September 19 – 21: My friends, Mary and Joe, and I decided to attend the 2014 Minnesota Renaissance Festival the week end of September 21/22. If you have not heard about this festival, here is some history. It began its journey in September of 1971 on a 22 acre field in Jonathan, MN. More than 25,000 people visited the two weekend grand opening of the festival than named “A Celebration of Nature, Art, and Life!” That celebration has since relocated to Shakopee, MN and has grown to be the largest Renaissance Festival in the United States with an annual attendance of 300,000. Organizers of the Minnesota Renaissance may consider moving a short distance south if the annual celebration of medieval life has to give up its current site. Its lease expires in 2016. The owner of the annual festival is negotiating with the landowner to stay at the grounds where so many visitors to the staged village fair have watched jousting and eaten giant turkey legs. The Minnesota Renaissance will remain where it is for at least three more years. There will be a festival in 2017 — whether it be at the current site or a new site.
We left on Friday, the 19th, and drove to Chaska, MN. via IKEA where we had reserved lodging at the Grand Stay Inn and Suites for Friday and Saturday night. Our lodging was approximately 5 miles from the festival. Friday evening we had a very enjoyable meal at Tommy’s Malt Shoppe which is next to the hotel. After dinner, we went to our respective rooms where I answered email and watched the special on public television regarding the Roosevelts; the last sequence will be shown on Saturday evening.
On Saturday, we met for breakfast in the hotel dining area. After eating, we decided to take off to the festival even though we would arrive before the gate opened at 9:00. I have been many times to this festival but, this year, the entrance was at the Queen entry instead of the King’s; a deep gravel pit has replaced the open space where thousands of visitors used to park their vehicles by the side of the King’s entrance so it is not accessible. Once we entered the kingdom, we decided to walk all the way around the festival while keeping to the outside wall. Besides having stalls of people selling their wares, there was entertainment on the stages along with many of the visitors dressed in costume of medieval time.
The first entertainment we watched on stage was called Puke & Snot. Their act was opened by a musician called Monkey Boy who did a fantastic job with music and humor. After his act, it was time for Puke & Snot who put their own spin “trademark brand of mock-Shakespearean vaudeville to audiences composed mostly of morbidly obese, turkey-drumstick devouring, semi-conscious yahoos.” Their act is audience-participation, and provides many hilarious and memorable moments! They started out at the 1975 Minnesota Renaissance and have performed at the festival every year since. Their comedy is cleverly disguised in Shakespearean Wit and Verse. It is not an act that I would recommend for families with young children. But it is an act I remember from previous visits with my late husband who really enjoyed them.
After Puke & Snot, we wandered and came upon the Black Isle Belly Dancers. This group performs tribal fusion dance which is the modern form of belly dancing. They incorporate elements from both folk and classical dance styles. We did not watch their whole show because we came upon them when their show was almost over. The hardest decision of the day was where to get lunch; with over a 100 food vendors, it was difficult to choose. While having lunch, the parade of people participating in the festival came by.
It was now time to make our way to the joust track where full combat armored jousting was taking place. For those of you who do not know what jousting is, it is a martial game of the Middle Ages between two horsemen who use lances. The primary aim is to strike the opponent with the lance while riding towards him at high speed, if possible breaking the lance on the opponent’s shield or armor, or unhorsing him.
After the jousting, we made our way to the stage where Cale the Juggler was performing. For those of you who do not know juggling, it is the manipulation of one object or many objects at the same time, using one or many hands. From the time of William the Conqueror, a ‘King of the Jugglers’ appeared at the court and would continue to appear through the Middle Ages. Whoever held this title had many rights to go with it. There is also a medieval legend of a juggler who, having nothing else to give, made an ‘offering’ of his juggling skills before a statue of the Virgin and Child in church. According to some variations of this story, the Madonna or Jesus caught one of the balls. This performance was going to be our last act of the day.
We decided it was time to go back to our hotel; our parking spot was quite close and we made it back to the hotel within 10 – 15 minutes (it took people over 3 hours to get back later in the evening). Our evening meal was a walk up the street to the Patron Mexican Restaurant. While eating, the sky opened up and there was a downpour of rain; we were glad to be inside! On our way back to the hotel, we stopped into Tommy’s for a hot fudge sundae; not something I needed but something I wanted. We went our separate ways and I watched the final installment of the Roosevelts on public television. Got up the next morning and, after breakfast, we headed home. What a wonderful week end! Thinking back brings a smile to my face. A wonderful time with two beautiful friends; who could ask for anything more?