Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bay Area Ren Fest, 2014

On Saturday John and I made our yearly pilgrimage to Tampa for Florida's largest Ren Fest. Thanks to about five separate accidents and a big county fair we spent more time in the car than at the festival (roughly 3 hours each way), but I kept the panic monster in line by tracking our progress on my phone. Then on the way home John plugged my phone into the car stereo and had me watch Ghostbusters on Netflix. (See, I knew that man was a keeper.)

 Medieval Ariel!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not really a Ren Fair person. I'm a classic introvert, and all the boisterous performers, vendors, and barkers are my own personal boogeymen. I live in fear of one of them noticing me, pulling me from the audience to be forced up on stage, or singling me out in the crowd for an embarrassing Q&A about my pickle-buying-habits. (Don't laugh: it happens.)

But despite these fears I keep coming back year after year, because dangit, THESE ARE MY PEOPLE.

 Marty McFly wins.




Plus when you get down to it, most of the Ren Fair crowd is really just a boozier and more interactive convention crowd. They're ridiculously nice, open to everyone, and frankly have way better age-diversity than most other geek events.


 
I helped this lovely lady tie up her corset in the parking lot. Because, really, how often do you get asked to tie up someone's corset in a parking lot?


Where even the dogs wear armor!

Most of my photos this year were of my friend Christie, but I'm going to show you those in another post. (It's a surprise!) I didn't take too many pics other than hers; after a while all the pretty dresses and suits of armor start to look the same, so I only stopped folks who caught my eye with something unique. For example, this blue fairy wore latex gloves, so she could blow bubbles through her fingers:

Fun!

The Festival offers elephant rides, so we stopped to watch the two big creatures munching on hay and begging for treats, which the handlers would tuck into their giant mouths with almost comical nonchalance:


During one stop the elephant was pretty intent on pestering his handler, who, after sharing her nuts with him, completely ignored his trunk tickling around her arm and waist. I was fascinated, and snapped a photo. The pic turned out to be a happy accident: my spot metering was off, making it way over-exposed, but I've decided I like the look:

In fact, this is my favorite shot from the whole day. I love the contrast of textures, and the lady is just stunning.

And speaking of stunning ladies:


Lady Knight!

On our way out John and I stopped to watch the final jousting match, which started with the two knights' squires doing a test run with padded lances. As the opposite squire approached our end of the field, John squeaked, "JEN. It's a GIRL!!" And then we both did little happy dances.

Here's the squire Lady Knight ran against:




 And some action shots from the real joust:

I like how this shot makes it look like there's a hell mouth opening up in the middle of the field. :D (It's really just the light hitting all the kicked up dust.)

Both knights were unhorsed, and the girl in the foreground was off and running before they even hit the ground. (She was in charge of fetching the horse.)


After a tense moment or two, both knights were up and throwing comical punches at each other:

Lady Knight's knight was defeated, but she retaliated by sneaking up behind the victor and knocking him over the head with his own shield.

It was pretty great. :D

After that I tracked her down for a photo, but she was such a celebrity I didn't get the chance to ask her name or age:
So I'll just keep calling her Lady Knight - and I'm guessing she's somewhere between, um, 12 and 28. 
(I am very bad at guessing ages. Can you tell?)

K, that's it for me! And if any of you locals want to check it out, the Bay Area Renaissance Festival runs every weekend through April 6th. 

Oh, and also for my fellow Floridians: MegaCon is less than 2 weeks away! Rest assured John and I will be there all three days, and I *think* Lady Vadore may make an appearance. I'll have plenty of pins to give away, so please say hi if you see us!

38 comments:

  1. Looks so fun! I like seeing pics from other faires besides the ones in CA I go to. Just got back from the 28th annual Sonora Celtic faire! I wore my steam gear on sat and today I was a fairy, fun times man!

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  2. Oh, I am the same ... I love the vibe, the crafts, the performances, but I am so scared that some of the townies will try to interact with me! So, as much as I love Ren Faires and put them on my calendar, I only make a third of them, at most (the hubs isn't into the genre, so he doesn't push, which might help, lol).

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  3. Hey Nicole B., that was a fair I was looking forward too! I'm down in Modesto and usually try to hit the Celtic Faire and All Hallow's Faire, but this year, life got in the way, you know? Today, about noon, I was planning the calendar for the week and asked my son if we should go to the Celtic Faire next Saturday or Sunday and he said, "Uh, Mom, you have it on the calendar for today." DOH! Thought it was closer to St. Patrick's Day!

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    1. darn! well the next I plan on going to is Valhalla renaissance faire at South lake Tahoe in june; have you ever been to that one? half the fun for me is getting up there, I am in Yosemite, so yay mountains!

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  4. Aw, if I wasn't such a chicken (and my horse wasn't such a chicken) I'd love to do jousting, looks like such fun!

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  5. Being from England I don't really get Renaissance Faires AT ALL... especially as someone who has done medieval re-enactment @_@

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  6. I adore the Lady Knight! I just finished reading Tamora Pierce's "Protector of the Small" series, which made it even more awesome to see the pictures.

