It was my very first Renaissance festival. I’m not entirely sure how that’s possible. But it’s true. I share that to explain why I wanted to go full out on my weekend visit to the Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie.
Step one, Renaissance costumes like these from HalloweenExpress.com. I know they are not required. But I always like an excuse to dress up and this seemed like an excellent one. I requested that my girlfriend and daughter do the same. The former was thrilled. The latter not-so-much. She’s nearly 14 so I should probably just be happy she agreed to go. She was just glad I gave her first pick at HalloweenExpress.com, where we got our period-appropriate garb.*
I was blown away at how many cars were already parked when we arrived around 2:00pm on Saturday, April 13. There was plenty of parking. But it was quite a hike to main entrance, and in the uneven dirt/grass field. So bring the Subaru and your walking shoes.
They sell programs at the front gate and I was kind of sorry I didn’t buy one, because the festival is a little bit daunting upon first glance. It’s much bigger than I expected and I was surprised to find it was comprised nearly entirely of permanent structures.
There were outdoor theaters and roving performers, read hot girls hooping and minstrels wandering. There were a couple of games and rides and attractions, for a small additional fee, including a dungeon, which I chickened out of at the last minute. Sigh.
There was tons of shopping – jewelry, costumes, souvenirs. We picked up a wreath of flowers for my daughter’s hair, a hand-painted parasol to protect my girlfriend’s fair skin, and for me, a clever unicorn puppet that the artist calls a “fantasy pet” from Midsummer Knight’s Dream.
We caught a birds of prey show and an improv comedy performance. But the people-watching was even more fun. The funny part was that it was hard to know who worked there and who was a “friend of the faire,” as some people acquire season passes and come every weekend.
The costuming was amazing in some cases, confusing in others, as Renaissance seems to mean a lot of different things to a lots of different people. Suffice it to say there were girls in bikinis and guys dressed like pirates, as well as fairies and queens and jesters.
It was also opening weekend for the new mermaid exhibit. It was a little silly, a handful of pretty young girls sitting in shallow pools of water, wearing long tails and tiny Ariel-inspired bikini tops. But the kids sure were getting a kick out of it, looking up at their parents asking if they were REAL mermaids. And who doesn’t like seeing pretty girls wearing and sitting in shells?
Then there was the food. The obligatory turkey legs were on the faire menu, of course, although I saw far fewer of them then I expected. I began my eating quest with a basket of fish and chips, which was surprisingly tasty. It was mostly fish, as opposed to being mostly fried, and it was well seasoned to boot.
I washed it down with a Woodchuck Pear Cider, which seemed appropriate. The faire takes place in a dry county. So have your license at the ready in order to secure a membership. My girlfriend opted for the chicken-on-a-stick, also a pleasant surprised. It was a very large portion of juicy breast meat skewered for easy noshing while wandering, and was equally well-seasoned, although a bit spicy for me.
My junior reviewer made the safe, but, it turned out, very wise, choice of chicken fingers and fries. They were both very tasty. The chicken was the real deal and the fries were crisp and not a bit greasy. She also ordered up a root beer, which was rich and frosty.
Later in the day, I indulged in a strawberry Italian ice. It was not the easiest thing to eat. But it was pretty ingenious. The ice was heaped on half of a frozen orange that served as the base, or “cup”. It was sweet and refreshing, which was key, as summer is eerily already upon us.
The one food mistake I made was grabbing a late-in-the-day slice of cheese pizza. Don’t ask me what I was thinking because I have no idea. Needless to say, it was a bad idea. It was cardboard-y and tasteless. So, clearly, skip the pizza. There are plenty of other much better options. If what we ate earlier in the day is any indication, the sausage on a stick or the peasant bread are likely better bets.
There some surprising choices that we didn’t get the chance to try, including jalapeno poppers, fajitas, fresh fruit skewers, stir fry , French crepes, and crawfish ettoufe. Suffice it to say there were too many things for just four girls to try.
We couldn’t resist grabbing a bag of kettle corn for the hour-long drive back to North Dallas. We were glad we did since it was some of the best kettle corn any of us has ever had. Although, like most bags of genuine copper-kettle-made corn, it was gone way too quickly.
Some of the folks at the event take the whole to-do quite seriously. When one of my napkins blew away, a man wearing “peasant linens” with a walking stick and a pint attached to his belt came by and asked if I planned to litter the entire kingdom. And we got a few royal nods and waves from some other costumed attendees—still not sure if they were faire employees or not. Regardless, the semi-immersion was fun and I was glad to be in costume. Strangely, that made it all seem less silly. I figure, if you’re going to do it, you might as well really do it!
I can definitely see going back next year and I would highly recommend attending yourself. I don’t imagine myself there for repeated weekends. I’m afraid with my lack of will power I’d weigh 1,000 pounds if I did. But it is an excellent way to spend a sunny day. Next year though, instead of going royal with layers and layers of beautiful fabrics, I’m going as a fairy. I do love any chance I get to wear wings.