A day of fantasy and binge drinking! Oh, and the Renaissance Festival…
I always look forward to the annual Arizona Renaissance Festival. Eight weeks of hell for Gold Canyon residents… but the Ren Faire was there first. As Ded Bob said, when you get to Gold Canyon you realize it is just Apache Junction!
This year marked the thirtieth anniversary of the festival. Gold Canyon residents that gripe are like people that buy houses under the flight path of an airport and then complain about the noise. Caveat Emptor.
We always arrive before the gates open. This is a tradition started by Mike Henderson. He had to be at the front of the line when the gates opened. He had it down to a fine art.
This year we arrived early, but for another reason. I was to perform a wedding ceremony between two good friends, Kim and Denise. This is my first official act as a minister of the Universal Life Church.
Yeah, I got no pics… it is pretty hard to photograph yourself when you are officiating a wedding.
After the ceremony outside the gates, we used Mike’s tactics to work our way towards the front of the line. Once inside, we hit the beer line and then made our way to the arena to see Tartanic, a bagpipe and drums quartet. They bill themselves as Men Without Pants. A mix of traditional Scottish tunes and heavy metal, we never miss them.
The festival grounds are filled with regulars in costume. Costumes range from the painfully authentic to the fantastical.
One of our must-see stops are the Washing Wenches. Their routine has not changed from the first time we saw them, but every time it is a blast. It is audience participation, and most of the participants are willing only because they have no clue how badly they are about to be degraded. The girls target those not in costume, knowing that chances are they are newbies about to be inaugurated.
The drinks are not overly overpriced. Six dollars for a Smithwicks. Food is also affordable, so the entire family can attend without breaking the bank.
There are dozens of acts – you cannot possibly see them all in one day. Most are family friendly, others are more risque. The R-rated acts are clearly marked, so shame on you if you take your young children to one of these and are offended.
There are several jousts throughout the day. These are real jousts. The tournaments begin with feats of skill, hooking a small ring on the lance while at a full gallop. Then they build up to the opponents attempting to pierce each others’ shields.
Points are awarded for hitting the shield, breaking the shield and piercing the shield. More points if you break your opponent’s lance. All with the riders dressed in a full suit of armor.
Okay, the lances are wood and not steel, so you will not witness any bloodbath here. You can’t have everything. After all, we are still civilized. But this is the closest you will come to King Arthur’s court in Arizona.
After the joust, we always stop to see the Jamila Lotus dancers. More than belly dancers, these girls dance with sharp weapons.
The troupe is locally based, but tours across the United States in other Renaissance festivals. The dances, costumes and music are all based on traditional ethnic culture.
To end the day, we wind down to see Ded Bob and the Tortuga Twins. They perform on the same stage, which is convenient. We get to rest our legs after walking the 30 acre grounds.
These two shows are R-rated. They are clearly marked as such. The Ded Bob show features a hooded ventriloquist with a skeleton dummy. Sure you can’t tell if his lips are moving, but who cares? His jokes were often targeted to locals, and many wouldn’t get the punchline.
The Tortuga Twins are a three person act. Ending the day, they pushed the limits of political correctness. I witnessed several families quickly walk out with their young children when the jokes became extremely homosexual in nature. Too bad they couldn’t read the “R-Rated” warning that was plainly posted. Too bad they didn’t heed the dozen or so warnings that they were not kid friendly. And somehow they pushed the boundaries without any cursing.
Needless to say, I survived the day without incident. My happily married couple spent their honeymoon today shooting handguns in the desert. Just as the Renaissance Festival is filled with anachronisms, we are breaking stereotypes daily.