Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Fun at the RenFest

I'm not sure how they do it, but the other local all-male Morris team, Minnesota Traditional Morris (MTM), heads out to the Renaissance Festival all weekend for five or six weekends a year. In fact, I have been told that one of the reasons my team split off from MTM in the first place was so that people could dance Morris without making that Herculean commitment of time and energy. On the other hand, there's a part of me that would enjoy giving up the bulk of my free time every year to be out living with my Morris Team in an anachronistic land of frolic.

It's certainly true that my enjoyment of the RenFest increased tremendously when I started attending as one of the performers -- which is to say, in Morris kit on Labor Day weekend when all the local Morris teams dance at the Festival. Actually, only MTM makes the big commitment all three days; the other teams tend to field a side on one day only, and my team often doesn't field a side at all (we're nearly two months out of season by this point). This year I went out both Saturday and most of Sunday, and had a fine old time. The Festival staff and performers live in their own private world, and the civilians who attend are phantoms to them. But when I walk the field in my kit and bells -- particularly in the morning, just before the gates open -- I am greeted and mocked and addressed as if I am one of them. Or one of "us", I guess. In part this is because I have a heavy gait and you can hear my bells ringing out as I tromp along the lanes ("You're the worst Ninja ever!" said one of the Festies to me on Sunday morning), and it's also because at the RenFest I can sing as I stroll and nobody can complain, since I am In Character. The Renaissance Festival is one of the only places in the US where everybody knows from my dress that I am a Morris dancer.

I do love those Festival Mornings, between 8:30 and 9. It's not yet hot, the village is coming alive, and every single person in sight is in costume. There are hundreds of people who work to create this illusion, an illusion that gets shattered when the cannon blasts and the field opens up.

Most years I buy something at the Festival, as there really are many fine craftsfolk. This year I bought a handmade broom with a carved handle (carved with leaves). I keep a broom out in a corner of my kitchen, so it's nice if the broom is pretty. It turns out the handmade broom sweeps notably better than a machine-made broom, so this was a good purchase.

But even better: The broommakers (a husband and wife, I believe) use the smaller bits of wood they gather to carve wands. They are mostly oak and sassafras, and they find interestingly shaped or grained bits for the wands. The fancier wands have large beautiful glass marbles attached. So this year I took Anna and Lolo and Smack to the broommakers for a wand choosing ceremony, where I bought them their wands. They humored me completely in this regard, reminding me that the wand chooses the wizard. They tried out various wands, discussed what the wands might contain (Smack suggested that the wand that chose him contained the hair of his own dog, and Anna said that hers might contain the hair of her hamster.) I was pleased that they chose simple, rather than fancy wands. This was great fun. The broommakers carved the kids' initials into their wands -- and stained the carving or not, as the kids chose. Now I'm wishing that I'd bought myself a wand as well.

It's exhausting to spend even one day at the festival -- it's a long day, 8:30 to 7 or so, and you rarely stop walking or dancing. This weekend the sun was hot and strong. I was tremendously exhausted each night, but visions of men and women in their amazing Renaissance clothing ran through my head as I drifted off. I even got some dancing in.
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