Fifty-five years ago, there was no such thing as a renaissance faire. People didn't ever spell fair with an e. It was a dark and dreary time with no giant turkey legs, no jousts, not even a tightly laced bodice. If not for Ron and Phyllis Patterson's love of teaching, the Renaissance Faire never would have been born in Agoura in 1963. Now staged in Irwindale, it is a sprawling 20-acre party with 20,000 patrons attending each weekend. Yes, the Renaissance Pleasure Faire is back for another year. You want to go, you need to go — but you also need to know how to survive it.
1. Have a survival kit with you. Water, sunscreen, an umbrella or parasol, and a few snacks for the little ones are always great ideas. If you are feeling ambitious, a few pain relievers, wet wipes and bandages are also good to have. Yes, these items are all available at Faire (pros just call it Faire, never Renaissance Pleasure Faire), but they are costly (a small bottle of water is $4). The parasol seller has some killer shade for sale, so if you forget your umbrella definitely check him out. Also try to carry just the amount of cash you want to spend that day — it's easy to spend hundreds at the Faire and not even notice.
2. Get to Faire early if you want good parking (or pay $20 more for premium parking). There are more than 1,500 actors, vendors and security people at Faire — once you add 20,000 people to the mix, the parking can get gnarly. Getting to Faire late means hiking through a dusty field back to your car at the end of the day. Not fun. Bonus for arriving early: There is an opening show, and if you hurry you can get to the end of the world in time for Battle Pageant.
3. Buy tickets in advance. When buying your tickets online, you'll find some deals (for instance, on the second weekend, children are free), plus you won't have to wait in the ticket line. Standing in line sucks! Be ready to open your bags before you get in line to enter (different line than the ticket line), have your passes ready and make sure you have charged your cellphone all the way up (you will be taking selfies all day, after all). Note: The Santa Fe Rec Area has a $10 fee to enter. That money goes to the park. If you don't want to pay it, then carpool with someone else who will pay it for you.
4. Come hungry. In addition to the food court, there are small food vendors such as the Apple Tree located throughout Faire. There are also two formal teas, for which you can reserve tickets in advance. Personally I love the artichokes but they are organic, so make sure to check your 'choke out for any caterpillars trying to supplement your diet with some extra protein. Beer is plentiful, but beer is also expensive. Beer is good. Money is good. You decide what is better.
5. Play games. It's fun. There are a wealth of possibilities when it comes to the games at Faire. You can try knife throwing or learn to fence, but if you are like us, nothing beats the Dunk Tank at Morgan Games. There are also two mazes, several swings and an abundance of cheap fun if you play Renquest, which is an interactive experience, or go to Queens College for a workshop on how to build your own mask.
6. Don't miss Moonie and Broon. If you go to Faire and you don't see Moonie and Broon, then you lost the game of life. That said, there are literally dozens of choices of shows to see. We highly recommend downloading the stage schedule before going so you can decide what singers, dancers and magicians you want to see and plan your day accordingly. This will also let you know what parades are scheduled for the day and where to find them. Many shows have ASL interpreters at least once or twice a day; you can check and see which ones do at guest services at the front or by the food court.
7. Go ahead and buy something kitschy. “On Your Head or on Your Wall — 'Tis a Momento for You All,” says Jim of Greenman Florals. The traditional purchase at Faire is a handmade dried flower garland, but there is so much more. There is a pirate booth for all your pirate booty, two soap booths, plus vendors of olive oil, garlic, hats, bodices, incense, perfume and jewelry. The 200-plus vendors crammed into Faire make it a great place to shop for yourself or for a gift (or for a gift for yourself). Plus, vendors can send your items to the front of Faire for pickup on the way out so you don't have to carry that giant poster of Middle-earth around all day.
8. Rent a costume — or don't. If you want to dress up, there are a wealth of options. You can rent a costume at the start of Faire or purchase one at Costumers Row or have fun with your own closet. You can also come in jeans and a T-shirt — no one is judging here.
9. Play Ren Faire Bingo. Make up some bingo cards and try to spot these things — whoever gets bingo first wins! What to put on the card: Jack Sparrow, hot barbarians, the Queen, Francis Drake, not-hot barbarians, three GWCs surrounding a fairy (GWC is “guy with camera”), the Doctor, the Puritans, Moonie or Broon, slutty elf, drunk pirate, random guy dressed in Victorian garb, child dressed as Elsa, a fool, an ogre, sun-burned boobies.
10. Don't be a dick. People love having their photo taken at Faire, but the vendors aren't so much into you taking a crapload of photos of their stuff and then not buying anything. Show restraint and remember that while lovely to see, the women of Faire have not agreed to you touching them. Ask first! Don't feed the geese! Wear clean underwear! Use proper grammar! Beer then liquor, never sicker! You get the idea.
Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, 15501 E. Arrow Hwy., Irwindale; Sat. & Sun. through May 21, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. renfair.com/socal.