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  7. Jen, have you thought of making a tee with something on it that announces your fear, but in a way that doesn't make you look like a nut-job? Something like "Danger, I have panic issues and I know how to freak out" Or some such... I don't know if it would help or hinder your cause... I had a friend with an autistic child that would freak if she was touched by a stranger, They did something like that for her and instead of touching, people would give her a little breathing room as they passed.

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    1. I think as an adult wearing something like that would be seen as a joke, and get me the opposite reaction - not to mention I don't like wearing shirts with text on them, because they call attention to me! Ha! (I'm ok with geeky tees, obviously, but I stick to images; I don't like that awkwardness of having a stranger pause to read my shirt.)

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    2. A good performer should be able to read you, Jen. They're looking for someone who wants to participate, who's into everything and, on some level, already participating, because they know who's going to be the right person for what they're trying to do, and somebody who does not want to be involved is not who they want. From my experience as a performer, keeping your camera out and ready is a big "I'm an observer, not a participant," clue, as is anyone who isn't making eye contact, anyone in the back two thirds of the audience, and anyone whose friends really want them up on stage. There are also smaller body language clues that you probably give away naturally. My husband is a non-participant, but I'm a performer, and I notice the difference between going places with and without him; if you've not been harassed by someone within about 6 minutes of being in a Ren Faire, you're probably safe.

      Only exception at a Ren Fest might be if you cosplay it. If you do, I would highly suggest a mask, because where costume is an invitation for participation, the mask is a barrier, "I want to play, but on my terms." You've probably learned this with Lady Vadore.

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    3. Kate, I've noticed similar even in just going to concerts and comedy shows. Good performers pick up your body language of whether or not you want to participate.

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    4. Maybe it varies by ren faire, but I've always found that being dressed up keeps you from getting picked out by the performers. Conversely though, you are more likely to be approached by patrons both ungarbed (for a picture/mistake you for staff) and garbed (usually compliment/ask about a piece your wearing).

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  8. That looks so fantastic! I really want to go to a Ren Faire like this! Alll the ones around where I am are more strictly medieval, and I want to hang around with people like the ones in your pictures! Also Lady Knight is awesome!

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  9. Shelley in So. IllinoisMarch 10, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    The Renaissance Ariel was just perfect! I love seeing these pictures of a world I haven't even encountered. It is always a pick-me-up when I have a new Epbot post to enjoy!

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  10. i used to be a Faire Dork...i'd go every year, for the whole season, both days each weekend.

    then i went to an SCA event. and...well...i think i'm done with Faire. kinda kills me, but i like the historical aspect of the SCA. it's a lot easier to be anonymous in the SCA, as well.

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  11. I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE the lady and elephant photo. Elephants are my favorite and that picture is gorgeous.

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  12. Since our RenFest is a fall event, it's very weird to me to see the live oaks in the background, which I associate with summer. Your fair looks like it has a lot of other-themed costuming; urs stays pretty strictly medieval/renaissance, which I have to say I prefer to the film-reference costumes.

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    1. I wish ours was in the Fall or Winter - it's usually over 90 degrees at this one every year, so it was a treat that Saturday was "only" 80! And the majority of costumes there really are more period-accurate; I just took pics of all the oddballs, so to speak. ;)

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  13. rode past the Scarborough Renaissance Festival grounds here early last month (and yesterday) and they were already working on it for the festivities. I see they have added more weeks to it. When I moved here it was the weekends of May ... Now it is April and May.

    I like the Lady Knight. I've been reading the Mongoliad series and she'd fit right in with the Skjalddis (Shield-Maidens), I'm sure.

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  14. I absolutely LOVE the ren faire! I live in Ontario so I hit the ones in Michigan, but man I could use a hit of ren friendliness right about now. I try to make it at least three weekends, but then life does sometime get in the way. I need to move somewhere warmer so I can go more times throughout the year... OR get more money and fly to more of them :)

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  15. What on earth is the third one supposed to be. How odd.

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    1. Ah, I see you've never been introduced to Furries! They're a staple at most conventions.

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  16. I used to be a Rennie, partially as a way to get over my anxiety. (It wasn't ME talking to people; it was Molly.) I got pretty good at reading body language and if someone seemed uncomfortable, I backed off. For the most part, people that get singled out are nominated by friends for embarrassment (and/or are regulars). Willing volunteers > unhappy victims every time.

    One recommendation I have is to use your camera as your personal prop. Performers will mug for it or feign confusion over what it is but it will keep them from touching you and targeting you for anything other than the strange thing you're holding. ;p

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  17. As a life-long equestrian (though currently without a horse -- boo grad school!), the idea of jousting makes me all giddy and happy inside. One important question, though, that I can't tell from the pictures -- are the riders wearing approved helmets? Some reenacting I've done disguises a helmet pretty well under whatever hat my character is to be wearing (often with a lovely ribbon or scarf covering the chin harness).

