Thoughts from Places: Sterling Renaissance Festival

I had the pleasure of attending my area’s Renaissance Festival just yesterday, and upon returning back to reality, I found I needed to collect my thoughts.

The short version: It was awesome. How can you say no to playing dress up for a day and feasting on turkey legs and fresh apple dumplings, immersing yourself in a crowd among peasants and jesters and knights, and just forgetting about the outside world for a little while?

The long version: This was only my second time at the Ren Faire. Last summer was my first visit, and I thought the whole thing was a hoot: the actors being silly and fun and the artisans putting their best foot forward preparing whimsical booths of fine handmade jewelry, natural soaps, various trinkets or even traditional weapons really make it worthwhile. I love seeing little children adorned in flower crowns and fairy wands and I commend each employee for their nonstop devotion to their characters – truly, it’s a sight to behold. We heard beautiful music played by musicians who kept the spirit of it all alive with traditional instruments and outfits. And the mead! Oh, the mead is spectacular. And since it’s all set up in the middle of nowhere in a pretty wooded area, it gives you that idea of being in some magical forest that never seems to end.

But what really stuck out to me yesterday was the fact that this was the first time in a very long time that I’ve gone an entire day without witnessing another human being act like a complete and utter jerk. We were there practically all day and I did not once hear or see anyone being mean spirited or rude, or putting someone else down or picking a fight. Most people were dressed to the nines in elaborate costumes: hoop skirts and headpieces, armor, fox tails, masks and painted faces, pirate outfits, tights, jingly bells, chainmail…. there were people of every size, shape, color, and personality… yet the standard was still upheld: “M’lord” this and “M’lady” that, all glowing smiles, genuine compliments, and good-natured humor. And get this: even though the booze was flowing freely, there weren’t even any drunk assholes. You know how there are kinda always those few drunk assholes at any event who ruin it for everybody else? Not here. They were nowhere to be found. I actually felt as though I could interact with anyone, Fest worker or visitor, man, woman, or child, and expect a positive result.

I’ve got to admit, it does sadden me that this is the exception rather than the rule — that most places will have their fair share of nasty, judgmental people saying nasty, judgmental things, and when you find a place where everyone is friendly and welcoming, you should be grateful because that’s so rare. But it really is astounding how something so silly and whimsical is such a great example of humans being good to each other, being as they should be to one another. I suppose it’s easy to overlook superficial differences that are really so often only based in ignorance and bias when everyone is, after all, all together at the Renaissance Faire in the first place.

But I must say, I walked out of there feeling a little better about the world than when I had walked in, amidst all the violence and hatred in the real world, all the awful things in the news. I felt a confidence in the kindness of others that I had previously lost. The Renaissance Festival is a place that is absolutely filled with people simply being comfortable just being themselves — we should all be so lucky to spend some time relaxing in that mindset.