Thursday, March 31, 2016

Renaissance Festival 2016

Mary with her favorite Drabbit at the Arizona Renaissance Festival.
March 26, 2016

Last weekend was the final weekend of the annual Arizona Renaissance Festival, which runs from the first weekend of February to the last weekend of March. On Saturday, our whole family (except Jacob and Danielle, of course, since they are in Utah) was able to spend the day enjoying the shops and shows for which the festival is renowned. 

Mary always gets her hair braided at the festival ($25) so she can stay cool.
The desert temperature was in the low-80s during our visit.

We arrived just after 9:00 that morning, which put us near the front of the line, which grows to be quite long by the time the gates open at 10:00. If you're at the back of the line, it can take nearly 30 minutes to get inside, and I hate to lose that much of my festival play-time. It's also better to be near the gates because you can hear the humorous banter between members of the royal family and other Renaissance folk during the last half-hour before the gates open.

Because of my hair's length, I always get the braided "crown."

Once the gates opened, I made a beeline for the braiding tent to have my hair french-braided before a line could form. I've learned that it gets uncomfortably hot by mid-afternoon if my hair is on my neck. Usually I wear my pearl-wrapped, soft blue roundlet and its attached black veil over the braid, but I was aghast to realized I'd left it at home this time. The Renaissance Festival is, of course, pretty much my only opportunity to wear a roundlet. Many people at the festival dress up to the hilt in Renaissance costumes, so I felt kind of bare without it!

Dang! For the first time ever, I forgot to bring my royal roundlet and veil!
So I just had to buy this beautiful blue-jeweled circlet instead!

Luckily, I soon discovered a shop selling the most amazing array of delicate jewel-and-chain circlets, and I quickly found the perfect one with pale blue stones to match my roundlet. Next year I can wear them both together! (That's if I don't forget them both!)

We spent a few minutes watching this glass-blower's amazing handiwork.

Once my braid was done, we spent the next hour and a half exploring the festival's more than two-hundred shops and artisans. I always wish I had a thousand dollars to spend on the whimsically creative goods on display. On this trip I did, in fact, have three hundred dollars that I'd been setting aside for several months so I could purchase a few items I'd had my eye on for years. The circlet was NOT on my list, but it was my only splurge for the day. Everything else was a planned purchase.

An area featuring the medieval lifestyle, from outdoor cooking to spinning cloth.

Besides the hundreds of shops, there are also dozens of shows on thirteen stages throughout the festival grounds, as well as medieval (man-powered) amusement park-type rides (for an extra fee). There are also a petting zoo and elephant rides and, for the kids, llama rides. If you're not faint-of-heart, there is a dark and claustrophobic display of medieval torture devices, as well. I've gone through it twice over the years and decided to forego that particular pleasure this time around.

A new show this year was the Sea Fairies (mermaids).

Personally, I've always been more about the shops than the shows, although I do have a few that are favorites. We always attend the jousts (three times daily) and I love to listen to the bagpipes of Tartanic. We caught a few new ones this year, including the brand new Sea Fairies.

A mermaids pops out of the water to greet her visitors...

...then she slipped back into the tank to swim about for the cameras.

When swashbuckling Captain Francis Drake stepped up,
Chris was quick to ask for a selfie with him.
In his British accent, the captain quipped, "What's a selfie?"

After Chris snapped the first shot, Capt. Drake said,
"Oh, I've heard of these! Wait, I know the face one is supposed to do."
So Chris got a great pic of himself and the captain's perfectly pouty lips!

Sarah and Chris pose with a second, fish-out-of-water mermaid.

I missed the first two jousting events. Three days before this trip, I'd woken up with a nasty chest cold. It hit hard and fast, and I was still pretty miserable on our day at the Renaissance Festival. I was wheezing and coughing and clammy all over, with sinus pressure behind my eyes and ears, but I still managed to have a great time. The real problem was that my energy was easily depleted.

The elusive Green Man appeared from between two buildings
while I was resting, so I snapped some pictures of him.

The Renaissance festival has grown to be a very large village, probably much larger than many actual villages were back in medieval times, and the jousting arena is at the opposite end of the festival grounds from the entrance. By the time we headed back toward the arena for the joust, I'd already been on my feet for more than two hours, and halfway there I knew I was never going to make it. So I sat at a picnic table and told Sarah, Chris, and Mark to go ahead without me. It was good to just sit and watch the world around me for about twenty minutes.

I'd always wanted to see the Living Fountain show at Pan's Oasis, 
but we'd never found time. This time I caught the very end of the show
as I walked by on my way to meet the others after the joust.

