The Renaissance: a time of exploration and cultural rebirth where people believed in the impossible and the mystic.
It isn’t very surprising that, even to this day, people are fascinated with the period and host renaissance festivals that take people of the 21st century back in time to that particular era.
I went to the Saint Louis Renaissance Festival for the first time in sixth grade. It was an experience that sparked my interest in the past; particularly the medieval ages. Ladies-in-waiting, kings, and pirates: everything about the Renaissance Festival was magical. My family and I went to the festival two more years in a row but, after I entered high school, our free-time weaned and we stopped going. This year was the first time in roughly eight years that my family and I had even discussed venturing back to Rotary Park for the event.
The first feature of the fest that made me giddy with excitement was small, and probably unnoticed by anyone not as invested in communication history as I am. It was a wooden post positioned in front of the ticket booths at the entrance of the festival. In olden times, towns often had a wooden post in the center of their town square for people to tack bits of news to so everyone could read it. This is why we call mail “the post” and probably helped inspire the name for Facebook “posts,” but I can’t say that with utmost certainty. It was a great Easter egg for someone like me, even though it felt completely out of place surrounded by minivans and asphalt roads.
After buying our tickets (which were steeply priced at $20 bucks per person), we were instantly welcomed with the sight of a colorful maypole wrapped in a rainbow of ribbons. I wish we had had the opportunity to watch the maypole dance, but it was pretty neat seeing the finished product of the medieval pastime.
As we ventured further away from the parked cars and Internet reception, the 21st century started to disappear. Fully gowned princesses and men rocking Peter Pan tights walked around us. Jolly pirates and kilted gents were around every corner as well. The atmosphere almost felt like we had stepped into C.S. Lewis’s Narnia of all places. There were people with pointed elf ears, fairy wings, and foreheads adorned with horns. While these characters felt more fictional than anything else at the festival they added to the wonder of the world around us.
This year, there was also an addition of another, newer, fictional world that had both my brother and I invested in this year’s festival. I honestly think it may have been the only reason my brother tagged along. The festival had incorporated a tent featuring Game of Thrones inspired attractions. It included a wall of faces and a throne of swords (both creatively renamed to obey copyright laws).
I asked my brother if he wanted to get a picture on the throne together, but he very tactfully reminded me that only one person can sit on the throne. I think George R. R. Martian would be proud of his response.
One of the best parts of the day started after our escapade in the fun-sized King’s Landing. It was a ridiculously hot day for early October, so we decided to find some drinks. My mom and I went with alcohol as our beverages of choice while my brother went with good ol’ water. The Mariner’s Camp was stationed not too far off from the make-shift pub we found which meant we were instantly surrounded by belching pirates and inappropriate wenches. Ignoring the fact that Wentzville, MO is unrealistically inland for pirates, we decided to watch the next pirate show in the queue of acts for the day: Musical Blades.
Within the first five minutes, three of the pirates had attempted to seduce the same woman in the audience using different tactics to win her affections. The first used corny pickup lines (charming on many accounts), the second with Elizabethan poetry (totally blush worthy, but definite fuckboy material), and the third with a one-liner that stuck: “You’re hot. I also have tacos and beer.” Their quips had me laughing harder than I had in a while so I was optimistic. When these guys started their set off with some eclectic Irish drinking songs, I knew I was in the right place.
Their humor was full-pirate: witty and wonderfully raunchy. They pointed out all of the historical inaccuracies surrounding us (including the fact that they were a singing pirate band). They also had some of the best timed, “that’s what she said” jokes I had heard since The Office was on prime time.
As their act came to a close (shortly after the band’s captain called our audience “a-dork-able”), the pirates went into a somber ballad telling tales of how they were out of their rum fund. I jokingly whispered to my mom, “Where’s Sarah McLachlan and her sad puppy?” Without missing a beat, one of the guitar playing sea wranglers started singing, “In the Arms of an Angel.” With that, they became my favorite act of the day. Check out if their coming to a stage, or festival, near you on their website, www.musicalblades.com.
The Renaissance Festival has always featured themed weekends, many of which I was unable to participate in the last time I visited the festival thanks to the 21+ rule. This weekend, we unknowingly entered Oktoberfest. While there are often jousting tournaments taking place throughout the day, this Sunday we had the opportunity to watch German-themed activities like a keg toss in the jousting arena.
The keg toss, unlike most of the events that take place on the field, was open to the public. They had three separate lines, one for children, one for adult women, and one for adult men. Each group had a different sized keg, the children’s being the smallest and so on. I didn’t participate in the event (and I can’t find any documented proof stating that keg tosses are an actual Oktroberfest event), but it was still fun watching everyone get involved with the activity.
Even though it is a slightly overpriced endeavor and not completely on par with the history books, the Saint Louis Renaissance Festival is a fun time all around and a great choice for a staycation. The final week of the Renaissance Festival will be this upcoming weekend, October 14-15. Also note that the theme is Wine, Chocolate, and Romance so grab bae, or your favorite couple if you’re a chronic third wheel like myself, and have a great time traveling back in time.