To start, let me just explain that I never, ever, ever intended to go to King Richard’s Faire.
Flash back to two weeks earlier, when I was in the midst of prepping an excursion to WaterFire. As a senior I’d still never been, cementing it at the top of my bucket list. This was the last scheduled event of the year. I’d driven downtown, lingered at the mall for a few hours, and upon exiting Looper, I fell subject to the rain that would shut out my hopes of ever actually witnessing the impossible balance between fire and water.
My friends couldn’t understand why I was so upset. As past attendees, they’d assured me it was nothing special, and that the seminal 2009 Brown Noser article “WaterFire” “Enthralls” “Audience” was apropos. But I wasn’t convinced.
So when I was asked if I’d have any interest in checking out King Richard’s Faire, I immediately said yes. There was something instinctive about it. The opportunity was just so out of the ordinary, a complete departure from that comfortable routine I’ve fallen into as a fourth-year Brown student. I’m not sure if I wanted to do it, but I knew I had to. Who knows, maybe I could even find a nice
wench maiden to bring home to Mom and Dad.
What exactly is King Richard’s Faire? I’d seen a handful of ads gracing I-195 billboards and the back pages of the Providence Phoenix, but I really had no idea what to expect from a renaissance festival. My lone point of reference was Black Knight, the Martin Lawrence fish-out-of-water comedy that I’ve inexplicably seen ten times. This guy has gone on record and said it’s the worst movie he’s ever made, and his last film was Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son.
We embarked on our forty-minute trek to Carver, Massachusetts early this past Saturday morning. My friends, ever-ready to compose a road trip mix, instantly confirmed my suspicions that the “Spamalot” soundtrack makes for awful hangover tunez. As we entered the massive parking lot, we nearly ran over two plump knights, an adolescent wizard, and The Eleventh Doctor (?) all pouring out of a Hyundai Sonata. The lot of them brandishing real medieval weaponry. Not plastic. Those blades were pointed. Oh, great. So this is how I die.
We then crossed the threshold into feudal society (for a paltry $27!), where scores of noble, courtly Massholes put on their best Game of Thrones before my eyes. Lusty barmaids and confused children danced in circles around the town square. A jester greeted passersby on stilts. Corsets were a thing. Two woozy harlots perched atop a dung cart cat-called my friend as we walked by: “Come back here, knave, with your tight purple jeans!” There were also two tigers on display, most definitely purloined from a more legitimate establishment.
In many respects, King Richard’s gone and created quite the tourist trap. The local merchants, more often than not, demanded top dollar for their wares, ranging from tunics to incense. They do, however, accept “Master Card, Lady Visa, and New World Express” as alternative forms as payment. The various blacksmiths all sell actual weapons, because every horny teenager should be able to buy his own war axe.
But then we watched the daily joust, with what seemed like a thousand people assembled together, cheering on the re-enactors as emphatically as humanly possible. The dude next to me blurting out a nasal, out-of-place “huzzah!” accompanying nearly every beat of the performance. And he was just so damned into it that I really couldn’t help but cheer along with him.
I suppose the key is to check all judgments at the door and buy into the immersive experience as fully as possible. For better or worse, I ended up having one of the more memorable days of my college career. It was exactly the change of pace I’d been hoping for, the break from the hustle and bustle of the modern world that I never knew I wanted.
King Richard’s Faire operates until Sunday, October 21, before shuttering for the season. Why not give it a whirl this week? You may even get to see a good old-fashioned medieval drug deal.