Monday, November 14, 2011

Ren Fest Best Practices

Papi had to hurry and finish his turkey leg before the Birds of Prey show started.

Man, I love the Texas Renaissance Festival. We go every year with the kids. In the interest of public service, here's my list of Best Practices for the festival.

[1:21 video from School of Sword]

Buying a ticket:
  • This year there was a pretty good offer at Urban Dealight (sic)--something to keep in mind for next year.
  • If you try to buy on Craigslist, you won't get much of a discount, and it's usually people selling free passes they got in a pack. I used those one year, and they worked, but they made me awfully nervous. 
  • If you've missed getting another deal, try to buy the tickets from one of the retail outlets (HEB, Woodforest Bank) or buy them from the website (where there is a "convenience charge." GRRR.) They are more expensive at the gate.
  • This past weekend set attendance records--something like 42,000 on Saturday and 27,000 on Sunday. The lesson here is go on Sunday.
Click to enlarge.
The Night Before:
  • Print out your tickets (if you bought them online) as well as directions to the festival.
  • Check out the acts listed on the website and get an idea of what you might want to see. Most shows repeat every 1-2 hours, but it's good to know the times in advance.
  • We would never miss the Joust, the School of Sword, the Family Jewels (an ersatz gem mine) or the Falconer's show. There are also mud wrestlers, belly dancers, jugglers, musicians and just all kinds of other acts on EIGHTEEN stages. A few acts are PG-13, but these are clearly marked in the program, online and in person.
  • Also check out the map online and maybe even draw a rough sketch of it, noting the places you definitely want to see. [That's mine above.] You can get a real map at the festival, but this will help you get started.
  • Charge your cell phone.
  • Pack a tailgate! I'm always surprised that more people don't do this. I packed salami, cheese and crackers and some bottles of water in an insulated bag. You could go all out and bring wine, beer, etc.
  • We even brought an electric kettle (the car has an outlet) and packets of hot chocolate to drink at the end of the day, but it was way too warm for that. Don't forget the lawn chairs, napkins, cups knives, cutting board, etc.
  • Get some cash. Some places take plastic, but many of the food and drink vendors don't. His Majesty's ATMs levy a hefty charge. [Prices are pretty typical for a festival--bottles of coke for $2.50, etc.]
King Henry VIII giving Becca & our buddy Toby a chopping tutorial.

The Day of the Festival:
  • Wear light layers and your most comfortable walking shoes. There is period-appropriate mud all over the place, so be warned.
  • Leave reasonably early. Traffic gets bad within 10-15 miles of the festival. It took us about an hour and a half to get there from Oak Forest.
  • I always carry a small backpack to carry the crap the kids get, as well as Aleve and Icy Hot patches (because I'm 100 years old).
  • When you get inside you can buy a program with a map inside. [It will be mostly the same year-to-year, so you could hold on to it and reuse it.]
  • If you're traveling in a group, set meet-up times. I was there with a couple of teenagers, and we had them meet us at the performances we had planned to see, but walk around independently between those times.
  • You're supposed to tip the performers at the "free" shows. Make sure you keep some small bills on hand. You should also tip any of the people in elaborate costumes who stop to take photos with you. [Try to be subtle about it, though--it kinda takes everyone out of the moment to see Robin Hood taking a fiver.]
  • Take photos. The light is usually good, and everyone is having a good time.
Emmet showing off his sword skills to the King and Queen

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