I don't understand Renaissance Faires. To me, they make even less sense than Civil War re-enactments. And that's saying something. The 1500s never held much fascination for me. In fact, I could not describe for you with confidence a single event that happened in the 16th century. So, until today, I've logically resisted going to a Ren Faire. The operative words in that sentence are: "until today."
When Cecily at first mentioned that today was opening day for the 2011 season of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, the only other suggestion for the day's activities had been canoeing. And frankly canoeing sounded expensive, dangerous, and rife with opportunities for a spousal donnybrook. So, with those as my choices, and with my face literally buried in my hands, I agreed to the Ren Faire.
The best thing I can say is that the Faire is easy to access. It's only yards off the PA Turnpike at Exit 266. Oh, and the parking is free. Enjoy it, because parking is the ONLY thing that's free. At the admissions gate, the Faire staff begin the day-long task of separating us fools from our florins. The admission price for two adults and a child was about $75.00. For those who imbibe, there are beer tickets. I don't know what they cost, but I suggest you buy some. Because you don't want to be fully conscious of how thoroughly you're about to be fleeced.
Once inside the "village" (on the grounds of a 19th century Addams Family style mansion) , the place is pretty much what you'd expect of any theme park. There are lots of people--staffers AND attendees--dressed in period garb. There are lords and ladies, pirates and jesters,...
...scullery maids and swashbucklers, and a host of swordsmen and musicians.
There's even a Queen...
And of course, there are shops...
Some sell trinkets, others clothes, and many sell food. None of it is included in the price of admission, and none of it is cheap. A mango smoothie is $5. Yeh. Your best bet is probably at the "Gyro of the Realm," a Greek stand that offers a generous portion of freshly shaved lamb with tzaziki for $7. I didn't try Cortez's Mexican. I probably should have. For those in need of caffeination, the Dark Knight Café is a lifesaver. And for those who just want fried dough (a smell that pervades the entire fairgrounds), try a funnel cake.
I'll say this: the staffers are, at least on opening day, exceedingly friendly and helpful. I could get used to being addressed as "My Lord" ... maybe I'll see if the drizzle-dick sacks of stupid who pass for drive-thru clerks at Burger King would address me as such.
There are rides, which surprised me. And true to the Renaissance theme, they are VERY low-tech, run by exceedingly hard-working carnies who are equally talented midway hawkers, drawing people to their rides. I think the carnies (who all seem to be members of biker gangs) were my favorite people at the Faire.
A big hit with the kiddo was a pen filled with friendly pygmy goats. $2 for 10 minutes, $5 for as many return visits as you'd like.
Once you've realized that the place is more of a Renaissance Mall than a Faire, there's always the refuge of people-watching. The attendees are a strange amalgam of true Ren-Nerds (I actually overheard a teen boy say, "I got three clean kills with a broad akth [broadaxe]") ...along with overflow from the local high school Goth and Emo crowds, people with a range of social and behavioral disorders, and heavily tattooed gearheads and headbangers (and their families). Kind of a catch-all for society's "we don't want 'em, you take 'em." crowd.
We ended up buying food, playing some games with the kiddo, and taking in what they call a "mud show" -- which is basically a peasant comedy with jokes for the kids and just enough bawdy subtext to keep the adults smiling.
After the show and a few more games, we found coincidentally that 1. we were out of money and 2. it was starting to rain. So we made it back to the car with our fairie wings, magic wand, and flowered head-garland.
In the end, the person with whom I most identified was this lady...