Gather ye rosebuds while ye can and join the revelers as they attend the Greater Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival. Step back into the 16th century and find yourself immersed in the smell, the feel, the taste and the excitement of that era. The GPRF is held every year at the Morelandshire Faire Grounds. Once upon a time, my best friend told me about the faire that her and her family went to every summer. Not knowing what to expect, I decided my children and I should give it a go. So we planned all summer long. We were going to camp at a campground near by and go to the faire. Arriving, we had to park in a large, grassy field, where you couldn’t see the gates. Upon walking up, we entered into a large wooden gate and into yesterday. We were surrounded by knights in armor and ladies in beautiful gowns. We were immersed in chivalry and charm. Each weekend that the Faire is open, there is a different theme. Romance, Celtic, Peasant, Games, Children's Fantasy, Shakespeare, and The Grand Finale. Each weekend has special events that related to the theme. Such as the Romance Weekend has events such as the wooing contest and the wench press. On Children’s Weekend they have a dragon hatching. Each weekend brings forth more entertainment, up to the Grand Finale. Then there are some standards that are there every weekend. Such as the jousts. There is a troupe of Knights who perform each season. Each day has three jousts, with different events each joust. The jousts are attended by the King and Queen of the Faire, which is a grand affair. It is important to attend the first joust and chose which Knight you are going to follow and cheer for. Then, the following jousts you sit in your Knight’s corner and cheer him on to victory. We have our favorites who we cheer for each year, although their colors may change, we recognize him and enjoy cheering him on. It is often that we leave the joust hoarse from cheering. This year, we had to
leave early due to a sick child, so as we were driving out of the field, we saw the procession of Knights coming in for the last joust. We stopped the van and all four Knights on horseback rode over to our van to partake in a bit of good hearted flirting, which thrilled us ladies and some up close views of the Knights, which thrilled the children. Many women say there is something about a man in a uniform. I always say there is something about a man in armor. Some of the other standard shows are the Underground Mud Show. It is a troupe of peasants who re-enact classic stories and tales by sliding them through the mud. Now that may sound unusual, and it is. However, it is also highly amusing. Some of the other amusements are the The Gypsy Guerrilla Band offering Celtic music at it’s best. Or the Human Chess Match where you can take part as a chess piece with the Knights directing you at the King’s command. Or perhaps more to your taste would be a stroll through a Fairy Forrest where you can see a real unicorn or dance with the fairies. I will warn you that the fee the Elves take for crossing into their wood is steep. You must entertain them. Have you ever tried to make an Elf smile? Everywhere you turn there is music, laughter and fun. The food served there is excellent, if a bit high priced, as is at most places. But you can sample a turkey leg the size of your arm, or a bread bowl full of soup. We usually pass on the soup, even though it smells good. Usually the weather is rather warm if not down right hot and humid. If it is more to your taste, you can refresh yourself with a glass of wine or a beer. There are many shops of every kind there for you to ohh and ahh over. From the finest jewelry, all hand made, to the finest of wooden and tin instruments. There are clothing stalls, where you can rent outfits or purchase them. There are weapons shops, armor shops, head dress shops, toy shops and candy shops. Man
y of the people in costume are not part of the show, simply revelers who love to take part, such as us. We started at first with just purchasing Renaissance style dresses and the guys wearing tunics. But every year we get more and more into it. We now own authentically designed dresses and our next purchase will be corsets. If you look at the picture I have in my profile, you will see a partial picture of me in my Renaissance dress. It is not required that you dress in Ren Garb as they call it, but it does add to the feeling of stepping into a time long gone. Where men were men and women were wenches. There is an air of chivalry where ever you turn, along with peasants, royalty and Celtic music. There are also a few rides available for those who chose. None of the roller coasters of today. They are run by honest man power. There is the