Beyond Chain Mail and Turkey Legs

knights

TRF was recently voted the #1 Cultural Festival in the nation. We are thrilled about this, and we know we have our loyal patrons and participants to thank, as well as USA Today. But we got to talking in here the other day- what does that mean? What is the culture of the festival? We all encounter this when we’re out and about: when people find out where we’re employed, they exclaim that it must be such an awesome place to work (and it is). But what makes faire so awesome? What is its unique culture? Here’s what we have come up with:

Owl

Music: There are too many wonderful musicians, I can’t go into great depth for all of them, though I think I will in a later post. But when I hear the Gypsy Guerilla Band start up the morning dance circle, I know it’s going to be my favorite kind of day- a faire day. When I am doing my rounds around the grounds and happen to catch Diane Linn singing “Bedlam Boys” on the Mockingbird Music Gazebo, I stop to listen. Diane can verify it- as a former Bedlam crew member, I can’t walk away from the song! When I stand atop the Arena hill at night and Tartanic hits that first drum beat to start off fireworks, I cannot, no matter how tired, stand still.

Shunyata

Dance: Did you know there’s a School of Dance every day? Performance company members , led by Drew Giles, teach country dances four times a day. How fun is that (I love to watch people try to dance the korobushka after a couple of beers). And for talented belly dancers and live musicians, you have Gypsy Dance Theatre at the Greek Agora and Shunyata at the Hacienda del Jorge. These dancers are all so incredibly talented, so graceful, so varied, I find something new to appreciate every single time I see them.

ribbons

Theatre: I am not talking about what you’re thinking- a grand red drape fronting a traditional stage in an air conditioned auditorium. No, this is street theatre: jugglers and acrobats, slight-of-hand and puppetry. This is what you might have seen in a traveling troupe of the 16th century- bright colors, comic insults, daring feats. Mud-eating, bird-flying, whip-cracking talent. And our performers are world class. They’ve worked for Cirque du Soleil, or hold world records, or perform internationally. If you haven’t visited a stage in a while, go catch a show next time you’re here. I’d recommend one, but how can I choose? See something new!

frog

Art: So…much…art. The village is a haven for artists. My personal favorite is glass- I have a house full of stained and handblown glass, and I try to buy a gazing ball from Jody Bove every year. They have kind of taken over my house and garden! We have several glass artists, but we also have painters, sculptors, leather workers, carvers, carpenters, and metalworkers. We hear from our patrons over and over that you appreciate having artisans who actually create original work. We really do search for them, and do our best to bring them to you.

Costume contest winner, 2015, hand painted Mother Nature

Costume contest winner, 2015, hand painted Mother Nature

Imagination: Costumes are works of art in and of themselves, and each patron who visits in a costume is investing 100% in the culture of imagination. We love that! How many of you spend more on creating a costume than on regular clothes? My husband jokes that I balk at paying $50 for a pair of jeans, but don’t even blink at $800 for a Ravenswood Leather pirate coat . And I have spent months painstakingly sewing beads onto a fairy bodice so that it catches the light from every possible angle. But it’s just more fun to put on a hoop skirt and French hood than it is to pull on khakis and a polo.

party!

Above all- joy: I could go on and on about this. Someday soon I probably will. But here’s the greatest thing that I think happens at faire: people have fun! For a few hours, we come in and forget all about our bills, our jobs, home repairs waiting to be tackled, health problems being treated. Grief and worry are suspended. Laughter and celebration rule the day. Old friends are embraced, new ones made. “Lift up your cares” is, I think, our greatest cultural legacy. Huzzah!

(Originally posted 5/19/2015)

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