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The Renaissance Pleasure Faire returns

Faire Thee Well for the 47th time

Posted: April 9, 2009 3:23 p.m.
Updated: April 10, 2009 6:00 a.m.

The Maypole at the 47th annual Renaissance Pleasure Faire; running Saturdays and Sundays at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area in Irwindale.

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I always find it hard to pass up an opportunity to travel back in time to the Renaissance. I know our modern take on Renaissance life is much cleaner and more romantic than the original 16th century model, but it entices and seduces nonetheless.

Knights and ladies, a time of chivalry and simple pleasures is attractive to anyone weary of the "work faster, work harder, work smarter" culture and its incessant demands on time.

Surfing the Internet, texting, cell phones, 568 channels on your television, TiVo to watch them all... it's exhausting.

It is much better to dream of what life might be like - in the "enlightened" (compared to the "Dark Ages") time of the Renaissance and the court of Queen Elizabeth I.

It was a time when England ruled the world and art, education and intellectual pursuits were valued.

Bringing all of the color and spectacle of Renaissance England to life is the 47th annual Renaissance Pleasure Faire and Artisans Market running 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends now through May 17.

Eric Valadez, known as "Bucket," of Santa Clarita has been a member of the Renaissance Faire "family" for the past two years.
He portrays a "privateer" - a "salty creature of the sea - ready to spin a yarn, or steal your purse."

Valadez said he attended the faire for six years before he signed up to be a privateer.

"I enjoyed it so much I asked, How can I be a part of this?'" he said.

"Bucket" is among the nearly 2,000 costumed period performers that inhabit the mythical village of "Port Deptford."

In addition to the privateers, Queen Elizabeth I and her court is in attendance, as well as the "Court of the May," numerous Puritans, the washerwomen, Yeomen of the Queen's Guard, pirates, town criers, village mongers and a variety of fantasy creatures.

Enter "Port Deptford" through the massive ship's hull which doubles as a front gate and you are immediately surrounded by the cacophony of Renaissance life.

Guests may be heckled by Puritans who think the faire a sinful affair of fun, set upon to purchase a garland for your hair or be the victim of an attempted "shanghai" by those sneaky privateers.

"We'll try to trick someone or distract them or sneak up on them with our shanghai bag," said Valadez of the era's common practice of abducting unwilling men to work on sailing ships. "I really enjoy entertaining the visitors. It gives them an experience of what it was like."

The artisans market is nearly as much fun as the faire's food, drink and entertainment.

As always I am sucked in by the glass - beautiful art glass crafted by master artisans and available for a price.

My favorite artesian is Jeff Price who also offers glassblowing demonstrations. He also offers a nice selection of art glass at "peasant prices."

In addition to art glass there are costume rentals for those who wish to join in the spirit of the faire, as well costumes and cloaks for sale, ceramics, knifes, pewter and wooden ale mugs, art of all kinds, hand-dipped candles and jewelry.

The food is spectacular - a true cut above your usual corn dog and funnel cake carnival fare.

At the faire you can indulge in "Steak-on-a-Stake" which offers streak on a stick, turkey legs, pork chop-on-a-stick, artichokes, "toad-in-a-hole" (sausage wrapped in a pastry), Sin-on-a-stick (chocolate-dipped frozen cheesecake), steak and mushroom pies, Scottish pies, shepherd pies, sausage, bread and cheese, fish and chips, pulled pork sandwiches, quail, duck and so much more.

My favorite meal is "toad-in-a-hole" with pear cider followed up with a "turtle" ice cream truffle covered with whipped cream and caramel.

The only down side is that nearly everything seems to be priced at $6.50 - or more.

However, I will say that the $5 I spent for the "turtle truffle" was worth every penny.

Admission to the faire, priced at $25 for adults, is worth every penny. The entertainment options are endless - and of good quality.

Every show is family friendly, with the exception of the clearly marked NC-17 stage.

There is music, magic, Irish dance, an equestrian show, jousting, comedians, knife throwing and all types of pageants, parades and variety shows.

If you can't find a show to your liking you are not trying very hard.

The 14 stages and areas of entertainment include a "Kid's Kingdom" that features a daily children's knighting ceremony, Merlin, the Magician, storytelling and other fun activities and entertainment for children.

New this year to the faire is RenQuest, an effort to lure those raised on video games into the faire fold.

In RenQuest guest participate in a live action, real time fantasy quest. Travelers swear fealty to a chosen faction then begin to amass points as they journey through the village as they participate in various hunts and riddles.

I particularly enjoy the Maypole dance offered up at 11 a.m. each day. Female dancers weave an intricate design with their ribbons as they circle about the maypole. Guests are invited to participate and pair up with an experienced dancer as the ribbon gets closer to the bottom of the pole.

A trip to the faire is not complete without a sighting of Queen Elizabeth I. She can usually be spotted at the Queen's Joust (2 p.m.) at the jousting arena and at the new Queen's Show (3 p.m.) on the Maybower stage.

The faire also features special themed weekends:

April 11-12: Marketplace weekend: Kids 12 and under are free Saturday and Easter Sunday.

Easter Sunday, April 12 only: Adults $10 off.

April 18- 19: Swashbuckler weekend #1

April 25- 26: Swashbuckler weekend #2

May 2- 3 : Wine Tasting Bacchanal.

Sunday, May 3 only: Military Appreciation Day.

May 9-10: Fantasy weekend and Costume contest.

May 16-17: Last call!

So cast aside 2009 and head back in time to the later half of the 1500s and eat, drink and be merry!

For information on the 47th annual Renaissance Pleasure Faire visit www.renfair.com/socal.

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