Ope’ wide the gates let this beginners guide begin!
The nights here in New England are getting colder. A smattering of the trees have already started to trade their crisp emerald leaves in for the deep rust and brilliant gold of autumn. September is upon us and with it the low rumble of school buses filled with children, dreams of Halloween treats, and the scent of apple pies cooling on the stovetop.
September also means the start of King Richard’s Faire. King Richard’s is an annual celebration of everything fun and merry as set in a fantastical festival in the year 14, cough cough. I was born and raised in New England; just one short year prior to King Richard’s being founded. It amazes me that it took meeting my husband, seventeen years ago, to make me aware of the faires presence in the world. With that knowledge came the familiarity with a cast of delightful characters, mythical creatures and truly good people.
By the end of this I hope that you, if not aware of King Richard’s before reading, will not only know of its existence but you will have a desire to visit its enchanted village at least once. The village of Carvershire springs to life only once a year, for only 8 short weeks. In this time the small realm is host to vikings, pirates, kings and queens, satyrs, dragons. Even the occasional Away Team and Doctor pops in for a visit.
Now I will not sugar coat the truth. A visit to the faire can be expensive. It’s just under $30 a head for admission and no re-admittance should you need to exit. It can be challenging for any with special considerations, be they, health, dietary, or otherwise. Also while there are ATM’s on site, both are inside the faire grounds and the main gate is cash only. Also as it is a supply and demand situation the ATM fee is rather high. If you can avoid using it I would recommend doing so.
Food on site is purchased using tickets, easily purchased at various locations around the faire grounds. While this is something of a hassle, I can understand the necessity for security reasons. Plan accordingly though as ticket lines can be longer at certain points of the day. Primarily, this occurs at gate opening and around the mid-afternoon when everyone is seeking their lunch repast. Should you find yourself with a surplus of tickets at days end you will not be able to get cash back for them. Please do not throw them out, find a cast member or an act and donate the tickets to them. The staff all need to purchase their food with those tickets, just like you or I. Don’t throw your money away, feed a Rennie. It keeps them out of trouble.
The performers are one of a kind. The villagers who make up the majority of the people you see are typically unpaid apprentices. They are there for the love of performing, the love of the patrons and the love of each other. They work hard and are there rain or shine, whether it is 20° or 100° out. Play along and join in with the fun. If you have some costumes (hereafter referred to as garb) wear it. Not only will you probably have some additional fun, but you will help to spread the magic of the faire while doing so. Nothing is as unforgettable of the look of wonder on the faces of the countless children that walk through the gates to see a myriad of jugglers and fire breathers, a cast of villagers singing and dancing round the maypole. When you go in garb, even if you aren’t cast you help keep the mirage alive just a little longer.
When you go there are countless options with what to do with your time. Stage shows, vendors and street skits abound. Wandering minstrels play instruments and sing on most corners. Knights tilt at each other and compete in tournaments throughout the day on the tourney field. There is no way to take all the sites in in one day. If you have young children, you really must check out Kids Cove and their wonderful family friendly activities. See if your younglings can find the fairies frolicking in their glade before taking a chance in the pirate’s maze. The joust is fun for the whole family, although I dare say I haven’t seen one in probably about a decade or so. They are usually the most packed of any of the days activities.
A few shows bear special mention. The Tale of the Tiger is a must see. The big cats they have will take your breath away. You see them so close and can almost forget that they are wild animals. Please remember though no children in the front few rows. They might look a little too tempting to Hercules… he’s only about 11 feet tall.
The musical is a faire specialty, it runs in two parts. Each year the nature of the musical changes entirely. This year is 50 Shade of Greymarsh. Greymarsh is, of course, the omnipresent evil kingdom just next door to the peaceful village of Carvershire. The musical is full of tongue in cheek song and dance that helps to advance the faires plot each year.
Evening Revels is the only way to close out your day at the faire and one of the only shows where no matter how many times you go is almost entirely different each time. Evening Revels is a catch all, it wraps the plot up neatly and is a chance for villager and noble alike to showcase a little something they have been working on. I have seen proposals, professional opera singers, even a few twisted takes on fairy tales.
As the closing bells sound and the candles begin to be extinguished follow the parade of villagers just outside the gate and join in one final song to welcome the starlight. After all only at the faire can the good guys always win, the bad guys see the light of their misdeeds and everything truly end right. It is a dream that fades, luckily for us we can go back to that dream every year.
Remember life’s a game, have fun with it.
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