Coming to a Faire Near You…

18 08 2011

This post today is an advertisement that’s cleverly disguised as something that is a) hopefully entertaining and b) hopefully witty.

As my regular readers know, I make most of my living from selling my glass art at Renaissance Festivals.

Several weekends a year, I travel to various states in the Union, dress in garb (aka funny clothing), sleep in a tent or creatively engineered room off the back of a merchant booth, and work some of my longest work weeks on record.  It is equal parts endurance trial and nourishment for me as an artist, because I get to interact with people who are, in turn, interacting with my art. Mostly, I love it or I wouldn’t be doing it. That being said, it’s certainly not a recommended way to earn a living, as traveling for one’s job is very hard on things, not least of all your car, your person, and your dietary habits. Also, being in garb all day gives one the funniest tan lines.

“But what are you getting at?” you ask.

Have you ever been to a Renaissance Festival? (or Ren Fests, as they’re called by participants…)  Most states have them – find your state here.  (In case of international readership,  please click here.)

If you’ve never been, here’s a generalized Q&A of what to expect:

Do I have to dress up? No. In fact, dressing up to go to a Ren Fest has been likened to dressing up like a monkey to visit the zoo. But if you want to get in the spirit of things, most Ren Fests have a costume rental shop. If you really want to blend in (and make some merchant’s day while you’re at it) buy some garb from one of the clothing vendors at the Faire.

Is it really like visiting the Renaissance? Well, yes, in some respects. Often you will run into several townsfolk, and possibly Queen Elizabeth or some other historical royal figure while you’re toodling around for the day. Just like in a Tudor era market day, most or all of the wares displayed at a Renaissance Festival are made by artisans like me (that’s not a given, so if you’re intent on buying handmade from the actual artist, it’s worth asking before buying). But because a Renaissance Faire takes place in modern times, and is peopled by modern people you won’t step into raw sewage in the streets, and most of us have slightly better teeth than folks in the 1600’s would have.

What is there to do? It depends on the Ren Fest, but most have several shows involving anything from fire juggling to comedy to naughty ballads and so forth. There are always a multitude of artisan shops where you can knock out your entire holiday shopping list in a couple of hours. Most Faires feature some sort of live jousting, human powered rides, and carnival like games to play. Failing interest in any of those things, there’s always beer.

Why should I go? It’s an experience like no other. It’s a little like a carnival, a circus, and a history lesson (albeit history lite) all rolled into one. Most places have a Ren Fest close enough to them that it’s a good day-cation option. (day-cation is a great word I heard recently that is pseudo-synonymous with “day trip”.) And if I may climb onto my soapbox for a minute, it’s a great place to buy unique things from unique people.

So… when will I be seeing you at one?




3 responses

18 08 2011
tara spitzer-list

Do you ever come to the one up near here (in Sterling?) We didn’t go this year, but usually go, and it would be fun to see you 🙂

18 08 2011
M. Sotherden Art Glass

Hi Tara! We aren’t merchanting at Sterling (yet!) Our route right now is The Tennessee Ren Fest, The Greater Pittsburgh Ren Fest, and The Ohio Ren Fest. But hey, go anyway! Sterling is a GREAT faire!

18 08 2011

I try to encourage people when they go to a faire, to do themselves a favor and pack their own food and drinks. Granted, if you have very small kids or a baby in tow, treking to/from a car for food/drinks is a hassle. But, if they are old enough to walk or if it’s you and friends, I 100% encourage it. I say this because faires so expensive to attend ($20 at most faires), and the prices for food/drink almost feels like extortion. By the time they pay for faire entry and something to eat/drink, they are easily out by $40 for one person. The whole point of the faire is the market place and attractions (entertainment, rides, and games). I genuinely want people to spend their hard earned income on these. Granted, it’s rare you have someone walk up who has never bought an expensive weapon, piece of art, etc. before, suddenly decide they really want that $300 sword, or a $150 piece of art, but it does happen time to time. Most likely though, I try to encourage parents not to spend on the food/drinks, because they will be able to take their kids on a few rides, or play a few games, and maybe buy a little jewelry or wooden sword/shield, or a little leather bag, etc. (something I can say now, which I couldn’t while working at Ohio, we often brought extra water to give to patrons, for which they were extremely grateful, and I’d hint toward merchants or games I think they’d be interested in). I’m sure someone would cry foul on this, saying I’m taking away income from a faire but, people forget, the owner or owners of a faire have no worries. A faire is more likely to take a hit due to legal issues with a township (which usually has to do with taxes or personal grievences), than ticket or foods sales.

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