battering ram to swing you or for the braver at heart, there is the wheel of fear. Both are fun and an easy way to catch a breeze and cool off from the summer heat. The cost to enter into the past is reasonable. Adults are $11.95 US dollars, children are $5.95 US dollars. This will gain you entrance to a wonderful visit to the past. We usually go on Sundays, having camped all weekend. However, it is only a day trip from the city of Pittsburgh. But I will caution you, it can be addicting. Once you begin time traveling back to this era, you may find yourself stuck in the past. But this may not be such a bad thing. So, if you should ever find yourself wondering what it was like back then, here is a simple way to experience it in full, living color
Well met, Good Folk! Rejoice, for once again Faire season is coming round. That’s right, time to air out your Faire garb and hearken back to the days of chivalry. Huzzah! If you have ever been interested in the Medieval and Renaissance periods, or are simply looking for a change of pace and some honest fun I would suggest you look up the information for your local Renaissance Festival! The website, www.renaissance-faire.com will direct you to your local Festival in the US, as well as offering other information about this unique form of entertainment. Goodfolk outside these realms, fear not! Information for Faires in you area can be found at www.faires.com, or those more dedicated can go through the Society for Creative Anacronism at members.uk.tripod.de/adm/popup/roadmap.shtml.Now, let me share with you some of our experiences with and information about the Greater Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival. Located 7 miles west of New Stanton, Pennsylvania on I-70 is the Greater Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival. Beginning on the weekend of August 18th, they are open every weekend, rain or shine, with the final performances on the weekend of September 23rd. Full price admission in US dollars: $11.95 for adults, $5.95 for children ages 5-12, and children under 5 enter free. The opening weekend usually has a discount deal running with Subway (a chain restaurant) for one free ticket with the purchase of an adult ticket. If you purchase your tickets through Rite-Aid (a chain drug store in our area), you will receive two dollars off the price of admission, good for any weekend. There are also group deals and rates available. Further information can be found concerning entry fees at: www.pgh-renfest.com/. Regular faire goers can also sign up to be one of Their Majesties Revelers. Unfortunately, none of these offers can be used together nor do they really offer any discounts as far as children’s tickets are concerned. This year we ha
d a total of 6 adults, and 5 children in our party and despite what we were told prior to reaching the gates, NONE of these Buy One, Get One coupons are good for children’s tickets. You can buy them an adult ticket, but then what’s the point? This was one of the only difficulties that we have ever had in our six or so years of attending this Festival, and I have contacted our yearly Hosts about this problem. Now then, when you turn into the Faire ground property, you will be directed by parking attendants with flags. If you are lucky, you may even catch the knights practicing their hand to hand combat or sword work as you pass the barn. I recommend getting there as early as possible, before the gates open, so that you will get a spot in the first or second row of the lot. The closer you are to the gates, the less you have to walk at the end of the day. Also, our faire allows tailgate picnics which allows Us to save more money... which we spend at the festival anyway! Be advised that not all Faires allow this, while others have picnic areas set aside for you. So be sure to familiarize yourself with your local faire policies before attending. Excitement always builds as we crest the open hills of the area and the faire gates are sighted. The sky was a brilliant blue last yer, and the pennants waving cheerily as we entered the faire. Some of the “villagers” are always at the gates to greet you and offer programs. You will hear phrases like, “Good day, gentle travelers!” and “How farest thou this fine day?”, from that moment on the enchantment begins! The Jousts and Other Entertainments: I recommend consulting your program immediately so that you can attempt to plan out your day. Be warned though, there is never enough time in a single visit to see everything or attend all shows! This goes along with the rule that no matter how much or how little you bring with you to spend; it’
