The truth be told, I’m not particularly a fan of Renaissance festivals, though they seem to have some endearing attraction to those who share my nerdy proclivities. Such events always seem to combine the worst aspects of a county fair with a historical reenactment. But for my good friend William and his fiancée Joan, the Minnesota Renaissance Festival is something of a yearly tradition. Having been invited along with their usual band of cohorts, it seems I will once again be attending our state Renaissance fair. Good company, I figure, more than makes up for any mediocre experience that awaits us.
If the Ren fair was just historical reenactment, I suppose it would be tolerable enough. But all too often, the event seems to rest on campy artifice. The usual Ren fair experience involves walking around for several hours, watching a handful of unfunny comedy acts, and looking at artisanal crafts you probably can’t afford, all the while surrounded by sweaty, costumed blokes eating turkey drumsticks. On some level, I can appreciate the showmanship; I’ve seen some astounding costume work, and the vendors often have interesting crafts to browse. Those entertaining bits never seem to total the price of admission, however.
My trips to the Ren Fair in the past have been usually more about the people I’d be meeting and less about the fair itself. Such was the case last time I attended three years ago. Circumstances led me to acquire a handful of free tickets. My former roommate, Eric, happened to be in Minnesota, so he and several other college friends were eager to meet at the fair. As Eric and I haven’t had many good opportunities to meet in person since college, I was eager myself.
We all met, and it was your standard fare. We walked around and looked at engraved woodworking and other art pieces out of our price range. We watched a laughless comedy routine. Wash, rinse, repeat, ad nauseum. We also paid the extra fee to look at the Hall of Torture Implements (name paraphrased) and were left a little uncomfortable. Still, the company was good, and those four friends and I took ample opportunity to catch up on our lives since graduation.
There was one interesting wrinkle to this story: you may remember that I said William and Joan make a yearly trip to the fair as well. I had not corroborated my plans with them and didn’t know when they were taking their trip that year. Among the unfunny comedy routines of the fair, of course, is stockades. Friends can pay fee to have someone they know locked in. Then members of the audience are called upon to hurl insults and otherwise humiliate the poor, strapped-in sap. Near the end of our visit, Eric and I walked past the stockades, and who should I see locked in them but William.
As the rest of my friends had taken a seat at a nearby picnic table, I slipped into the stockade, smiling like a Cheshire Cat. To William’s surprise I gave him a wave, and then the actors running the stockade called upon to deliver some insults. To be frank, the pre-written insult they passed on to me was Ren fair caliber, a bit too blue for me to find funny (or publish in these pages). Joan and the rest of William’s friends still recall the event, and I credit happenstance for allowing things to play out as they did.
Three years later, and my heart hasn’t warmed to charms of the fair. As it stands, I’m going for the camaraderie, and that will likely be enough. We have some fun evening plans to follow the fair as well.
I merely hope William doesn’t have the forethought to put me in the stockades this year.
Evan Orbeck is a Messenger staff writer.