Small Wonders: Renaissance remains buxom

“…whether you're a 50-year-old or an adolescent, you're on some kind of hormonal rollercoaster in those two age groups. So I'm not quite sure if it's serious comedy or funny drama.” — Geoffrey Rush

When I was 12 years old, my mother took us to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire for a day of medieval role-playing fun. If you've ever been, you know what a seminal experience this can be for a lad in the grips of puberty (pun only vaguely intended).

Two things come to mind when I think about that day. The first thing is food. The second is the generously corseted breasts of fair maidens.

OK, make that three things.

So last weekend when my wife suggested we go to the faire, my inner teenager leapt through the Internet to buy tickets. But since this was a family day trip, I'll try to cushion the debauchery.

The food was amazing! Exactly as I remember them … it.

Abundant, sumptuous delights everywhere you looked. It was impossible not to see all the treats; their purveyors overflowing with morsels to tantalize and beckon like siren song. Every shape, size and color; fresh and aged, petite and plentiful. There was something scrumptious for everyone's taste.

And the food was good too.

The first thing you notice as you pass through the port of entry to the 16th century, having your ticket electronically scanned by said damsels of bared bosom, is that you really are entering another world. But as my friend Scott pointed out, traveling back in time can be expensive. With kids of any era, it doesn't take long for the past and present to collide in our wallets.

“Can we get that sword?”

“Can we get that flagon of ale?”

“Can we get that chamber pot?”

They settled for $20 floral hair garlands before we were 20 paces in. Though conventional wisdom says to bait your child with souvenirs at the end of the day — the carrot to keep them on track — we believe in getting it out of the way early so we don't have to hear the little scamps’ relentless begging.

After watching the sleepy loomers, ruddy blacksmiths and contortionist jugglers, our lasses spy a manger filled with chambermaids braiding intricate designs into each other's hair with ribbons and flowers. So much for the garlands and our theory — $50 and an hour later, our little ladies are adorned with dos that would make Princess Leia jealous.

With a “huzzah!” to the hair maidens, and a “God save the tipper!” in return, we make our way back into the parade of souls.

There were games to play, rides to ride, and ale to drink — or so the scalawags running the activities would attest. Carnies by any other name. Though I did appreciate the bawdy air of the scheduled pub crawls — 12, 1:30 and 3 p.m. Call me Puritan, but I like it when roving bands of merrymaking sots are organized. The rest of us know when to get off the road.

With all the pomp, circumstance and fanfare she deserved, the queen, God save her, made her way through the cheering hordes. Carried in sedan carriage by manly men in tights, her court and entourage at hand, she embraced the affection of her subjects. Though we did overhear the scoundrel manning the gelato booth claim under breath that last year's queen was fairer to gaze upon.

I must not have noticed this 30-some years ago, but Renaissance England villages were peopled with more than Brits, Celts and Scots. We saw Huns, Spaniards and Vikings. There were a few Roman soldiers lost in time and place, along with a ninja or two. The cavemen were a surprise, but not the werewolf. I hear they like London.

In fact, few places offer a greater collection of society's misfits than the Renaissance Faire.

Here, every walk of life dons a character and lives it for a day, a weekend or a season; so embracing the mythical world they've created and inhabited, it casts a spell upon the experience and all who choose to partake.

But the curiosity of the gentlefolk in this extravagant guise is this: I believe they would give up their weekday lives as accountants, mechanics, baristas and tattoo artists, to gladly stay in this persona and this village forevermore; a minstrel island town set clandestinely in a sea of modern day structures and conveniences. I find it sad, yet comforting at the same time.

At least they've found a place to be themselves. Or at least a 16th century version of themselves. I wonder where the rest of us find that place where we feel home, feel safe, accepted and understood.

If my inner child figures that out, I'll keep you abreast.

PATRICK CANEDAY has yet another reason to be thankful Schwarzenegger is out of office. He can be reached on Facebook, at and

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