Spend a Day at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire

Spend a Day at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire

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  1. I have been a regular attendee of the Renaissance Faire since the 1970s, back when it was held in Agoura, a place of dust, terrible heat, scant shade and biting flies—and I still had an excellent time every time I went. Of course, I was in my late teens and early twenties back then and far more tolerant of discomforts, as long as there was a payoff, and for me that would have been the wenches in their low-cut, cleavage-enhancing dresses and the legendary Kissing Bridge. They don’t do the Kissing Bridge anymore, probably because too many cases of herpes were acquired upon the structure.

    Now they hold the fair at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area in Irwindale, and while it can still get mighty hot out there, at least there is grass, little to no dust, no biting flies and plenty of shade trees. Naturally, they have beer and soda stands every couple dozen yards and several water-misters around concession booths, so cooling down is never a problem.

    For those of you who have lived in a cave with your head buried in sand for the past 40 years, the Renaissance Faire is a festival that “reenacts” England during the renaissance period from the time of Queen Elizabeth I. I use quotation marks because the reenactment is loosely structured and hardly anyone bothers trying to speak authentic Old English, which, while actually the English language, is virtually impossible to understand unless you grew up in London. The actors, entertainers, concessioners and many visitors dress in fancy period outfits and some actually get into their roles. For the best possible time at the fair, wear a costume; no one will make fun of you and many visitors will take you for part of the act so you can get away with plenty of shenanigans.

    You will find craft stands, artisans selling their wares, souvenir booths, collectibles dealers, clothing merchants and street entertainers everywhere you look. In addition, there are rides, of sorts—at least those you might expect to find in a 15th Century festival. Actually, you’ll feel as if you’re risking your life for a measly couple bucks if you ride the swing, but as far as I know there have been no fatalities, and few maimings.

    You can also try your hand at the martial arts of the time, namely javelin throwing, archery, cross-bow shooting and fencing. They may have had broadsword lessons at one time, but after enough visitors had limbs hacked from their bodies the fair was probably forced to downsize to mere foils. At least they provide the masks and jackets as well as the foils. But do me a favor if you try fencing: don’t try to be Errol Flynn; just be your wacky self and you’ll have a lot more fun.

    Once you make it to the food court, you may not want to leave. You’ll find standard fare, but also interesting treats that may be new to you, like roasted quail, fried artichokes, fish and chips (or fried oysters if you prefer, as I do), toad-in-the-hole, bangers and mash, sausage-cheese-and-bread (which sounds like a sandwich, but it isn’t), and everyone’s favorite: giant turkey legs or barbecued beef ribs. If you go on the day that I’m there, this is where you’ll find me, possibly surrounded by a bevvy of beauties, and hopefully when my wife is off somewhere shopping.

    Tickets for the fair are $25 for adults and $15 for kids. This sounds expensive, but if you get there when the fair opens (10 a.m. weekends) and stay until closing, it works out to a Value Per Dollar (my own calculation, or so I’ve convinced myself) of $2.78/hour, a better deal than any amusement park (and much better food). The fair runs every spring until one weekend prior to Memorial Day Weekend.

    Renaissance Pleasure Faire
    Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area
    15501 East Arrow Highway
    Irwindale, CA 91706

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