There are two kinds of people in Minnesota: State Fair and Renaissance Festival people. We are in the Renaissance group. The State fair group is about three times bigger, which makes us “special,” in a special way. The last time I remember going to the State Fair is when our kids were in strollers. Their kids have outgrown their strollers now, to give you an idea how long it’s been.
We’ve been to the Festival every year since 1980, usually on Labor Day weekend, including this year. If you’ve never been there, it’s a conglomeration of about 250 vendors selling various art items, pottery, leather, swords, toys, clothing, and much more, many with a loose renaissance twist. There are dozens of stages with performers, musicians wandering the grounds, full armor jousting … and food. It feels like a couple hundred food and drink vendors, too. I love the soup, popovers, nut rolls; Judy favors chocolate covered strawberries and various chicken dishes; there’s much more, including my addictions, beer and coffee.
We arrive at the opening bell, and it’s about a fifteen minute walk from parking to the gate. Then we wander the grounds, eating, drinking and people watching until mid-afternoon. Shopping at the booths is now a sidelight, as we’ve got about all we need for objects d’art. There are vendors that we do visit each year. One artist from Wisconsin specializes in copper sculpture. We’ve purchased two items from him and proudly display them in the yard. One is a bird bath that neighborhood robins and cardinals love.
The one thing that we do at every Festival is we buy a dated goblet. We now have over thirty of them, starting with the early 1980’s. Our friend Mike built a custom shelf several years ago so we could properly display them. The shelf is overflowing with colorful pottery goblets.
Food is a focus, and it takes a while to eat since each item comes from a separate booth. I’ll get a bread bowl of soup, sit and watch the singers, then move on to a dessert booth, and finally enjoy a glass of beer to relax in the shade of a tree while watching the harpist sing and play. We tend to all keep together, in the same part of the festival, but never sticking that close together.
Since Mara got married, we’ve met her family at the Festival. Seeing the festival through the eyes of a six or eight year old child opens a whole new perspective. They love riding the Knight’s horses, the elephant, and the human-powered pirate ship swing.
Back to the food. There is a Feast of Fantasy we went to once with the Progressive Dinner group. At the Feast they bring multiple courses from the best food booths, rounds of beer and wine, and desserts. All the while various musicians and comedians entertain the fifty or so guests with their banter. It’s quite the way to spend an afternoon at the Festival. We’ve preferred to spend our time since then walking through the grounds looking for serendipity and strange people. There’s plenty of both.
Over the years we’ve gone up with so many friends and relatives it’s hard to count. It’s so much fun to see the Festival through a newbies eyes. One year the belly dancers selected Jim from the crowd to join them on stage. He really hammed it up. At one point when they were swirling their scarves around him, he mouthed the words “Holy Smokes” and grinned at the crowd. The dancers picked up on it and they all had a blast improvising on Jim’s innocent sounding aside.