Maidens and Turkey Legs

On Saturday I had the distinct pleasure of attending my very first Renaissance Faire with my roommate Anna, her boyfriend Alex (he’s my friend as well), her sister Amy, and Amy’s friend Juan. I admit that while the foodie in me really just wanted to eat a turkey leg, the video-gaming, costume-loving, Tolkien-reading nerd inside of me was jumping up and down like an over caffeinated teenager. The rest of me was hoping to find a chain-mail covered husband on horseback… why the hell hadn’t I gone to one of these sooner?  When I arrived at the vast industrial desert location and got in line with 100s of other cars filled with people in feathery hats and buckled loafers, the cheap, crowd-hating side of me devoured all my other sides. Truthfully I was already put off by the $25 admission fee, which was only amplified when we finally reached the entrance and discovered the $10 parking fee. Bastards. $35 to hang around with a bunch of socially inept teenagers who peeled themselves away from World of Warcraft for a few hours to get dressed up and run around a dusty field. Grumble grumble… still, we drove all the way out there…and goddammit I wanted a turkey leg. We wove our way along the dusty path into what was apparently the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area (??), past the man-made lake, and around the gigantic pile of rock erected to obstruct our view of the machinery doing god knows what on the other side. We parked behind a car that belonged to a group of people changing into their costumes. As we opened the doors to get out I started  yelling “where are the cloaks?! You said you packed the CLOAKS!! YOU’VE RUINED REN FAIRE!” There were never any cloaks.

By the time I got to the ticket window I realized this was no casual endeavor. Nearly everyone entering the faire was in costume. And I don’t mean they threw on a hat and called themselves Medieval. I’m talking people in full-on metal knight gear, women in huge dresses and corsets that pushed up and spring-loaded their breasts, jesters, goblins….  And this wasn’t just some sea of tents parked in the middle of a field. No no. This was a legit, wooden, hustling bustling renaissance city. The minute I walked through the gate I was sold. Sold and wishing I were in costume. People scurrying about everywhere, games, shops, random parades, musicians playing everywhere. If I had any kind of money to spend it would have been spent for sure. My geeky side had come back.

But let’s not kid ourselves – I was hungry. First stop: food court. And what a food court it was. Turkey legs, ribs, fish and chips, gelato, fresh made potato chips, chocolate covered bacon.. it was almost too much to deal with… almost. Walking around eating a turkey leg wrapped in a brown paper napkin was an experience somewhere between hysterical fantasy come true and embarrassing fat kid flashback nightmare. The real nightmare? It cost $9. But, clearly this is a situation where the starving artist suspends his need for frugality in the interest of giving oneself to the situation. And honestly it was totally worth it. 

I wish I could say my eating stopped at the turkey leg, but it would be a lie. After the leg I came across a woman on the path selling chocolate covered frozen bananas. Tasted like overpriced. Then as I continued walking and marveling at all the people and spectacle I discovered a shop selling authentic meat pies…. so tempting, but I managed to resist and instead went to the  Fruit Ice cart right across the way. I got a coconut shell filled with the most delicious coconut frozen treat. Not ice cream, but not sorbet. Totally cut through the dust and heat. My friends and I kept walking and landed at a jester show. They sat and watched while I, uninterested in the mime-ish performer making fools out of unknowing audience members, began to wander about… jewelry stand… another parade… extra large fresh baked cookies…. yes. I got the oatmeal raisin. Super light and crispy – I don’t even want to fathom how much butter was in it. Luckily my roommate helped me eat it. We continued our wandering through a little mock village filled with people napping in tents, blacksmiths making swords, couples playing chess outside on hand carved boards. We made our way to the horse pens where we briefly watched a terribly boring show that involved horses trotting through an obstacle course that consisted of them stepping over wooden boards… it was time to eat again.

So, after watching two of my friends having the time of their lives bungeed up on trampolines, we found ourselves back at the food court sharing an order of freshly fried potato chips covered in cheese, bacon, sour cream, and chives…. yeah…  not too proud of that one, but I don’t regret it. As we sat there beneath the setting sun taking in the last of the good people-watching I saw someone walk by with something covered in chocolate on a stick…. dear god. Frozen cheesecake on a stick. It didn’t take me long to convince myself to get up and shell out $5.50 for the rich, irresistible popsicle of self-loathing. Not gonna lie, it was friggin awesome. Super creamy AND with graham cracker crust. I should take this opportunity to apologize for the lack of more photos – it’s incredibly difficult to photograph food when you have only your hands to eat it with (or on).

We left the faire feeling satisfied and incredibly dirty. And I don’t mean emotionally dirty from overeating, I mean covered in dust and mildly sunburned. I was never so glad to take a shower in all my life. I have to say, I could easily visit the ren faire every week. It’s the same reason I love Star Wars and Tolkien: I’m a sucker for self-contained, detailed fantasy. In fact I may look into getting a season pass next year. Spare me your judgement. Either way one thing is for sure: I’ll definitely be back for the food (and a renaissance drag costume).

Renaissance Pleasure Faire
Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area
Irwindale, CA
www.renfair.com/socal 

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