Last weekend I dropped in on Sherwood Forest Faire, a newer renaissance faire in the Austin area — it’s just a few years old. My friend and I had a lovely time wandering the shady grounds and looking at all kinds of pretty things crafters have made which we can’t even begin to afford (and splurging on a couple items we just barely could).
Being of a hippie sort of disposition, I can throw together a passable outfit to wear at one of these events — some flowy clothes that suited the hot, sunny Spring day perfectly. It doesn’t come close to the effort some of the regulars put into it — from perfect fantasy elves and fairies to noble ladies and ornate suits of armor. Of course, some bring equal creativity but a healthy dose of wonderful silliness as well, like this pair to the right.
While most of us who attend just go for a day and perhaps dress up (or camp for the weekend at faires like Sherwood which allow it), the true “rennies” are one of the last vestiges of a real traveling culture. There are enough faires that some people can make a life out of it from spring to fall, typically wintering in warm climates or attending a handful of small, indoor fantasy faires that take place during cold months.
During the warm part of the year, the rennies work just a few days a week — crafting, cooking, managing animals from horses to elephants or working in shops and stands. They spend the rest socializing and making merry in their camp sites, which are separate from where patrons camp. They have their own traditions, like the “Funky Formal” — a well dressed, hedonistic party held at many Faires.
Even though I love having a place to call home, I also love that a travelling people can still exist in the United States in a small, little known subculture. Despite their devotion to the anachronistic reenactment of the past, modern conveniences from improved camping gear to wireless technology have only made this lifestyle more comfortable for those who pursue it. Of course, it’s also often a difficult path — many of them make just enough money to get from camp site to camp site, and an expense like an illness or transportation breakdown can be a major setback.
Today’s musical selection is Neko Case singing “This Tornado Loves You,” from a performance on David Letterman.
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Photo by Kit O’Connell, all rights reserved.