A Tribute to Texas Renaissance Festival

The sixth season approaches back-dropped against TRF’s 40th season. My goodness. I think I will spend this time of rambling about the faire experience and why I think many of us came to this place in our lives where we would don ourselves in costume and take on a character from the inner recesses of our being.

So, many years ago, when I was much younger, I heard of the Texas Renaissance Festival. I had just started teaching high school. I had been introduced to Dungeons and Dragons only a few years before that. I went to faire unsure of what to expect. It was an amazing place. A world not of Disney’s making, but something much, much more. The characters were ogres and trolls, witches and wenches, pirates and knights, ladies in waiting and Royalty themselves.

There was comedy, tragedy, magic and music. The setting was illusionary. It was the time of Henry VIII. English accents…some with a Texas twang.

And so, over the years, I returned to the grounds of TRF. I joined SCA – not because I was one of them, but because working the games two hours a day would allow me to enter faire for free and camp behind the scenes. I remember the first time I camped and stayed in costume. Among the SCA folk, that was fine; but, among the entertainers and old timers, I stood out as a nooby.

But I found my niche over time. I eventually found toontown…and the drumming circle.

One year, in the early 80s, I even took my history classes out there. The kids eyes were wide open as they took in the scantily clothed men and women, the bawdy shows, the strangeness of it all.

As time passed, and I became a vendor there in 1990, I realized TRF was not a strange place at all; but rather a sanctuary from the demands of the world outside.

It was a place where people could be who they were, who they wanted to be—without condemnation or judgment. It was a place to “let one’s hair down” and act silly or crazy or even sane (in our insane existence).

I saw the two faires—the one during the day and the one at night. I saw the camping for patrons and the place the participants and entertainers stayed. I saw the nurturing of art and a subculture that transcended much of the ideologies of the hippies of the 60s. I saw children being taught how to dance in traditional gypsy fashion. I saw tents and campers. I saw community.

I saw escape from the demands of the eight-to-five that seemed to beat people down and make them conform more than was healthy for their psyche.

I witnessed fire spinning and breathing for the first time up close.

And I knew I was hooked. I knew it would forever be a part of me.

Over the years, my crew at our shops attempted to break into the “inner circle”—the ol’ timers—but we realized that was not very feasible. They, by that time, had huddled into various back quarters playing their music more quietly and keeping to themselves. So, we started our own rites and rituals on the grounds at night—always attempting to be respectful of Mr. Coulam’s creation. We would sing under the moon light at the chapel. We would wander through the Magic Garden. We would perform poetry and drama on the steps of the arena. And we would make up tales of our own.

We would sneak out to the patrons’ campground and partake of the revere out there. Then, in the wee hours, we would wander back, sleep, only to rise early to begin for faire the next day.

And as time went by, my soul would yearn for the fall where we would walk and play in the world of our making. I say “the world of our making” because we felt we were a part—not just a cog in a machine. Our roles sprung out of our own creation.

So, hats off to George Coulam and the Texas Renaissance Festival. Hats off to the entertainers and vendors and participants and patrons for these four decades of excellence. Hats off the vision. Hats off to the many who are happier and their lives more full because of faire.

And Sherwood is very much here and alive because the Texas Renaissance and the mastery of Mr. Coulam.

Cheers and we will see you in that east Texas forest setting soon… and then at Sherwood Forest Faire come the spring of 1194.

Rengypsy

 

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One Comment → “A Tribute to Texas Renaissance Festival”


  1. Frankiedad
    3 years ago

    Very nice and well written! Thank you for posting this. Frank


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