WESTMINSTER -- Step back in time this weekend to the days of damsels and dragons. Taste tidbits from kitchens of old, watch wizards weave medieval magic and join the hunt for the grail.
Carroll County is inaugurating its own Renaissance Fair,
sponsored by Carroll Hospice and the William Winchester Inn. From 9 a.m. to dusk Saturday and Sunday, visitors are invited to join the feast, fun and frolic on the grounds of the inn, at Bishop and Center streets.
"Renaissance is anything and everything, a real hodgepodge," said Julie Flaherty, executive director of Carroll Hospice.
The mix includes crafters, food vendors and entertainers. Visitors can try their hand at the medieval arts of soap-making, chair-caning and blacksmithing or take English country dancing
cues from "Three Left Feet."
Performers will be outfitted by Joan Bradford of the Westminster Costume Shop, which has dressed participants in the Maryland Renaissance Festival for years.
"I never run out of costumes," Bradford said. "We can dress peasants, royalty and everyone in between."
Bradford promises that a costume will enhance the flavor of the day and encourages visitors to dress up, too.
"Your whole character changes and you'll have more fun, if you kick up your heels in costume," she said.
Flaherty, who has been organizing the fair since December, called the two days of merrymaking a family event. "We have an incredible cast of talent, and it's all gratis," she said. "So many people are willing to give their time, the response has been extraordinary."
In keeping with fair tradition, costumed students will sell peacock feathers and flowers. The drama departments from Westminster, Liberty and North Carroll high schools will perform several one-act Shakespeare plays.
L "No rehearsals," said Flaherty. "It's just going to happen."
Western Maryland College's madrigal singers, under the direction of Margaret Boudreaux, and the Ancient Music Collegium, playing authentic period instruments, will lend a medieval air.
Jugglers, a village idiot and beggars will also be in attendance. For $1, you can rent a wench.
"For your investment, you get a beautiful woman who will tell you what a wonderful lord of the manor you are," said Flaherty.
If children play by the rules of the safety games course and learn to protect themselves, they can earn knighthood from the Good Night Campaign.
Sunday will feature an auction of crafts and quilts, many made in memory of several hospice patients.
"Some are not exactly Renaissance material," said Flaherty. "But, they are all special and precious to us."
Admission is $3 and benefits both the hospice and the country inn, which provides a training classroom environment for developmentally disabled adults. Flaherty said she hopes the fair will earn about $30,000 and that it will become an annual event.
"Unfortunately, Carroll Hospice is growing by leaps and bounds, 150 percent in the last six months," she said.
The hospice, officially licensed in 1986, has nearly 100 volunteers. Its current 33 patients range in age from 16 months to 99 years.
"We save the county money -- about $75,000 in health-care costs last year -- and provide avenues of care for patients who [otherwise] would have to rely on public assistance," she said. "We work to make sure the terminally ill have quality at the end of their days."