If you’re still in the mood for a fairweather fair – you can turn back the clock. Not to summer but all the way back to the year 1544. The 35th Annual Maryland Renaissance Festival, one of the most fun shows in Maryland, is celebrating King Henry VIII’s 35th year on the throne weekends through October 23 at its fairgrounds in Crownsville, Maryland. For a way to spend a fall afternoon, you could fare worse than to see the fair maidens interspersing the grounds in Renaissance Festival Dresses and other actors in armor and period costumes.
The MD Renaissance Festival (some refer to it offhand as the Maryland Renaissance Fest or Maryland Renaissance Faire) runs from 10 am to 7 pm Saturdays and Sundays. With 11 stages and more than 120 vendors (plus roaming costumed performers), you’ll find enough (mostly comical) entertainment to last the whole day. You can also choose from many sources of comestibles for lunch or snacks. The turkey legs prove to be a big seller. People spend a lot of cash, for while people stand in line for some of the popular food vendors and to use the privies (the lines move very fast; you won’t have to wait too long), the longest lines are for the 21st Century ATMs. The vendors in Renaissance apparel here are happy to take American cash (and the festival and most vendors love plastic). Another modern trend the festival hasn’t caught on: it’s not smoke free, though smoking’s not allowed in the various theater seats.
You can also get your face painted, get a royal massage or ride an elephant (for an additional fee) and visit an exhibit of the crown jewels of the British Empire.
It would be impossible to see all the acts, which are invariably good for laughs. But to name a few, the Globe Theater in the back features Shakespearean parodies (parodies of parodies, as most of Shakespeare’s works contained comedy.) For one, Happenstance Theater sent a duo to perform Something Rotten, in which a duo finds a trunk with props and decide to play Hamlet with it. It’s rather amusing but the more you’re familiar with Hamlet, the more you’ll appreciate it. Check out the troupe at http://www.happenstancetheater.com/.
Juggling and related acts also abound. Larksalot the Bald is pretty funny. So is Hilby the Skinny German Juggle Boy, who has become a regular at the fest over the years, interspersing his tricks with jokes that are pretty funny (but ethnic ones might offend someone). Yet he manages to keep an audience entertained for an hour – even those who have seen him before.
And at 5:30 comes the jousting match. This year, a female in armor rode on horseback. Did women’s lib go back that far? Maybe not: Jousting’s not necessarily an import: it’s the official Maryland State Sport.
The days end with a pub sing, but the vocals were interrupted briefly by an imaginative new percussive trio called the Drum Runners – an act that leaves the listener wanting to hear more. Check it out at http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Drum-Runners/126547574113244.
Maryland Renaissance Festival tickets (the fare for the fair) cost $19 (with discounts for seniors and children under 16). You must buy at the box office as the Maryland Renaissance Festival coupons and Maryland Renaissance Festival discount tickets are no longer honored – they were good only for the first few weeks, when attendance is lower.
The trouble with the festival is that on a pleasant day, you can get stuck in traffic for more than an hour getting there. To avoid that, try arriving early – the box office opens to sell Renaissance tickets at 9:30 am. Or arrive late in the afternoon, but to do so, you’ll miss much of the day of fun.
See the Renaissance Festival schedule and other info at http://MarylandRenaissanceFestival.com.