    I love the idea of jousting, but the idea of jousting without protective gear terrifies me. For anyone with kids going to these and wanting to be a knight themselves (or any of you wanting to give it a go), PLEASE reiterate the importance of safety. Falls are a part of the sport -- not just jousting, but any kind of riding, so be safe.

    That said, horses are the only reason I can keep my anxiety at bay as well as I can. Just be safe out there. Please.

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    1. No idea on the helmets, since we could only see the outside of them, but since this is regular attraction I have to assume safety is a top priority. Plus, of course, they're all wearing full suits of armor... ;)

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  18. I suggested to Improv Everywhere a few years ago that they have Marty McFly run into Bill and Ted at the NY Ren Faire and have chaos ensue, but no one ever got back to me. The next time I go to a Ren Faire, I think I'll _Back to the Future_ Bound--subtly dress as a female Marty. (Does Bounding work that way? Can I co-opt the word for a different fandom?)

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  19. Wow, all excellent photos, as always, and I love seeing the Ren Fest through your eyes, because I would never dare to go to one. Even though...squeeee...elephants! I love elephants! Of course, they shouldn't be in captivity and made to do ridiculous things like let people ride on their backs, but since these were probably born into captivity and know no other life, I hope at least that they are very well taken care of and loved. They certainly are magnificent.

    That's a cool idea the blue fairy had to wear gloves and blow bubbles through her fingers. Parking lot corset-lady: lovely. Marty McFly: awesome. Pregnant elephant-handler goddess: gorgeous (and I hope she gets to see your amazing photo of her). Lady Knight: fabulously sexy (and another beautiful photo).

    Can't wait for the Christie-surprise post! Did you make something that she's wearing? Eeeeee! The suspense and anticipation! Its killing me!!

    KW

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  20. Beautiful photos as always Jen! Love, love, love! the elephant tickling his (her?) handler. The lighting is awesome on that shot!

    Meanwhile, in Seattle - I'll be at ECCC while you're at MegaCon! Squeeee! So cool!
    Have fun; I'll watch for your posts afterward.

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  21. I know it's different for everyone, but ren faires actually helped me cope with my social anxiety. At my worst point, I couldn't even go out to dinner with friends, because I was afraid I'd feel sick and if I felt sick my friends would notice and they would make a fuss over me which would make me feel worse. So of course, everytime I'd go out I would instantly feel ill because I already had this huge image of what would happen built up in my head.

    The first year I really began to participate in faire I was anxious and sick every morning on the ride in, but eventually I began to feel safe with the people and the space. Attending and working various faires actually helped me to feel more confident, even in the "real world", because it introduced me to people who accepted me and let me be if I needed it without making a scene. I was able to interact on my own terms until I felt comfortable and once I felt comfortable I was able to learn how to carry on a conversation. I was also shocked to discover that a great deal of ren faire participants have anxiety issues, even some of the performers!

    Now I am living in another country that doesn't have ren faires and I am struggling a bit with conversation and being invited to dinner and parties by well-intentioned people, but after my past experiences at faire I no longer get sick at the prospect of social interaction and I know I can handle it.

    Thanks for posting all the lovely pictures! I can't wait to see your surprise post!

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  22. I really wish you'd come down to FlaRF one year. We have a steampunk/time traveler's themed weekend every year. I've worked there for 22 years now.

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  23. I love Ren Fairs! My first experience was at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, which is one of the biggest in the country, when I was 11 and I loved it. I also used to do fire safety for my college's fire spinning troupe. Yes, I went to a college with a fire spinning troupe. My college also had a student-run circus every year. Lots of those folks either do work or have worked at Ren Fairs. They'd probably be a safe show to watch because they almost never ask for audience participation because it would just be too dangerous. They just leave it to the professionals and let everyone else watch.

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  24. Is your friend Christie the same one you've photographed cosplaying as a mermaid and as Evil Queen at DragonCons? (No I am NOT a cyberstalker, I just love impressive cosplay photos and I happen to be good at remembering names. :-) If so, can't wait to see the pix! (Even if not, still looking forward to seeing the pix.)

    Kimstu

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  25. Just 143 more days until the PA Ren Faire opens! I love my faire and even bought a season pass this year. It runs first weekend in August until the last in October (: Those cool fall days are the best time to go!

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  26. I love the elephant and her handler! You should try cropping it in some, taking out most of the platform and just below the edge of her skirt. That way the focus is even more on them.

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  27. One of my favorite attendees at the local Ren Faire was someone dressed as Ash from Army of Darkness (complete with chainsaw and boomstick). My friend also has someone who perpetually shows up with a TARDIS (yep, full size, has to be assembled on site) and there's always someone in various Doctor incarnation costumes.

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  28. Oh my goodness, look at how calm those horses are considering the activity that they are acting in! Also Marty McFly I think I can do that for my son's halloween costume this year! I just wonder if I will be getting laced jordans in time.

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  29. The fairy you pictured is Bauble the Blue Bubble Fairy. She's a wonderful and incredibly talented performer, and I was privileged enough to work as a first-year fairy under her this year.

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