pirate ship is swung back and forth by teams of costumed bruisers, the turning swing ride is spun by hand, and the giant rocking horse is powered by two guys hurling their weight from side to side on it. This has obvious advantages in terms of the reduced environmental footprint, as well as near-silent operation that allows the timeshifted carnies to converse with the parents watching their kids on the ride.

"Have you seen the new bear yet?" one of them asked us. He told us the story of how one of the landmarks at the Festival used to be a large wooden bear, until it was infested by hornets and replaced. "Now we have a new bear," he said proudly. "Soon to be infested by hornets," his partner added.

People seem to do things at the Renaissance Festival that they wouldn't do in every day life. And I can't judge the people who endeavor to maintain an English accent all day or wear Gypsy bikinis in public, because the place even had an effect on me. I certainly can't think of another place where I've allowed M. Edium to throw knives.

Yes, there was a knife-throwing game, where contestants are encouraged to hurl heavy, pointed slabs of metal at paper targets on a wooden wall. I'm sad to say Deniece didn't hit anything there but her dad's finger. I understand the bleeding has since stopped.

The highlight for M. Edium, other than getting to come home to his mom armed, was a shop that sold actual metal weapons. I thumbed the edges of a few, and while they didn't cut me, it was only because I didn't press hard enough. I was reminded of a stage combat seminar I once attended (don't ask), where one of the moderators mocked wannabee duelers who wanted a sword that "can 'cleave a mighty oak in twain and then shave my chin as smooth as a baby's.' No. Buy an axe, buy a razor, stay out of sword fighting." These suckers looked like they'd split the difference, though.

M. Edium wanted to take a closer look at a particularly wicked poniard, which on him would be the equivalent of a rapier. Luckily, I spotted the sign on the back wall that read "You must be 16 to touch or purchase weapons." Another sign nearer the front said you had to be 18. I figured I'd better get out of there before I was too young to look at anything.

When we got home, M. Edium told his mom all about it. She asked if he would want to go back (because she certainly doesn't.). His answer? "Yes. When I'm 16 or 18."

posted by M. Giant 8:55 PM 0 comments


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