The Ren Faire Survival Guide


“La Primivera” by Sandro Botticceli, c. 1482

There’s a little art. Now for a musical interlude: Douce Dame Jolie performed by Owain Phyfe. Oh, what the heck…how about another one? How about Helas Madame? I deeply regret not seeing him live before his passage a few years ago. Helas, indeed.

So anyway, Bristol Ren Faire opened yesterday. Finally, after the interminable wait between Labor Day of last year and the weekend after July 4 this year. Finally. We went. I woke up at 5 AM with HUZZAH! as the first consciously formed word in my mind. I refrained from speaking it out loud since Hubby, geeked as he was to go still slept as did Oakley.  Oakley was geeked about sleepover camp at Ms. Lanette’s, but he didn’t stir until about 5:45. I kind of drifted back and forth until 5:46. We let Hubby sleep as we went about our usual morning routine. I dropped Oakley off at Ms. Lanette’s, then Hubby and I were off.

We go at least once, sometimes twice, and maybe this year we can get up there three times, schedules and sleepover camp openings permitting. It is our happy place, and we have a few tricks to make it so. Bristol is our home faire, but you might be able to apply these to yours, too:

  • Get tickets in advance if possible through the web or through a local agent. We usually buy them at Walgreen’s, but their terminal wasn’t working.
  • Sign up for the newsletter. You’ll be able to plan your visits around theme weekends and special deals for subscribers. Even if you can’t get to an agent selling tickets at a discount, you can still get a good deal with the coupons.
  • Indulge in preferred parking. At BRF, $5 will get you pretty close to the gate and most spaces are at the top of the hill.  Last year a severe thunderstorm caused flooding in lower-lying areas.
  • Before you go, check stage schedules so you’ll know what to see and when. Performances run half an hour and are repeated throughout the day. The venues are scattered though out the village. We find best to watch a show, then walk and shop for a half-hour. If you walk with purpose, you can cover the length of the Faire in about ten minutes. If you have to dodge people, get distracted by the books or art or pretty scents and sparkly things in the shops, it will take longer. They distribute maps and hard copy schedules at the gate, but it doesn’t hurt to do a bit of advance planning.
  • Follow basic health and safety precautions: wear sensible shoes; use sunscreen; and STAY HYDRATED. Even with the beautiful old oaks and maples gracefully shading most of the Faire and the lake effect breezes, you are still there in summer. Most days are 80+. Drink. They allow patrons to bring in one empty water bottle per person.  There are at least two drinking fountains where you can fill them. And there are two buildings with flush privies ( Ren speak for toilets).
  • Expect the unexpected. It’s part of the fun. It’s part of living in the village for the day. You might chat with the mayor, watch pirate queen Grace O’Malley and her crew break into a sword fight with those who dare cross them. You might be accosted by gypsy dancers as Hubby was one year. You might have your hand kissed by le dauphin as happened to me on year. Enjoy it.
  • Try a new craft or attend a talk on some aspect of art and culture. Queen’s College has short classes on needlework, music, and other skills from back in the day.
  • Have a plan for dinner when you go home. We either go to our favorite Indian restaurant–close to the tollway–or grab Chinese takeout.
  • Don’t watch TV when you get home. It will harsh your mellow in the worst way. Read, watch a movie or better yet, “The Tudors.” The world will be there tomorrow.

I rejoined the mundane world with yoga and a cup of coffee before I went to pick up Oakley this morning. I stayed away from the news, from anything except classical music on the radio and a chapter in the book I purchased yesterday.

That will sustain me until our next trip, hopefully soon.



One thought on “The Ren Faire Survival Guide

  1. Another tip: If you can pull it together, go in garb. This I learned after the time I went (with friends) and got pulled out of the crowd to be the audience participant in a show involving epées and bosom jokes. I guess they decided to pick a big hairy biker-looking type. I had the biggest panic attack of my life, and the only way I got through it was by starting to perform, myself. After the show I had to sit down for something like fifteen minutes. Then I went and bought a pair of tights. 🙂

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