Saturday, September 18, 2010

King Richard's Faire Review

This past weekend, looking for some excitement, I decided to venture back in time to the year fifteen-something-or-other to attend the festivities at King Richard's Faire.   King Richard's is a Renaissance Faire held from September through October in Carver, Massachusetts, just south of Boston.  Renaissance food and drink, shops, and various shows can be found within the fair grounds, which reside in the middle of a quaint forested area. King Richard's Faire has an atmosphere that is a mixture of historical Renaissance, medieval, and Tolkienian fantasy, which can be seen in the multitudes of fair-goers dressed as elves, fairies, and other mythical creatures.  All of the performers and shopkeepers, and about half of the fair-goers, are avid enthusiasts who dress in character for the event. The architecture and design of the fair grounds seem to be reminiscent of a carnival with brightly colored stages and games of chance mixed in with Renaissance-esque cottages which are homes to many of the fair's shops.

There are several stages throughout the fair that offer a range of entertainment including stunts, dance, comedy, and animal shows, just to name a few, and tournament field where the fair's jousting tournaments take place.  The stage performances were better than what I had expected for a Renaissance fair, and I actually felt like I was getting my money's worth for the entertainment.  While at the fair, I witnessed several shows which I truly enjoyed. "The Torture Show", a stunt/illusion show, features a performer that breathes and juggled fire, hammers spikes into his face, and inserts weighted hooks into his eyes.  "The Mud Show" is a gross-out comedy performance in which two beggars compete to be the most disgusting men of the fair by doing such things as drinking and eating mud.  "The Challenge of Champions" features several armored knights on horseback competing in numerous games, including jousting.  The jousting was entertaining, but seemed to lack historical authenticity, while taking on a more WWE male soap opera feel.  I was also present for one of the contests that the fair runs every Saturday.  This week it was "The Cleavage Contest." This was one of the most entertaining pieces of the fair and not for the chauvinistic reasons you might expect.  The contest, in which all of the contestants are fair-goers, involved a tremendous amount of audience participation and was filled with spontaneous comedy and wit.  One thing that I felt was a bit annoying about the entertainment was the constant begging for tips. At the end of every performance a hat is passed around while the performers beg.  After paying $26 just to enter the fair, I felt that this was a bit of a slap in the face.

The food and drink of the fair was descent carnival-type food, but seemed to be lacking in historical authenticity.  Turkey legs, stew in bread bowls, and chicken tenders, are just some of the items available at the fair.  For drinks, beer, wine, and mead (a drink made from the fermentation of honey) are available.  The yards of beer (Coors light and Killian's) are served in long plastic decanters (which many fair-goers stacked to make into walking sticks).  I felt the beer choices limited and not very authentic and would have preferred a choice of several ales.  The fair requires that all food and drinks be paid for with food tickets, that must be purchased in lots of five dollars at booths throughout the fair.  I felt this to be a little deceptive and an annoyance, forcing me to return to the ticket booth several times when I was just one ticket short of being able to buy a snack.

A multitude of shops are scattered throughout the fair grounds.  These shops feature wares including period clothing and costumes, weapons, musical instruments, and other accessories, most of which are hand-made by the shopkeepers.  I felt that there was a great range of items available at the fair, but the prices on those items were a bit exorbitant (nearly $500 for a sword).  I also felt that in many of the clothing shops the associates were friendly and helpful, but often very pushy. In one store I was forced to try on a leather vest that I wasn't even interested in.  This pushiness was also present in many of the barkers for the rides and games of chance at the fair, and many times I was heckled just for walking by a game.

In all, I felt that King Richard's Faire was a worthwhile experience.  The shows are fun and refreshing, the food is good, and the shops offer specialty wares that can be hard to find.  While it has it downsides, like the heckling and begging of the performers and relatively high prices, the positives seem to outweigh the negatives.  I had a great time and would definitely recommend this fair to anyone.



Come see all the great pictures of this event at the official Geeks & Goblins page on Facebook.

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