s never enough. The programs are incredibly complete. They include a list of all Stage Acts, Command Performances, Games, Crafts, members of the Royal Court, Villagers, and the members of the Hanlon-Lees Action Theatre who put on the rousing jousts three times a day, and of course the Food, as well as a well marked map of the Faire grounds. The jousts are my favorite event on any weekend attended, and we always make a point of planning the rest of our activities around them. I usually scream myself hoarse each year and once lost my voice completely! They are always exciting and the dialogue, planned and improvised, is always amusing with a Monty Python-ish appeal. Choose your knight at the first joust, stick with him, and remember the louder you cheer the more likely your knight is to win! Try to remember that this is interactive, improvisational performance theatre or as our knight’s squire says, “You ARE a living audience. Breathe! In... out...”. Seating for the jousts are anywhere you care to plunk yourself down on the hillside, so a blanket is handy, or anywhere along the fence. Watch out for the rather LARGE spiders that gallop about in the grass at the top of the hill and by the trees! They are quite bold and have no qualms about forcing you to re-enact Little Miss Muffet! Personally, I enjoy a full view of the field and being able to hear all the verbal interplay so I usually take a place at the fence. Whatever name and colors he may have chosen that year, we almost always cheer for the same knight (Sir Konner this year) as he is a local fellow. “I have but one thing to say, these are my lands, you are my people!“. The knights customarily choose a young girl from those gathered around the fence, and after finding out her name, fight that joust in her honor. The first time we attended the Faire, my oldest daughter (then about five) was chosen by our knight to receive the rose he had won from Queen Ros
alind that year. It was an experience she has never forgotten and she kept that rose on her dresser until it was crumbling away. Although, it is usually the attractive older lasses whom they choose to place “favors” upon their arm or lance. This alone can be an amusing entertainment and I am still wondering where they found the large pool stick chalk prop to “cue up” Sir Konner’s lance! Each weekend has a theme. The weekend of Romance (which we attended this year), Celtic weekend, Peasant Olympics, Children’s Fantasy, Shakespeare’s weekend, and the Grand Finale. So, aside from the regular performers, like the Gypsy Guerilla Band (specializing in hit and run music), there are also events and shows tailored to each weekend, like the Tote-a-Bloke and Press-a-Wench events at the Peasant Olympics. The weekend we attended last year featured a vow renewal with King Edward and Queen Rosalind, the Wooing Contest, and Romancing the Stone in which you take a numbered stone at the gate and search for your match while wandering the faire. There are six stages placed throughout our faire and a schedule of performances is included with your program. Having young children we still have to attend the Dragon Hatching at least once, although it still manages to be an entertaining experience despite the fact that I have probably seen it about a dozen times. The Children’s Dell is located in the shady lower portion of the grounds and has crafts and games for the children to participate in all day long. It is also right next to the Gingerbread Stage that features all of the shows geared to the youngsters in the crowd. There really is something for all ages here. Each weekend, those passing through the gates also receive a sheet with several clues written out in verse that will lead you to different parts of the faire. This is a game for the kids. They collect stamps on their sheet when they solve each
riddle by finding the correct person or area, which will eventually spell out a word. They can then turn it in at the Children’s Dell for a small bag of treats. Children are always paid special attention throughout the faire but the Dell can be a haven to adults when the heat gets too intense or the kids start to wear out. Other Stage Acts available to us that weekend were: Jill MacDonald the Bagpiper to their Majesties (she was excellent!), the Maypole Dance which is always fun to participate in, the Human Chess Match where you can be chosen as a pawn in the Game of Kings, Les Fromage Brothers (“fairy tales with a twist”), the ever enjoyable Theatre in the Ground at the Mud Pit "where literary classics are literally dragged through the mud" (their Dante’s Inferno has to be seen to be believed!), the Pub Crawl featuring Irish songs and stories, the Sheriff and Feck show (“Medieval improvisation without any armor”), King’s Court (petitions and pardons before the King), and many others! Wares and Services: