Valley Pike: Partying like it’s 1499
Posted: October 10, 2012
Revel Grove, Md. — For our wedding anniversary this year — our 14th, can you believe it? — I eschewed the flowers-and-baubles routine and went a bit different.
For years, my wife had expressed an interest in returning to the Maryland Renaissance Festival — which she attended once pre-me — but autumn forever seemed to pass without it happening.
So this October, despite Toni’s lingering uncertainty that I’d want to depart Revel Grove as soon as I got there, I decided to surprise her and, well, party like it was 1499.
OK, having never been to, say, ComicCon or a Trekkie convention, the RenFest is a bit out of my comfort zone, or so I thought. For me, seeing Nick Nerangis decked out in his Hogette garb constitutes a brush with the bizarre. Toni says I’ve lived far too sheltered a life.
Not anymore, I suppose. Saturday found us festival-bound beneath leaden skies. A traffic accident which trapped us in congestion on a Maryland two-lane, a tantalizing hop-skip away from our destination, simply gave my wife more time to prepare me for what was in store — folks in all sorts of Renaissance get-up, huge turkey legs, and myriad other concessions “on a stick.”
I was not shortchanged. The crowd — a rather large one, it was Octoberfest Saturday — was, as my wife might say, “charmingly eclectic.” While I did see any number of folks outfitted in chain mail and aluminum pants and even more dressed as nuns, monks, Pucks, troubadours, denizens of Sherwood Forest and, as I was duly warned, lusty (and sometimes busty) wenches advertising their attributes, I also noticed a fair amount of Orioles T-shirts and Nats hats. So I felt right at home.
Naturally, after our extended trip, we headed straight to the food area after purchasing our tickets. Truth be told, I’d like to have the “stick” concession, as so many of the edible delights featured them — “steak on a stake,” meatballs on a stick, cheesecake on a stick, even mac-and-cheese, though the fusion problem presented by that delectable treat still perplexes me.
Toni and I opted for the decidedly prosaic — she a crabcake sandwich with apple dumpling a la mode for dessert, and me a pork barbecue pocket (excellent) and a “cone of cookies” washed down with ice-cold milk (not 2 percent or skim, but the real deal).
In between noshing there was plenty to keep us occupied, as the wooded demesne features not only a kids area — I decided against the curvy slide — but also a half-dozen stages where one can witness a wide variety of shows, from the legitimate (Act III of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” for instance) to the light-hearted (“Macbeth in 20 Minutes, or Less”).
We caught a number of the latter offerings — “The Renaissance Man” doing “Romeo and Juliet” with kids, the comedic duo of . . . wait for it . . . Puke and Snot — and found the banter appealing, if somewhat on the ribald side.
But my favorite activity was the jousting competition. Now, I’ve seen country-fair jousting, where riders amass points by spearing rings (dangling from poles) with their lances. There was plenty of that, but when I saw the horsemen in full regalia — breast plates, helmets, et al — I sensed something was up. Yes, they were actually going to compete against each other.
I listened intently to the scoring rules and heard the word “unhorsed.” Being your average NFL fan, I desired the ultimate hit, a rider sent tumbling after a lance jolt.
Alas, it was not to be — a good thing, I realized, when removal of headgear revealed “knights” who looked like Patrick McGoohan and Alec Guinness, in their dotage.
After four hours of merrie old wandering, we left the grounds sated. The ride home was uneventful, save for another traffic snarl — four lanes merging to two on I-495. Simply more time for me to ponder the physical conundrum of mac-and-cheese . . . on a stick.