I had the great pleasure of going to college not far from one of the better Renn Faires in the United States. Not having had the chance to embrace my inner D&D nerd in high school, it went into full-fleged craziness when I got to Bristol. I went at least once a summer for every summer, and even took my younger cousin there one summer, several years after graduation.
Well, the last time I went to Bristol was almost seven years again. I, luckily, happened onto a $10 coupon and went back again this last weekend for closing activities.
Sadly, it really is true - nothing ever stays the same and you really can't go back again. Now, don't get me wrong. The Bristol renaissance Faire is still one of the better one I have ever been to. The grounds are beautiful. It looks like they spend more on landscaping than some of the richie riches in Newton do. And it certainly has a tremendous amount of high-quality shows (Dirk and Guido being a particular favorite act) and tons of performance artists and fabulous musicians. And flush toilets. And excellent craft demonstration areas (I particularly enjoy the Celtic Croft area). Those are worth the admission price by themselves.
But things have change, oh my how they have changed.
First off, the size of the Faire has doubled. You might think this is a good thing right? Wrong! It's gotten bigger but added nothing new. The extra size is just "sister shops" for shops that were already there. Honestly, how many pottery shops selling crappy embossed mugs does one Faire really need?
And the knights. What happened to the knights? They are definitely not the same,
I used to be so proud to say to my friends, "The knights really joust!" Oh yes, I am sure a lot of it was staged, just like pro wrestling. But it looked real. Those horses thundered out of the barn and when the knights got knocked off the horses, they really got knocked off those horses. There were always four, but only two mattered - the dark curly haired guy who represented the honor of England and the tall cool icy blonde who was cast as the bad knight.
Frankly, he looked like a bad mother. He just oozed menace. He was one of those horribly gorgeous bad boys who - if you are of that orientation - makes you all shivery and sets you to wondering just how much fun it would be to play with fire. And then, after a brief moment of disorientation, you got smart and realized you would probably need a full body condom if you took him home, because god knows where he's been...
Anyway, the new knights are pansies. Sorry guys, but you are pansies. I am a short fat woman who hasn't ridden a horse in 16 years and I could get out there and give a great shout, prompting you to fall off your horse. Case in point, I ended up in the cheering section of the purple and gold knight. On his way to go pay homage to the Queen in the center of the ring, just walking the beastie, he fell off. Fell off. Dude.
And what's with the whole creeping Robin Hood disease that is striking Renn Faires every where. Hello, Robin Hood is a Crusader character, not a renaissance character. Stop it, just say no!
Anyway, Bristol still has some of the best food I've ever had at a Faire, and - all things considered - not too expensive. You can get the sasparilla (dudes, it's really just root beer, not even close to real sasparilla) for $1, the best beverage deal at the Faire. Vegetarians would survive well.... there is everything from the garlic mushrooms (best ever! I would pay to gete in just to eat those) you eat with a toothpick, to artichokes, pizza, tempura vegetables and various others. For carnivorous, there is every kind of meat on a stick and, of course, the huge-ass turkey drumsticks. And puffins! Can't forget the puffins - friend dough with powdered sugar and fruit preserves on top. I personally ate a big bowl of 'shrooms and drank the broth down. A small twist of cinnamon cashews. I shared a turkey leg with a complete stranger, because I sure as hell couldn't eat the whole thing. And for dessert, I had a "Dragon Tail," a delicious puff pastry twisted with cinnamon and sugar before being baked into crispy goodness. And tons of sasparilla....
I spent a good ten hours at the Faire, finally ending it by spending 30 minutes listening to Taiko drummers and then another 30 minutes listening to a flute quartet. I had my fortune told and was informed tha in the next year I am going to go to culinary school and that I should dump my dark-haired lover 'cause he's the big bad wolf. Of she never asked me what my favorite version of "Little Red Riding Hood" was, so bully to her!
Anyway, I will go again next year, because it is great fun and people watching is half of that fun. Plus the 'shrooms.
Heather's Approximation of Bristol Renn Faire Garlic 'Shrooms
Pound of 'shrooms - button or Portabellas, preferrably
One large onion, chunked.
One head garlic, diced
1-2 cupes of Broth, of choice
Throw it all in a pot. Cook until bubbly. Serve with a toothpick for easy eating. Best enjoyed while standing up while feasting with a beskirted and leathered barbarian named Thor.