Olde England in merrie Maryland Festival: Go forth, ye knights and ladies, to Maryland's slice of the Renaissance, now bringing the 16th century to Crownsville.

Up Front

September 03, 1998|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,SUN STAFF

Tis time for all fair maidens and handsome gents to gather round ye old village to toast the grand old days of yore. And if thou lovest to speak like this, clothe thyself in complete garments befittin' the occasion or simply stick a plume in your bonnet and carry thee down to Crownsville.

Thou wilt be in good company, for the Maryland Renaissance Festival 'tis the place to be.

M'lady Beth Fabel is a regular at the Renaissance Festival, for she has been coming for many a year. She is one of the Thrir Venstri Foetr dancers and was twirling to melodious melodies as fair onlookers clapped their approval.

"We have spent many moons practicing," Fabel says. For the curious, Thrir Venstri Foetr is Old Norse for "The Three Left Feet."

For but a second, Fabel consented to leave the Renaissance era, at least psychologically, to talk about the appeal of the fair. "It's an escape from the mundane world," says the appropriately garbed Fable who, in 20th-century real life, is a personal trainer.

Opening day was warm, sunny and sticky. The smell of cooked meat hung heavy in the still air. Fairgoers were all ages, shapes and sizes. All had a fascination with the era - or couldn't pass up the opportunity to chomp on meat on a stick.

Alan Gregersen is a computer-repair technician by trade. But during Renaissance fair time, he metamorphoses into a monk costumed in a flowing brown robe with a staff.

"I've been here several times," says Gregersen, who lives in Alexandria, Va. He was sitting down, taking a break from the festivities. "I love the period dress, the royal court and some of the shows."

His friend, Tiffany Newton of Arlington, Va., was also in costume.

"It's the fun and the festivities," she says, that keep her coming back.

Back to 1522

This is the 22nd year for the Maryland Renaissance Festival, which runs weekends through Oct. 25 and on Labor Day. According to festival staff, this is "The Year of Romance." This year, the festival celebrates the 13th wedding anniversary of Queen Catherine of Aragon and King Henry VIII in the year 1522 at the village of Revel Grove.

The "roads" in the village bear such names as Queen's Path, White Stag Grove, Mary's Dale Way, King's Field and Tiltyard Path.

There will be special weekends during the fair's run. They include "Shakespeare Weekend" tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday, with several Shakespeare productions. In addition, ages and over will be admitted free this Sunday.

"Deaf Awareness Weekend" is Sept. 12 and 13, when some shows will be interpreted for the hearing impaired. A Scottish celebration will take place on Sept. 19 and 20, with Celtic music and dance. Oktoberfest will be Oct. 3 and 4, with German music and dance.

Seth Schobel, who was there on Saturday in costume, has always been intrigued by the era. "I personally have a fascination with the Renaissance period. So it's exciting for me to come here and see this," he says.

Schobel, an art history major at the University of Maryland, College Park, is a regular at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. His friend, David Knight, also in costume, came along with him.

Jousting and juggling

"This is my first time here, and he convinced me to dress up," Knight says of his friend.

Some of the festivities included the ever-popular jousting - Maryland's state sport - in which "knights" on horses fought one another until a victor was declared. Then there was the human chess game, as well as plenty of wandering minstrels and maidens, not to mention a sword swallower, hypnotist, storytellers, jugglers, comedy shows, Shakespearean performers, strongest-man competitions, a free children's area and spear, knife and ax throws.

The Shakespearean plays are humorous and compressed depictions of the real thing, where the audience is sometimes invited to "taunt the actors as they improvise."

Food, and plenty of it, was a big part of the day. Besides the steak on a stick (or steak on a stake), there were people happily gnawing on huge roasted turkey legs.

There was chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick, chicken on a lance, apple dumplings, peasant bread, meat pies, barbecued pork pockets, corn on the cob, fried cheeses and enough sugary treats to satisfy any sweet tooth.

Of course, what is 16th-century England without ales? There were plenty, along with soft drinks, lemonade, iced tea and wine.

Crafts also play a big role at the Renaissance festival, and there were more than 140 craftspeople on hand selling their wares. There was everything from costumes that you could rent for the day or buy, jewelry, pottery, puzzle boxes, musical instruments, sculptures, candles, wood swords and shields.

Steve Griffin owns Tall Toad Head Gear for the Upwardly Mobile.

The craftsman, who lives in southern Virginia, makes hats for costume fairs.

"We do three festivals a year from August through October," he says.

Perhaps knowing that he has several more weekends to be there, Griffin gave an assessment of the fair: "This one is the most wonderful festivals on the planet. It's because of all the nice people."

So thy company is requested. Don't ye tarry and chance bringing the wrath of King Henry upon thy poor soul.

Pub Date: 9/03/98

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