Costumed visitors seek pleasurable pastimes at faire

Danielle R. Swopes

It may have been overcast this Easter, but the weather did little to dampen the spirits of the revelers at the 45th Annual Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale, Calif.

The environment is that of Elizabethan England, and those who work the Faire go all out with their dress and mannerisms. “Good day, m’lady, enjoyeth thee the faire?”

Nobility, knights, merchants and inventors, peasants and even a few disapproving church folk can be found amongst the crowds. One lass was prepared for the end of the world, with wooden wheeled boats on her feet and a long pole that she used to “row” herself along.

The Queen herself was carried through the shire in a grand procession, complete with armed guards, musicians, members of the court, clergy, ladies in waiting, servants, and “calvary,” dancers with faux horses around their waists. Chants of “God save the queen!” went up as her highness passed, from both performers and viewers.

People who visit the Faire can be just as into the act as the performers. Many visitors dressed up, came prepared with costumes or took the opportunity to buy or even rent from the vendors. There were booths filled with period clothing, leathers, fragrance, jewelry and other adornments. There were also two booths available to braid ladies’ hair, though they were willing to take a shot on beards.

Faire activities included fencing lessons, a dunk tank, archery and trying out weapons such as crossbows and javelins. Visitors could have their faces painted, their fortunes told, listen as troupes tell tales and watch belly dancers or naughty laundry wenches.

Knights jousted on real steeds, and at one point sparks flew from the clanging blades, earning gasps from the crowd. Dust flew through the air as first the horses and then the combatants raced across the ring.

The shows were great, but the shopping was perhaps more interesting. Artisans offered artwork in many mediums including stained glass, leather masks, ancient coins, puppets, puzzle boxes and pottery. Often the artists themselves were present and willing to discuss how their art was created.

The food was a treat in itself. Stands offer whole turkey legs, soup in bread bowls, shepherds pie, artichokes and various items on sticks, including a toad-in-a-hole, roasted corn, pork chops and steak. “Sin on a stick” is just that, chocolate dipped cheesecake on a stick.

“It’s worth the admission just for the food,” said Carrie Karamas, a veteran visitor dressed as a fairy.

If you tip, the ladies in the booths will “wiggle and jiggle and shout ‘huzzah,'” as they slip the extra cash into baskets or bosoms.

While visitors take a break in the eatery area, vendors wander the crowds carrying baskets of flowers and poles of garlands.

“You do not think I am in this for the money do you? Surely not,” said one seller with a wicked grin, as he stuck a flower tube into his mouth and then into a woman’s cleavage. Whether the idea is to warm the cold plastic or that the moisture will help keep it in place is unknown, but he seemed to enjoy himself before he disappeared in pursuit of another.

The Renaissance Pleasure Faire is a sensory adventure, providing hard-to-find sights, scents and tastes. Visitors spend a day in the past and get to return to the present without the cares of plague or lack of plumbing.

The faire takes place on weekends until May 20. Admission is $25 for adults, $22.50 with a student I.D.