We all knew that faire was going to look a bit different this year. I think it made us a little nervous to see how everything would come out with the closing of the Ohio Renaissance Festival in favor of the more limited Magical Days, Madrigal Knights. But I truly feel that everyone present at last week’s event took everything to heart and pushed forward with an amazing dedication to the faire and one another. I want to take a moment to applaud the staff, performers, cast, and vendors for really turning it out on all levels and finding a way to make this year special amid all the confusion and chaos. It felt like faire. Maybe a slow faire day, but faire none the less.
The cast got really lucky this year in the realm of musical talent, filling out not only the Queen’s Choice Choir but a brass and string section to boot. We headed over to the Lorelei Bigarten to take in the music of the Stratford Strings, Willy Nilly’s own string quartet. It made for a lovely start to the day, sitting back and people watching as the strings played in the background. People milled by, some stopping for their first drink, others grabbing bourbon chicken fresh off the grill. It started to feel right again. Different, but right.
The day only got better when we headed over to the Aleing Knight Pub for Father, Son & Friends followed by the Wenches A Wailing! The pub is always where faire feels most like a festival. The singing, the drinks, the crowd participation. It all happens organically, transforming this open-air venue into the olde English (or occasionally Scottish/Irish when FS&F is on stage) pub. They really helped bring the day together and let the world linger on the stage while we clapped our hands to the familiar songs they sing.
This year the Kamikaze Fireflies took to the Shipwreck Stage to entertain the crowds with their acrobatic antics! I love watching their bubble routine. The whole crowd jumped when they accidentally popped one on stage! They had a huge crowd as always, but thanks to the socially distanced pod seating and consideration of the people, everyone was nicely spaced out or masked if they were in close. All eyes were on the Fireflies till the very end.
The Madrigal Feast was where the cast of the Ohio Renaissance Festival really shone! They took over the Dirty Duchess (currently known as the Queen’s Feast Hall) with almost two hours of entertainment! Made- Up Mayhem took suggestions from the crowd and did some hilarious improv skits. The Birmingham Brass let their music wail as course after course was laid out. The Sirens and the Pirates got their chance to shine and Queen Elizabeth herself rounded out the show as she graced the hall. The five-course meal was delicious, especially the mushroom soup. I was really happy with the honey-roasted carrots and prime rib, but that baked apple dumpling was so good I almost drank the cinnamon sauce.
As the sun set it was a somewhat odd sensation to have so many people still wandering around past dusk. But it was nice to share the enchantment of the grounds at night with others, especially once the fire dancers began! Sunshine Phoenix of the Vulcan Knights finished out the faire day with a display of fire and skill, dancing with flaming bolas, quarterstaff, and swords as the music poured over the crowd. We sat back and relaxed, watching the golden-red light slice through the air as she performed. It was a perfect way to end the MDMK day.
I think of this as a season of experiments. In many ways, the ren faire has done things the same way year after year. If nothing else the current climate has forced us into innovation. Tipping your favorite on-stage performance can now be accomplished via apps like Venmo or PayPal, keeping the audience and actors safe as well as making it easier to support artists in an increasingly cashless world. The Wenches A Wailing even used 6 ft tipping baskets complete with sewn bosoms to slip the dollars in between.
Maps & schedules can now be found via QR code, making it more convenient for guests to plan their day without tons of paper maps littering the grounds or trading hands. I’ll even go so far as to say the masks had an underrated but marked improvement on general personal cleanliness, as wearing one kept the kicked up dust and dirt from getting into my airways! These changes may seem small, but they are relevant to the ways in which we are altering our presentation to suit the changing world.
There are still two Magical Days, Madrigal Knights events left on September the 26th and October 10th! Be sure to buy your tickets now as this is a limited admission event!