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Revisiting Medieval Times with A Trip to the Renaissance Fair

Time Travel

Long after they’ve stopped dreaming of dragons, princesses and knights in shining armor, you’ll still find an astonishing number of people willing to revisit medieval times by taking a trip to a Renaissance Fair. Having visited these fairs several times in the last decade, I recommend giving this experience a try at least once in a lifetime.

I was first introduced to Renaissance Fair culture as a college sophomore at my friends’ suggestion of taking a day trip to one in Lebanon, Conn.

After receiving a stamp on my hand to mark my admission, I was instantly transported back in time.

My reaction to my first fair was somewhere between Dorothy in Oz and Alice in Wonderland: Everywhere I looked, things grew “curiouser and curiouser,” thus confirming I wasn’t in Kansas (or Sharon, Conn.) anymore.

Whether you’re walking among wizards, startling at strongmen’s feats, cheering on knights in combat or wading your way through vendor booths, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a unique crowd.

Though I don’t typically dress in costume outside of Halloween, I appreciate the people who hone their creativity to fashion handmade costumes for these occasions.

As a recent example, my dear friend Emma crafted an outstanding pirate fairy outfit (complete with cardboard wings) for the Goblins & Fairies-themed weekend at Robin Hood’s Medieval Faire in Harwinton, Conn.

And while I’ve yet to have one myself, there’s a certain appreciation for the people who truly get into character around lunchtime by tearing into a turkey leg with barbaric abandon.

I admit to having fun with medieval language in my interactions with the fairs’ vendors and participants, but by lunchtime, I’m thankful this abridged version of medieval times comes with forks and knives.

Beyond the sideshows and spectacles scattered across the fairgrounds, a Renaissance Fair is a fun place to scout for gifts for loved ones, particularly for those inclined toward the magical and mystical.

There’s usually a variety of tents selling corsets, capes, caps and crowns, in case you want to enliven your wardrobe. It’s also a superb place for artisans and crafters seeking a space to display their wares and promote their talents. Should you stumble into one of their tents, I’d recommend striking up a conversation. Case in point: After pausing at a tent for Turnkey Miniatures, I learned the man responsible for casting lead-free metal miniatures works as a librarian at Trinity College.

In case you’re wondering how you’d fare in combat, a Renaissance Fair hands you the tools you need to test your skills at the game booths. For $3 a person, you could get a set of arrows or daggers to test your aim; for $5, you could face a knight with a sword in hand.

Those seeking to have their fortunes spelled out can always drop by the many tables for palm and tarot readers; I’ve even seen ads for couples’ tarot readings, though I pity the couples who find themselves doomed once the cards are on the table.

At the risk of sounding trite, it can be cozy to revisit a different time, if only for a day. While the medieval era posed its own plagues on humanity, it almost feels like you’re catching a break walking around the fairground, like you’re temporarily removed from the troubles of our era. It can be a strange experience, but refreshing nonetheless.

Come this fall, the Connecticut Renaissance Faire (“New England’s Olde England”) will return to Lebanon for its 24th year, and will be scattered across the grounds at 122 Mack Road in Lebanon every Saturday and Sunday from Saturday, Sept. 3,. to Sunday, Oct. 16, including Labor Day and Columbus Day.

For more information, go to www.ctfaire.com.

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