Sunday, September 25, 2011

Goofing Off in History

I’m a sucker for RenFests. Ever since I went to my first one in a far off cornfield in Ohio during undergrad, I was hooked. As I’ve said quite frequently, I’m a big history nerd. I was that little 5th grader giggling into a book about Greek mythology or the 7th grader who begged her parents to take her to Medieval Times for her birthday or even the 20-something seriously looking for a partner in crime to go to the Colonial Williamsburg living museum. Any opportunity available in which I can get my hands on some shred of history (even commercialized or slightly bastardized), I’ll do it. And I’ll jump in with as much gusto and dedicated enthusiasm as my 5th grade self all those years ago. This year’s trip to the Maryland Renaissance Festival was no different.

Step one for a RenFest is absolutely the costumes. I fully expect myself to have a complete costume eventually, but for now I settle for the cheap target tavern wench costume with an upgraded bodice I found at a garage sale. There’s no better way to get into the period of it all like physically putting on the clothes of the time. Not to mention, ladies, who doesn’t secretly want to know how skinny your waist will look in a corset.

The other reason for dressing up, besides getting to wear something other than modern clothes for an afternoon, is that you blend in with the crowd; allowing for the best people watching you will encounter. There are all kinds, shapes, and sizes wearing all kinds, shapes, and sizes of outfits. And you can tell that everyone is just having a great time. No judgment, no worries, just unadulterated character egged on by the very interesting people who run the stands and put on the shows.
For example, if you’ve ever wondered how a Medieval court functioned, all you have to do is sit on a bench and take up a yellow sign. Labeled as a Witch or a Thief or, in our group’s case, a Traitor, you can watch the full extent of the law (complete with red ribbon guts and wooden stocks) reign down on those you know or drunken strangers you don’t.

I get a lot of different responses when I tell people I go to Renaissance Festivals—usually jolly and supportive (though skeptical), but everyone has their own preconceptions about what they are and what type of people go there and I’m certainly am not going to change with a few pictures and a blog post. Maybe that means more jousting tournament room for me, or maybe it just means you’ll have to go with me next time. I certainly hope it’s the latter. So please, prepare thyself for merriment!

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