Aye, last weekend (18th-20th of August) is the yearly highlight of me exploits, the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire! I’ve been attending for at least 7 years now, maybe longer. The faire lasts for 3 weekends, each with their own theme: fantasy & faeries, masquerade, and pirates. Naturally, with rare exception, I always attend pirate weekend. There was talk of changing up the themes this year, but that apparently didn’t happen.
Two years ago was the first time I’d attended faire for both days, and last year was the first I’d actually camped on-site. I camped again this year with a few friends so we could partake in general mayhem and madness all weekend long! I highly recommend camping for the whole weekend, or at the very least attending two days, just so you can experience all the entertainment options the faire has to offer without feeling rushed.
This year, I was joined again by my Quartermaster Dhaoine (Sarah), her husband Nick as the newest Cabin Boy, and one of the newest additions to me crew, Carceret (Laura), whom we have yet to give a position. First Mate Lady Belladonna Damascus (Stevie) joined us on Saturday night, and recurring NPC Tim joined Sunday morning, joined later in the afternoon by another recurring NPC: Tim. (Yes, it is a tale of two Tims.)
Daoine, Nick, and I left late Friday afternoon in an attempt to beat the traffic, only to have to turn around just a few minutes after we left because I realized I’d forgotten my boots (where are me boots? Me noggin’ noggin’ boots. They’re all gone for beer and tobacco…)! What kind of pirate wears tennis shoes all weekend long? Of course, you’d think that after turning around once to grab such an important item, I’d have taken a mental inventory to see if there was anything else I may have forgotten.
You’d be wrong. I did not.
I also forgot the centerpiece to my entire garb: my leather tailcoat! By the time I’d realized this, we were already half an hour into the drive, and we really couldn’t afford to lose an hour in the round trip return, plus the additional time we’d surely lose by hitting the greater traffic on the way back. Alas, I could not find anybody who was heading down for the day on Saturday, so I had to spend the first half of the weekend in a dressed-down garb, but Tim was able to bring it down for me on Sunday morning when he arrived to bring the whole thing together.
We arrived at a reasonable hour on Friday and started to setup camp, only to realize that I forgot yet another important item! I didn’t bring tent stakes. Fortunately, Dhaoine had enough extra tent stakes between her tent and canopy, but clearly I need to start making a list of things to pack.
The faire isn’t fully open on Friday night, but there is a pre-party of sorts in the Hammered Troll (one of two on-site pubs). The mead and beer flowed generously while the pub engaged in drunken revelry, singing karaoke and generally warming up for the weekend’s festivities.
The pub is open Saturday night after the grounds close to the general public as well, usually featuring a concert or other major performance. In previous years, the Dread Crew of Oddwood performed Saturday nights of the third weekend (usually not on pirate weekend for some reason), but much to my disappointment, they were replaced this year by Siren’s Rain. While many of us aren’t opposed to a good metal performance, we only stayed for a few of their songs before deciding that their music really wasn’t our thing. The audio balance wasn’t great, so that probably didn’t help matters much.
The faire vendors don’t change all that much from year to year, but there are certainly a few worth mentioning:
- Ravenswood Leather – These fine artisans of leather designed and custom made my tailcoat last year, and you certainly cannot go wrong with any of their products. I’ve been using one of their pouches for several years and it’s held up incredibly well, even though I regularly stretch it beyond its natural limits. They’re a little expensive, but you really do get what you pay for. I cannot recommend these people enough.
- Clay Goddess – If you’re looking for a plain old drinking mug, move along. The Clay Goddess upgrades a common drinking vessel with her gorgeous artwork, and I’m pretty sure they’re enchanted to imbue whatever liquid ye drink from them with a little something extra.
- McgGilly Sassparilly – Fresh sarsaparilla, root beer, lemonade, and other carbonated beverages flow from their taps all day long!
- Forgotten Times Maps – This man has magic hands! His maps are filled with such incredible, eye-deceiving detail that you’re bound to discover something new with every look.
The faire entertainment also doesn’t change too much, though there were a few new performers this year. There are a few acts I strongly recommend:
- No Parchment Needed – One of my two all-time favorite performers at faire, this improv comedy troupe is as raucous as you’d expect for a renaissance faire. They do family-friendly and 21+ shows, and while the 21+ shows tend to be better, the family-friendly ones are still good!
- Brotherhood of Oceanic Mercenaries (BOOM!) – The crew of the Emerald Rose raids the Hammered Troll Pub every afternoon, and they’re always finding themselves in trouble with the local law. They do a great skit about finding their own likenesses on wanted posters, complete with absurd charges (e.g., conspiracy to expose the Queen’s ankles, impersonating a priest, stealing candy from a baby), all in between songs and chanties of life on the sea.
- Broon – While I didn’t get the opportunity to watch his act this year, this one-man variety comedy show involves magic tricks, fire eating, bullwhips, and other impressive stunts not to be missed.
- Witch Trial & Bear Baiting! – New this year, this show put on by the Renaissance Man is a fun skit that is exactly what the title says it is. There’s a bit of audience participation for the part of the witch and her accusers. The first show we attended, I was chosen as the final accuser to our (frankly disappointing) witch. The witch I accused didn’t participate much in the show, and instead mostly sat there smugly and quietly. The second show we attended, Dhaoine was selected to play the part of the witch, and she played the part wonderfully! People she walked by during the remainder of the faire remembered her as the witch for the rest of the weekend.
- Robin’s Risque Revels (21+ only) – This variety act in the Siren’s Cove behind the Red Dragon Inn pub is definitely the highlight of the weekend every year. Robin (of Robin Hood & Maid Marian Present!) leads the variety show, bringing on stage the best performers of the weekend, old and new, to perform a perverted and definitely adults-only risque experience. The show finale, the Moose Song, is a faire favorite group sing that will be stuck in your head for years to come.
And lest it go unmentioned, the absolute highlight of this year’s faire was that we were celebrating Dhaoine’s birthday! I couldn’t let that go without some sort of shenanigans, so I bribed the local jailers and took out a warrant on her, accusing her of 33 crimes against this natural earth (one for each year!) and 2 1/2 against the moon (the real crime being that she never completed the third…). The jailer came to arrest her after Robin’s Risque Revels closed out on Sunday and walked her to jail, where she then had to appease the jailer’s sense of entertainment before she was set free. I’ll let the video tell the rest of the story: