Monday, September 23, 2013

Maryland Renaisance Festival

I've wanted to check out the Maryland Renaissance Festival since I first moved to DC seven years ago. Every summer and fall, I made plans to go which always fell through. This year, I grabbed some people and made my way to Annapolis, Maryland for the festivities, which will be in town until October 20, 2013.

I was not disappointed; it was by far my favorite event in the ren faire/celtic festival genre that I've attended. It was pleasing for both extremes as well- my guy has been to many such events and loves the Maryland Renaissance Festival and my friend had never been to one and enjoyed herself so much that she was sad to leave.

Why was it so great?

Layout. Maps are given to attendees upon entry. The grounds are large but relatively easy to navigate. The setup is quite fantastic; unlike many festivals, the buildings are less makeshift-seeming and more permanent-looking. It has the look of a quaint old rural town, complete with lots of greenery. Make sure to wear close-toed shoes; as is typical, there's lots of mud and dirt.

Employees. Those working the faire are passionate, friendly, and enthusiastic. They are dressed up in character and often have a background story that they intertwine into regular conversation. Patrons are greeted and ensured that they are having a good time. Street shows take place anywhere and everywhere.

Entertainment. Each year has a storyline which is entertaining in itself, and most weekends have a theme, such as Pirates Weekend or Scottish Weekend. Entertainment can come from some unexpected places, such as certain vendor locations (the glass-blowing by Art of Fire was educational and really interesting and their works of art were truly special) or above you (Molly Dangles dazzled us with aerial arts upon our entry). Musical acts occasionally pop up along the main path before or after stage shows.

Not all of the stage shows were fantastic, but most were great. The majority weaved comedy into their acts even where it would be unexpected, such as Barely Balanced, an acrobatics show that utilized swords, or The Squire of the Wire who, amongst other things, juggles and walks a tightwire. With a myriad of other types of events, such as Bodice Talk with Mistress Beatrice and dancing around the maypole, it's impossible to be bored.

Food. Nosh is always a notorious drawing point of faires, but the Maryland Rennaisance Festival has much more than your standard turkey leg. They of course had the obligatory meat on a stick but managed to put almost every other type of food on sticks as well- even macaroni and cheese. (Macaroni and cheese is breaded, fried, impaled on a stick, and happily devoured.) Soup in a bread bowl will become a more tempting option during the final and colder weeks of the festival. Meatball wraps were surprisingly flaky, well-seasoned, and delicious. Medium-sized cups of Pepsi products were somewhat modestly priced at only two dollars. Since the festival is in Maryland, crab options abounded. Hot apple dumplings with ice cream were a refreshing afternoon snack while taking in a show.

Shopping. Artisans carried everything renaissance-related you think you need and plenty you hadn't realized you do. Long story short, I started the day off in a cheap purple renaissance gown that I bought to double as my Halloween costume because the authentic outfits can be quite expensive; I ended the day in a completely new four-piece outfit. Capes and capelets, hats and hairpieces, and jewelry and gems are plentiful here. Honey? Pottery? Glass? Of course.

Short story long, I was only allowing myself to purchase a hat to go with my purple dress. I walked into Queen of Hearts. Twice. The first time was to look at a Robin Hood-style hat and I left lusting after an overdress. The second time, I debated over the hat again and the owner insisted that I couldn't leave until I saw what I looked like in the dress. I was pretty skeptical...until I stood in the mirror. The reaction on my guy's face was preee-tty awesome to boot. I decided to look around at dresses in some other shops and found my way to Unicorn Clothing. They didn't have overdresses but they had a huge array of corsets, chemises, overskirts, and underskirts in different colors and fabrics, even lace. My beau asked me to try something on for funsies and the most helpful salesgirl I've ever encountered helped me pick out a black lace chemise, black cotton underskirt, and black and red lace overskirt to match a red velvet corset I selected. There was no mirror in the dressing room so I stepped out uncertainly after she laced me up. My guy gasped and three other customers in the dressing area ran over to me and fawned over me like I was a renaissance prom queen. Two told us that if we didn't leave with the outfit, they would threaten our lives...and one had the archery equipment to back up her claim. One twirl in front of the mirror and I didn't need the threats. I had to have it...and had to wear it out. So thank you so much, Unicorn Clothing! Check them out when you go. They even give a military discount.

The Maryland Renaissance Festival runs from August 24th until October 20th in Annapolis, Maryland. Tickets are $17 for the first part of the season and $22 for the latter part of the season; they can be purchased online or in person. Children under 7 are free and discounted tickets are available for children ages 7- 15. Huzzah!