Today, 23 September 2018, I went with my wife Abby, brother-in law Keith, sister-in-law Amanda, our niece Scarlett, and our nephew Keith, also known as Little Man to the Maryland Renaissance Festival. It’s a huge event for Maryland every year, running from August to October every weekend, rain or shine.
…speaking of which…
It was supposed to rain all day, but we had already bought our tickets and the events were happening rain or shine. Why were we set on going? Last year, Amanda and Keith renewed their vows after 10 years of marriage at the festival, holding a ceremony at the festival’s chapel. We had a phenomenal time, so we decided to come back.
Despite the rain, we loaded up in the car, and made the drive from Amanda’s and Keith’s house in Severna Park to Crownsville, about a 20-minute drive. All of us had on our costumes, the same as the year before. I was dressed in a $40 costume from Amazon, “The Evil Knight,” and Abby was “The Huntress.”
We walked in under the sign, “Prepare Thyself for Merriment,” and prepared for the merriment to abound! Normally, if the weather is good, the lines to enter are excessively long and require about a 10-minute wait to get in. This year, there was no “guard” in chain mail standing at the top of the battlements giving commands. We walked in without a hitch.
For those who have never been, the festival is held in an enclosed area abutting a forest and a large cleared area, which is used for a parking lot. It’s a really genius idea for the layout. The trees that dot the festival area giving it an almost Robin Hood-feel to it. The area has shops, eateries, and bars that line the outside, with stages of various sizes, a jousting field, and other games and attractions dotted throughout.
The first stop on our medieval adventure, of course, was the turkey leg stand. Apparently, in the Middle Ages, everybody ate turkey legs and drank mead, seemingly on a regular basis. The turkey legs, moderately prices at $7, are smoked with the perfect amount of grease. It was a great breakfast, as I was eating it and drinking my first beer by 10:30 a.m.
As we proceeded into the festival area, we passed by many of the other attendees that day. I like to have fun with the crowd, speaking in a horrendously terrible “ye olde English” accent while bowing ridiculously to everyone who passes me. The responses I get typically fall into three groups: people who take me seriously and response in kind; people who know I’m being sarcastic but also respond in kind (but laughing with me afterward); and those who don’t respond at all for whatever reason. I suppose my motto for these types of things would be “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” When at the Renaissance Festival, do as the Renaissance Festival-ites would do. I heard people speaking in this “ye olde English” accent to each other, so I decided to join in the fun.
The rain continued to come down, which meant there were no lines for drinks or food, or the various games that we played, including throwing ninja stars (totally medieval), knives, and darts. They’re all fun to play and cost either $1 or $2, far less than any game at an amusement park or a boardwalk. While we didn’t win, the employees were entertaining.
As we continued around the grounds, we found a kids play area that was completely vacant. So, taking the kids, and my mug of beer, we stormed the wooden pirate ship, climbing the gangplank and boarding the vessel. Scarlett climbed on the nets while Little Man found himself underneath the ship in what he called the “attic.”
Continuing my ridiculousness, I took position at the bow of the ship and posed for several pictures, of course, holding my mug of beer, which was now watered down from the continual rains. At this point, Abby boarded and joined me on the bow, and we simulated the iconic Titanic pose. After Amanda took our picture, we traded places, and Abby took Amanda’s and Keith’s picture, while I found myself in the “attic” with Little Man. By this time, we had caused enough ruckus on the ship that three other children had joined. Apparently, if you just cause enough noise, people will come join you.
We stopped by the main stage, where the Medieval Baebes were performing their featured set. Seven voices sang in harmony on top of a drum, a cello, and some other “old timey” instruments. The kids were starting to get a bit antsy, and considering we had already spent time learning how to juggle from the jugglemaster and watched a scantily clad male pirate perform an escape act.
We grabbed a final snack of ice cream cannolis, funnel cake fries, fish sandwiches, and french fries, before taking a few pictures in the last “head in a hole” we could find. The merriment ended close to four hours after we arrived, which is a testament to those children for lasting that long. We had umbrellas and rain jackets, which I’m sure helped, but those kids were troopers all the way, finding fun where they could, while we kept them energized with Sprite and some less-than-healthy munchables.
It was great to go back, despite the lousy weather, which actually made it easier for us to do what we wanted when we wanted. The staff was great, shows enjoyable, and food good enough while reasonably priced. I’d say that we definitely got our money’s worth for the cost of the ticket.
While walking through, Keith and I talked about the juxtaposition of the “merriment” that is stated to be abounded at the festival with what people actually went through in the Middle Ages. A thousand years ago, people lived in servant societies, with 99% of them living in poverty, or close to it. Disease ran amok, they worried daily if they would have food, or if a storm would come knock down their wooden shack, infant mortality was through the roof, etc. etc. etc. It’s very interesting to have this modern day culture think of these “olden times” as so respectful, clean, and “merry.”
The second thing we picked up on was the genius of the festival. It’s on a 27-acre property in Crownsville, Maryland, a location that gives it access to the large populations of Annapolis, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. Secondly, the layout of the festival is perfect: have a large enough field for thousands of cars to park, control access through a main gate, and abut the grounds up against a forest that no one can really access from the back and get in for free. The grounds are lined with shops and eateries, allowing easy supplies to flow in and out and not be in sight of the Medievalers. Third, the builders constructed the buildings with a high ground in the middle that allows for reasonable outflow of rain water toward the outer limits of the area. Sure, there were a few areas of ponded water, but even after a full day of rain, those were reasonable considering the circumstances.
Needless to say, the merriment abounded.