Monday, May 21, 2012

The Days of King Henry

This past weekend I made a journey I haven't made since before I moved to New York: the Georgia Renaissance Festival in Fairburn, Georgia, just south of Atlanta. I first found out about the "RenFest" when I was dragged there by some friends/co-workers at Ft. Benning who thought it would help get me out of a post-breakup funk that I was in. It did.

The RenFest isn't quite like stepping back in time, but it is a bit like stepping into the Twilight Zone. The festival is a bizarre mixture of the past and present, with some elements of fantasy thrown in for good measure. Yes, King Henry VIII and his court can be seen strolling the streets and overlooking the daily jousting tournament, there are also pirates, acrobats, comedians, blacksmiths, musicians, and vendors. Food options range from the ever-popular turkey leg to fried pickles. Wares for sale range from tapestries to kilts to armor to "elf ears" to didgeridoos. All this makes for an eclectic day at the park.

For me, it was a day to visit with friends, as I met some who were also visiting that day as well as others who are performers in the park. There is some nostalgia and familiarity as many elements are unchanged from previous years, from the souvenirs to the acts. It was great to see one of my favorite local bands, The Lost Boys, make a return to Renfest after being absent the past few years. Their blend of rock and roll with Shakespeare is one of the most creative musical acts I've come across and they always manage to put on a fun show. (Their oeuvre, which they claim is French for...oeuvre...consists of originals like the opening number "Art Thou Ready?" to parodies like "Desdemona," which sets lyrics about Othello's love interest to the tune of the Knack's "My Sharona.") I also enjoyed a performance by Half-Pint, made up of two of the three members of another favorite band, Three Quarter Ale. (The other member has other engagements on weekend afternoons.) The jousting is also a lot of fun to watch, even though the script is still mostly the same. Considering that it involves guys charging at each other on real horses, the staged nature does not diminish the excitement. There are plenty of other entertainments, from the family-friendly tongue-in-cheek Catholic humor of "Hey Nunny Nunny" to the very NON-family-friendly Ded Bob Show. (Seriously, don't take little kids to that one.)

There's a little time left this year, so if you're in the Atlanta area on the weekend check out the Renaissance Festival. As my friend/fellow musician Andy Womack has observed in song, it isn't necessarily historically accurate, but it is a lot of fun.(Also, I hope he doesn't mind me borrowing a song title for the name of this post...)

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