This week was the opening of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. For those of you who may have never been, there are Renaissance fairs all over the United States and each one has its own flavor. The MN Ren Fest (or Fair) always takes place in in Shakopee, MN. The location has permanent buildings that are used by the same vendors every year.
The front gates of the MN Renaissance Festival
Going to the Ren Fest is like volunteering to be part of a play – you can dress up in costumes, you can speak with a lot of “thees”, “thous” and “thys”, and there is a good chance that you will interact with belly dancers, pirates, royalty, handmaidens and guardsmen, pickle sellers, fairies, peasants, minstrels and troubadours, explorers, merchants, sorcerers and many other types of characters. Some of them are paid actors, others are just visitors who are getting into the spirit of the fair.
I’ve been to the Fair before, but I’d never gone on opening day. I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, so I decided to head out by myself. I drove out to Shakopee, parked and arrived at the gate at about 8:30am. At about 8:50 actors started climbing up onto the gates. I knew from past experience that there would be a gate show, usually with the king, queen and their attendants, as well as few rabble-rousers to taunt the royalty and visitors alike. After the gate show they shoot a cannon to announce the start of the day’s fair and the gates open. The gate show actually kind of stunk this year; the actors wove and dove through the relatively simple (and cheesy) script, but eventually they reached the end, the gates opened and the fairgoers streamed inside.
Visitors coming into the Ren Fest through the front gates.
Immediately inside the gates felt a lot like that scene from Who Framed Roger Rabbit where Eddie Valiant enters Toon Town for the first time in the movie – it was noisy, crowded and there were actors on all sides singing songs of welcome to the fair. It was kind of neat, but chaotic.
The Royal Court – Queen and King, center
The fairgrounds are actually quite large, and after the initial rush at the gate people ambled off in different directions and we ended up spread pretty thin. For the first hour of the fair I had the place largely to myself. It was very odd because I knew that in an hour, these paths would be packed with people.
At Ren Fest there are comedy shows, magic shows, belly dancing, juggling, wine tastings, cursing exhibitions, jousting, snakes, tortoises, dogs, ferrets, elephants, camels, goats, and usually at least one alligator.
A fairy blows bubbles for the cutest little girl that I saw at the fair all day.
Kick ass giant suits of armor outside of an artisan’s shop
Belly dancers entertaining in one of the festival’s open areas
What can you do with two sticks, some rope, and a bucket of soap? This woman can make GIGANTIC bubbles. I also caught one of the roaming flower girl in the back of the photo.
At Ren Fest you can pay to have someone thrown in the stocks, or you can purchase a ticket to have dinner with the queen and king (or both!). There are approximately eighty billion and elebenty types of food to eat. A common sight at Ren Fest is people of all stripes ambling along holding a gigantic cooked turkey leg, nibbling at the meat and watching the crowds.
I left fairly early in the morning – 10:30am! That’s less than two hours inside and I’d bet a personal record for me. The spaces were so empty that I was able to walk around the fairgrounds twice, and none of the shows I wanted to see started until after noon. Also, the sun came out and burned off the early morning fog and it started to get really very muggy. I’ll be headed back to the fair again later in the seven-weekend run with the Hubby and friends and that’s usually an entire day’s trip. But this trip was unique and I’m glad that I went.