Once I'd recovered some energy, I slowly continued on toward the arena and met them as they were leaving after the event. They had joined Dylan and Jake at the joust, who had gone off on their own earlier with their friends Destiny and Chris, but they'd split off from Sarah's group again when the joust was over. I had thought we'd all have lunch together, but it turned out they had eaten earlier in the day (by now it was about 12:30).

What I saw of the Living Fountain was pretty awesome.
Next year I'll see the entire show for sure!

However, we all ran into each other again sooner than expected at one of my favorite shops. I had been telling Jake about this shop that sold the coolest wands and most amazing wizardly staffs, and how I was going to buy myself one of each this year, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to find him and Dylan there.

Jake, Mary, and Dylan show off their new wands.

I started out looking at the bigger. earthier, costlier wands ($25) on the top shelf, but I was disappointed that none of them really seemed to fit my style. The cheaper wands ($15) on the lower shelves hadn't interested me because they'd seemed almost mundane, even cookie-cutter-ish. But then Jake pulled one out that was pretty unique and showed it to me, so I took a closer look at the selection. And there it was: a delicate swirl of  silvery-blue wood with a slender vein of violet twined around it. I knew that one was mine. After all, "the wand chooses the wizard."

Jake, who is a huge fan of Dr. Who, found a wand that was topped with TARDIS (the blue "police box" in which Dr. Who travels through time and space) and he knew it was the one for him. Dylan found another TARDIS wand, but when I saw him holding it I said, "You don't even like Dr. Who! Keep looking. If your wand is in there, you'll know it when you see it." A few minutes later he came over and excitedly showed me The One. It was red-gold (red is his favorite color) and had a cool dragon burned into the wood of the handle. "This is it, Mom," he said. "I knew it as soon as I saw the dragon." The wand chooses the wizard...

Mary with her new staff. (Not too fond of this photo;
it definitely highlights the swollen glands in my neck!)

The shop also has a large collection of lovely staffs. I was looking for one with a glass ball in a filigreed-type silver setting, hopefully in blue and/or purple, with a staff made from a light-colored natural wood, but the shopkeeper said they'd only had a few blue-colored staffs, which had sold out during the first few weeks of the festival. So I had to settle, although I do love the purple orb and the flame-like, red-gold metal fixing it to the top of the staff, as well as the beautiful wood grain in the staff itself. The green leather wrap seems to clash with the color scheme--a rich, deep violet would have been perfect--but otherwise I'm pleased with my new staff.

After lunch we spotted Dylan and Jake on this bridge nearby.

After making our purchases, we went our separate ways again. Sarah, Chris, Mark, and I went to get some lunch. There aren't many low-card options at the festival (I don't care for turkey legs, though Mark and Dylan love them), but I did pretty well by ordering roasted chicken with a small side of mashed potatoes (no gravy). The potatoes were delicious, and I figured they were at least healthier carbs that ordering something containing white flour.

Sometime after lunch we stopped into another favorite old shop.
Chris actually bought this little blue Drabbit, which I think he named "Blue."
It perches on your shoulder and moves its head all around and up and down.
Kinda freakish, but we love them.

We stopped to enjoy harpist Sarah Mullen.

Mark wanted to see the fire show.

Geoff Marsh juggled fire, among other things.

His bit using children to balance spinning plates was hilarious.

This artisan does some creepy things with stretched leather!
Someday I will have a bookshelf in my house that looks like this!

I've decided that when I finally finish my book, sell it, and get rich, I'm going to buy myself a slightly larger home with a nice den, and that den will become my "Magic Room." In this room I will have artifacts from the books I love. My wand will be displayed on a rack, and my staff will rest in a corner. On a side table will be a Hogwarts chess set, and the Marauder's Map will be framed on the wall. The One Ring will reside in a place of honor, under a glass dome. You get the idea. And it simply must have a row of books with wrinkled covers and glowing eyes!

This man puts one-of-a-kind faces on everything!

I finally made it to the final joust of the day, at 5:00.

Luscious desserts for the end of the day at The Chocolate Shop,
but nothing sugar-free to be had. After consulting with the proprietors,
we determined that the "Lusty Wench" was the best choice with the least sugar.
It was my planned cheat for the day!

I left the joust a few minutes early so I could get good seats for Tartanic.
I love the sound of bagpipes (I even bought their CD this time)
and, besides, rugged men in kilts are just plain sexy!

The Queen and her royal party made a surprise visit and danced to the
sound of Tartanic's bagpipes.

It was a lovely, fun-filled day, and I managed to survive despite being so sick. The Renaissance Festival ends at 6:00, but it's always after 6:30 by the time we make our way to the gates and out to our vehicles. Then a three-hour drive took us home, and with us we took home another year's worth of happy memories. See you next year, Renaissance Festival!

A brief clip of the show by Tartanic (aka "Men Without Pants")
at the Arizona Renaissance Festival on March 26, 2016.

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