You can find a wide variety of unique crafts and wares here at the faire. Hand made lace, soaps, bath oils, and incenses, jewelry (like puzzle rings and gypsy anklets), pottery and glassware (both the glassblower and the blacksmith offer demonstrations every half hour!), leather goods, chain mail and weapons, period clothing and accessories, art of all types, Woodsong Instruments, the amazing and comfortable Sky Chairs (they have a website but it is a bit cheaper to buy from one of their stands), Fellowship Foundry Pewter, and Wazelle’s Wood Wizardry stand (beautiful staves, canes, wands, pipes and wall hangings!) are just a few examples. You can also have your hair braided by the Twisted Sister, have an amazingly beautiful “tattoo” painted on at Feather Touch, have your tarot cards read, and look up your last name for crest and motto in Family N
ame Histories. Additional Costs: Man powered rides, the Hippogryph, the Wild Boar, and the Crow’s Nest, are available for about $2.00 per person. The Hippogryph is especially enjoyable on a muggy day as you catch a nice breeze. It is like a much smaller version of the Pirate Ships found in so many amusement parks. Games such as Target Archery, Knife and Axe Throw, Test of Strength, Jacob’s Ladder, and the Dart Toss are all an extra fee as well, like any carnival, usually around $2.00. There is typically a sword ring, where for a nominal charge, you and a friend can don fencing equipment and prance about as if you actually knew what you were doing *wink*. For a dollar, the kids can traipse through The Enchanted Forest where they are sure to encounter Faeries, trolls, unicorns and other magical creatures. This is really geared toward the younger kids, but older kids still seem to enjoy it as well. There is a Costume Rental Stand directly opposite from the gates, if you really want to get into the spirit of the Faire and haven’t come prepared. Not that you have to come in costume, but it is encouraged nevertheless, and those of us who are a bit more obsessed *blush* take great pleasure in creating a new outfit for each year’s festival. Food and Beverage: Each stand has their own bill of fare. At the Royal Kitchens, Cotswold Kitchens, and the Queen’s Pantry, you can purchase such things as: huge turkey drumsticks, corn on the cob, tasty bread bowls of soup, pizza, tortilla wraps, apple dumplings a la mode, ice cream, sundaes, BBQ pork sandwiches, Kielbasa sandwiches, root bear, juice boxes, fries, a variety of cappuccinos, iced coffees and teas, and chicken on a stick. While many of these things are excellent, we find it cheaper to pack a cooler of goodies and spread a blanket outside the gates. There are many drink stands scattered throughout the faire, including “
taverns and pubs” at which you can purchase an ice cold Adult beverage of your choice. Always keep in mind that with the heat, excitement and tons of walking that it is important to take in a lot of liquids. Not necessarily alcoholic ones mind you, but it’s nice to have them available. We usually take jugs of water and water bottles around with us instead of paying the buck or two for their water. Last Words: Be sure to bring sunscreen and use it! Also, you do a lot of walking in addition to any other activities you may join, so drink lots of fluids and pace yourself to avoid heat stroke and heat exhaustion. There is a first aid stand should you require their services and anyone who works at the faire could direct you. Everyone is extremely friendly and helpful, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Feel free to participate as much as you like with language and costume, that is half the fun! There are plenty of sites online that will offer you phrases, meanings, proper addresses (Never call the King “Sirrah” unless you are prepared to defend thyself!) and colorful exclamations, insults, and euphemisms of the era. I would also like to add that up until five years ago, this poor faire had no permanent site and was forced to put up its entertainment in county fairgrounds. The situation was most unsuitable for the whole “feel” of a renaissance festival. All of us, workers and humble revelers alike, will be forever grateful to that generous landholder in Pennsylvania’s Donegal County who gave a parcel of his property to the Ren Fest. Since that time, more and more permanent structures, gardens, and seating go up each year, adding to the wondrous enjoyment and atmosphere. Even rain can't keep us away from this yearly excursion! So what, pray tell, might thou be waiting for? By the day! You shan’t find more revelry, bawdy humors, or wondrous sights in all the kingdoms!
Mayhap we shall meet thee whilst wandering midst the Queen’s Garden and hail the occasion as well met!