I spent a recent Sunday at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Annapolis, to help celebrate one of my closest friends’ upcoming (now past) wedding. It was only my second time visiting, and just like last time, we spent the end of the festival huddled underneath a big barrel with an umbrella on it, as the rain poured down around us and the bottles of hanging condiments. It’s tough to eat a snack when a big container of Season-All keeps smacking into you.
When I was in high school in Virginia, we had our own Renaissance park. Many of my friends worked there, but I never really enjoyed it. We mainly went just to find our friends in costume so we could giggle at/with them. I also once had a really uncomfortable ride on the back of some hapless camel at a station there. It closed just three years after it opened. The buildings still stand, and you can occasionally catch glimpses of them through the trees as you pass on Route 3. (You can also find pictures of the abandoned park online.) It’s so odd to see the way it looks now, with newspapers from 1999 (a year that still seems fresh in my mind) scattered in the employee rooms. (You can find one of many photo sets at Lucent Moments: Renaissance Faire, VA.)
The Maryland Renaissance Festival is decidedly bigger and better! On my first visit there last year, we ate plenty of food, watched a jousting match, joined the audience of a decidedly adult comedy sketch show, listened to a couple of bands play, cheered Eric on in rock-climbing, threw knives and ninja stars at wooden targets, browsed the many rows of shops, and ate more food. For me, one of the most fun parts of the Renaissance Festival is seeing the many visitors who come out dressed in full costume; some of these outfits were handmade and are quite beautiful. I also like to note how every shopkeeper speaks with an old time accent that they keep up even when they are tired or irritated, still addressing you by “milady” or “m’lord.” When you’ve been standing on your feet all day serving a sometimes ungrateful public, I bet that gets old quick, but they are dedicated.
This year, we saw a joust again and I was relieved to see they’ve added microphones so that it’s easier to hear the announcers. The grounds are full of awesome decorations, but sadly, few of those were Halloween-appropriate. I saw a couple of tombstones and pumpkin lanterns here and there, but that was it. Oh well, it was only the first weekend in October – maybe it was too early.
Well, one of the highlights of the Ren Fest for me is the food. Come on, don’t give me a straight face and say sampling some of that stuff is at the bottom of your list of things to do at a festival or carnival. And Ren Fest has some unique options. You can sample honeymead (too sweet for me) or a pretzel covered in crab meat and cheese (delicious when hot!). You can get fried mac and cheese on a stick – triangular batter bites stuck like kabobs on a long stick, each one filled with super hot cheesy noodles.
Another of my favorites is the Scotch egg, which I’d never heard of before setting foot in the Ren Fest. Scotch eggs are hard-boiled eggs set in a square of lightly-breaded sausage. They would make a perfect breakfast on-the-go.
Jalapeno poppers are regrettably not very good at the Ren Fest – they’re full of thick sour cream, true, but it’s mostly tasteless, and the jalapenos have no fire left, so what’s the point? The chocolate-covered cheesecake-on-a-stick is always a great pick, but is rich enough that you might consider splitting with someone else if you can’t get through the whole thing on your own. If you’re in the mood for a big soft pretzel, just chase down the guy carrying the big pretzel tree!
There are many, many other things to eat at the Ren Fest, but sampling them all would take a large amount of money, time, and stomach space. Hey, if someone wants to pay me to try, I’m game!
Except for the stores, the food, and the games (such as rock-climbing and knife-throwing), everything else I have mentioned so far is completely free. You can wander in to the joust, have your picture taken on a scenic bridge, and even help a “street magician” do some simple magic tricks for no extra cost. But there are a couple of things I’ve been told are not free that I have yet to explore, such as a large maze and the Museum of Unnatural History, which to me looks awesome.
Note: I know I’m bombarding you guys with a lot of blog posts. I had been too lazy about posting all the ones I’ve been working on! Don’t even get me started on the backlog of travel posts …