Renaissance Festivals at the Stages of My Life

This weekend, my family and I attended the Kansas City Renaissance Festival–apparently, my boys and I did go another time, and we brought my beautiful wife as well. My brother invited me to join he, his new girlfriend, and my godson earlier in the summer, and as the holiday weekend brought no band or cross country (neither of the boys were in it in high school, but their old school had a meet on Saturday) obligations, we could actually go.

So we schlepped some three and a half hours up the west side of the state for about three and a half hours in the park. We saw a trumpet duo play a set, we saw the joust show–when the first rider proved to be a woman, I thought they’re having women joust?, and when I saw the second rider was a man, I thought, It’s a show where the woman beats the man, how contemporary, and it was–then we spent a whole lot of time trying to find and meet up with my brother and his family. We ended up leading my grand-nephew around–he wanted to hang out with my boys, his cousins, sort of, but a bit of responsibility for us–and about half our time there was looking for food and then standing in line for food and water. So, in the breach, a bit underwhelming, but we will remember the boys shooting archery and hitting the throwing stars booth a couple of times with mixed success (the overhand throw the booth instructs is based on a knife throw, I presumed, and is designed to stick the throwing star into the wood, whereas the real purpose of the shuriken or throwing star is distraction and is thrown like a frisbee, but I am not sure if I read that in a book or saw that in a movie).

We left the park about 3pm, and we had booked a room nearby for the night, but I asked my wife if she’d prefer we go home that night (a common occurrence when we stay in Branson–we decide to drive the hour home and sleep in our own beds on the last night instead of moping around the room waiting for the dawn). She would have, but we had booked the room, and it was not just an hour drive. So we stayed a night in Overland Park, which allowed us to visit a book store (you’ll hear more about that later), and the boys and I walked to a pizzeria for dinner. This morning, my wife and I took a walk along Indian Creek, and then we met my brother and his (late wife’s) family for dinner. So it will be remembered as a good trip, and it was really worth my time even though at certain points I thought of it as a hassle.

But it did get me to thinking about my other trips to Renaissance festivals. I have actually only attended the Kansas City Renaissance Festival four times. I’ve not been to the King Richard’s Faire in Bristol, Wisconsin. I think St. Louis had a Renaissance festival for a couple of years. The White Hart Renaissance Festival is a single day about an hour east of Springfield, but even though I pick up fliers for it at cons in the area every year or two, we have not yet made it out there in the single summer day they have it.

So I have been to the Kansas City Renaissance Fair four times, and each was in a different epoch in my life.

In 1996, I had broken up with a girlfriend of two years and went with a trio from my gaming group, two guys and a girl. The guys would eventually, at different times, sleep with the girl, who was pretty but a bit promiscuous–and I don’t know if her plans were to go through the gaming group beforehand, but she’d told Mike that I’d be “a tough nut to crack.” So I would prove to be, even though we shared some intimate conversation one night after drinks on a friend’s apartment floor in Milwaukee. I don’t remember much of the Renaissance festival, but that night, we shared a hotel room, and I racked out on the floor, but did not fall asleep immediately. The others, though, played Truth or Dare, leading to confessions of sexual exploits, mostly from her, as the others circled. One of the Dares suggested was to try to remove an article of my clothing while I slept; I figured if she approached, I would simply say, “You lose.” The one guy, a born-again Christian professing his faith in his twenties, would go on to know her, to feel bad about it, and return again until he met a Christian woman who looked like she was made of porcelain. The other, a hound dog whose appeal was that he was a Basset hound dog, would know her later. Later, when she was scheduled to meet me at the Venice Cafe one Monday night, I did not hear her cry from a block away when a convicted rapist grabbed her by her hair and she cried for me or Mike. She got away, losing but her purse and peace of mind, but not because I was heroic. I was in the cafe garden, surrounded by fountains and conversation, wondering why she hadn’t showed.

Man, sometimes the stories I can tell from my youth, even I cannot believe.

In 1997, I took the woman I’d met online that February and in person that April. The woman who has become my wife. I don’t remember if she came to St. Louis or if I met her in Columbia–probably the latter–but we went to the Renaissance festival. I remember that she tried on a fetching green dress from one of the clothing makers, and she looked lovely. But she did not buy it, and I took a card from the seamstress. When I got back to St. Louis, I called the woman and told her the story and asked about the green dress–I was willing to pay the $80, which was, what, a quarter of my twice-monthly take-home pay?–to buy it for her. But they did not know what I was talking about.

In 2016, I took my boys, eight and ten, to meet my brother and my godson there. I picked the boys up after school, and we drove up in the evening, so we hit 435 westbound at sunset. That, I remember. I have also hit 435 at sunrise, and I remember and regret that as well. I have some photos from the trip with the boys trying on some youth armor, and I remember them trying out some of the medieval kids’ rides, including a torsion ride where they sat in a basket situated around a post, and the volunteers spun rope to make the basket rise. Once the basket reached the top, they let go, and the twisted rope spun the basket down. The boys loved it.

I also remembered we grabbed some food and sat to listen to a band play–the Jolly Rogers, I’ve been told–while we ate. They sing bawdy songs (at a Renaissance festival, if the band includes singing or lyrics, the songs are bawdy). They came to a spot where the music stopped, and a band member said, “Masturbate,” and my oldest turned to me and said, “Dad, what’s masturbate?” And the crowd went wild.

So I’ve gone to the fair young and single and sniffing; young and single and maybe serious; older and with kids (it is serious); and with the whole family. The next time I go, it might again be me with family or me with boys, or it might just be me and my beautiful wife. Or, as I have speculated, it might be never again.

But it’s good to remember when it was.

Oh, and in another note: As we were coming out of the Renaissance festival, we heard loud music. Apparently, the Azura Ampitheatre had a concert by a little band called Shinedown. Perhaps with Jellyroll opening. Ach, bicht. If only I had known, perhaps I would have gotten tickets. Or, at the very least, we could have lingered in the parking area, dehydrated and underfed, a little longer.

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3 thoughts on “Renaissance Festivals at the Stages of My Life

  1. I have not been to the KC Renfair, but I’ve gone often to the Medieval Fair at Norman and Scotfest here in Tulsa. One of my favorite bands is a quartet called “Tullamore,” the dulcimerist(?) of which is wed to one of the pirates of the Jolly Rogers, and Tullamore also often plays the KC event.

  2. A couple (or ten) years ago, I subscribed to Renaissance magazine which has a bunch of history articles scattered amongst reviews of Renaissance festivals and how-to articles about how to make clothing and chain mail. It also has a detailed list of Renaissance festivals by state, and it had occurred to me then that the faire in Tulsa was as close to us as Kansas City.

    It never really caught on amongst the other residents of Nogglestead, so we haven’t made but the infrequent attempts to attend. Even this weekend, my teenagers were summarily unimpressed and eager to leave.

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