Are you going to Scarborough Faire?
No, Paul and Art, I already did. On April 20, I had the opportunity to visit my very first Renaissance Festival — in this case Scarborough Faire, a great big festival located on permanent grounds just outside of Waxahachie, Texas.
Now, back when I was a lad, “the Renaissance Festival” meant the Texas Renaissance Festival, the one that’s been held down south in Plantersville since ’74. I never got to go to that one, and I never even knew that Scarborough existed until a few years ago. Turns out that it’s the North Texas answer to the RenFaire I grew up with. This one’s been going on since 1981, and is set in the year 1533, during the reign of England’s King Henry VIII. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, this is he with his queen-of-the-moment.
As I recall, Henry VIII had six wives, one after the other; in fact, it was he who started up the Church of England (known as the Episcopal Church here in America), so he didn’t have to chop off their heads any longer when he wanted to marry someone else. The Church of England allowed divorces; the Catholic Church didn’t. Fancy that.
Incidentally, the picture above was taken during the daily Grande Parade, and I have dozens, nay, scores of others to go with it. My only regret is that I can’t show you all of the photos I took — I actually snapped 153 this time, even more than I did at the Dallas Arboretum last month. Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme indeed. More of my parade pics will appear in Part II of this entry, or maybe Part III. In any case, I was one of some 200,000 people expected to pass through the gates this year, and as far as I could tell about a tenth of them were there while I was. The festival itself takes place on a 35-acre village site, and employs more than 2,000 people. There are stages everywhere, and all kinds of performances going on continuously — from knife-throwing to caber-tossing. See?
As it happened, the day we visited, they were having their annual Highland Games — not to be confused with the Texas Scottish Festival and Highland Games, which will take place elsewhere June 6-8. There were kilted Scotsmen everywhere, of all sizes.
Kilts are interesting, aren’t they? While they’re obviously a kind of skirt, there’s nothing the least bit feminine about them, if you ask me. If I had the least bit of Scottish blood, I might buy one for myself. But I don’t. Well, I might have some Scottish heritage, being the typical American mutt that I am, but I can’t lay clan to membership in a clan, since I don’t know of any such heritage. Scratch that: I could, but I’d feel like a big ol’ fake. These people, on the other hand, are the real thing, and proud of it.
But it wasn’t all about Scotland this festival, no indeed. There were folks dressed as period characters from all over the European word of the early 16th century. For example, these lovely ladies, who were apparently in a hurry. Check out that spray of roses on the bush overhead; I feel it adds a lovely counterpoint to the ladies.
And we can’t forget, of course, about all the fantasy characters, too. There was one guy dressed all in black with dead white skin and white eyes; I’m hoping it was a really good costume with special contact lenses, but I’m still not sure, because for some reason, the pictures I took of him didn’t come out… Anyhoo, I got the impression that that were a lot of LARPers here, too, LARP being the acronym for Live Action Role Playing. Ever heard of the Society for Creative Anachronism? The SCA is probably the seminal modern LARP group, though there are others nowadays. They dress up in costumes; not just period costumes, but fantasy ones too, from vampires and demons to elves and weres and animals of various types, oh my. I think that’s why this lad was wearing a foxtail with his costume.
This practice was actually quite common among the costumed attendees. I don’t know where they got their tails; I guess they could have been fake, but there was one shop that was actually selling furs. I sure hope there weren’t any PETA people visiting that day, as I’m sure they would have been unamused.
Elsewhere, I was particularly taken by this sweet-faced troubador, who was performing at a small stage near the entrance. The foxtail lad above was busy watching her when I caught his image.
And check out this fellow — Sholo, the stoic, heavily-muscled Nubian warrior. Interesting guy who doesn’t smile much. I don’t know how historically accurate his costume is — especially that skull — but I wasn’t going to bug him about it.
Ack! It appears that I have once more run out of space before I have run out of things to say. As it turns out, this event — being the spectacle it is — will probably stretch out to three entries, though I suspect the last will be more pictures than words; I really do have a bunch of Grande Parade photos I want to share. More to come in Part II!
The Scarborough Renaissance Festival is located just outside of Waxahachie, to the south of the DFW metroplex. It’s open rain or shine for eight consecutive weekends from April 5-May 26, 2008, as well as Memorial Day (May 26). Regular admission costs a whopping $19.99 for adults, and $6.50 for kids 5-12 (kids under four are free). In some cases, you can qualify for discount tickets, and of course season tickets are available — which is great for LARPers and anyone who just wants to spend more time in a fun-filled, time-warped environment. For more information, check out their lovely website at http://www.scarboroughrenfest.com/index.html.