For many of us, the Renaissance brings up images of kings and queens, knights, jousting tournaments, grand feasts, and free-flowing ale. As our modern lives more farther and farther away from these iconic images, many of us find ourselves longing for just a taste of medieval life. That is where the renaissance faire comes in.
For those of us living in Western Washington, it should come as no surprise that we are host to four excellent summer faires. We are, after all, no stranger to the funky or quirky festivals (the Fremont Solstice Parade comes to mind). If you are looking for a unique experience this summer, check one of these faires out. It just may be the summer event you remember for a lifetime.
Camlann Medieval Village
Located in Carnation (east of Redmond); summer-faire daily tickets are $10.00 for adults, $6.00 for children 5-12, and children under 5 are free; usually weekends from late July through late August
This is arguably the most authentic summer faire in the area. The faire is setup as a fully functional medieval village (imagine Colonial Williamburg, but in England in the year 1376). They have actors portraying various aspects of medieval life, and the schedule flows rather organically. Everything does not happen all at once in a rush of action, but rather as life would naturally unfold in a typical medieval village. The summer-faire does include sword combat and long-bow archery demonstrations, as well as minstrels and dances. As with other renaissance faires, there are many crafters and artisans both selling their wares and demonstrating their techniques. For $45 you can take part in one of the Faire Banquets, which consist of 12 dishes served in two courses. In addition to the summer-faire, Camlann village offers year-round banquets (usually coinciding with holidays) and a May Faire.
Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire
Held at Maris Farms in Buckley (southeast of Lake Tapps); daily tickets are $16.00 for adults, $10.00 for children 6-17, and children under 6 are free; weekend passes, family packs, and camping options are available as well; usually held on weekends on August
This faire is touted as one of the largest theatrical events in Washington State. The theatrics of this faire are what make it stand out from the others in the area. The performances and ceremonies are what is really special about this particular faire. You can see combat performances (including full-contact jousting and fencing), dancing (from medieval group dances to belly dance demonstrations), a wide variety of musical acts, equestrian acrobatics, magicians, and puppet shows. Each weekend has a theme (2010 themes are pirates, fairies/fantasy, and masquerade) and attendants are encouraged to dress the part. As usual with renaissance faires, there are many vendors and craftspeople with booths to both sell and demonstrate their wares and techniques. This faire truly takes the theatrical feel of a renaissance faire to the extreme, much to the delight of those in attendance.
Located in Bonney Lake (east of Puyallup); daily tickets are $7.00 for adults, $5.00 for children under 13, with “babes in arms” admitted free; usually held in mid to late June
Not only a renaissance faire, All’s Faire mixes medieval, pirate, fantasy/fairie, and stempunk together into one festival. At this faire you will find the usual combat demonstrations, along with the vendors and artisans with their wares and demonstrations. This faire also features storytelling and theater presentations. What makes this faire stand out is the presence of a childrens’ carnival, which features crafts, games, and performances geared specifically for children. In 2010 they also offered a Mad Hatters tea party and fashion show for the younger set. The children’s carnival combined with the fact that the faire is open to all fantasy oriented genres really makes this a great faire for families and non-renaissance fantasy enthusiasts.
Kitsap Medieval Faire
Located in Port Gamble (on Kitsap peninsula, northwest of Kingston); daily tickets are $5.00 per person, with children under 14 free; usually held in early June
For all intents and purposes, this seems to be a pretty standard renaissance faire. You will find the combat demonstrations (although they do add thrown weapon demonstrations which is quite intriguing), craftspeople/artisans, music, dancing, and other performances. One thing that this faire has that I haven’t seen at other in the area is a human chess board area. How the games are organized is not clear, but it is interesting nonetheless. It is smaller than the other faires in the area, largely due to it’s location (you have to take a ferry over if you live on the east side of Puget Sound). If you are looking for a more intimate faire environment, this just might be the faire for you.