In the wake of the wildfires burning through the West, as well as the ridiculously hot temperatures we've been experiencing, a day of escape and merriment is something that many Coloradans could use right now. At the Colorado Renaissance Festival, you can show off your best tavern-wench attire, leave your inhibitions at the castle gates, and prepare thineself for indulgence (and lots of unnecessary vowels). Read on for a newcomer's guide to the Ren Fest.
See Also: - Photos: Wenches of the Colorado Renaissance Festival 2012 - Slideshow: The Costumes of the Colorado Renaissance Festival - Slideshow: 50 Best Costumes of the Colorado Renaissance Festival (2010)
For a newcomer with no prior expectations or comprehension of what a themed event of this scale is like, the festival, which hosts more than 200 period artisans, is a lot to take in. Grab a Festival Mappe to orient yourself with the picturesque mountain venue of Larkspurshire, a 16th century village boasting some incredible views (not to mention a year's worth of cleavage, which isn't found on the map).
A few features of the festival: ten stages of entertainment, from jousting to an endangered cat show, carnival-esque rides, an obscene amount of food (made in-house) and alcohol -- and if the booze didn't already lure you in, then the elephant and camel rides definitely will (ignore your gut instincts about animal cruelty).
You don't have to wear a costume to the Renaissance Festival, but honestly, there aren't enough opportunities in everyday life to dress up and talk with a fake accent, so why not go all out? Start with sunscreen, because you'll be outside for a good portion of the day. My makeshift Renaissance attire looked more Coachella than castle-appropriate, but luckily there are a ton of shoppes where you can purchase clothing, head adornments, weapons, staffs, footwear, jewelry and more to transform yourself into a princess. Or a wizard. Or a gypsy. Or a 16th century homeless person, as pictured at left.
Also, there are a ton of people wandering around in costumes. Some of them are employees of the festival; you can distinguish the employed performing artists from the costumed festival patrons by a rose worn on their lapel or dress. (Personal favorites: the buskers playing music from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack.) By the way, please don't be the dipshit who lets their child interfere with the performers, because you might get bitched out by a papier-mâché dragon.
Beyond wearable goods, there are ample opportunities for interesting services, including face-painting, fortune-telling, massage, henna, hair-braiding and palm-reading. Weighing the minimal cash left after my feast, I opted for an original henna tattoo by the gorgeous Zany of Mahamudra Body Arts. (I'm not entirely sure how henna fits into the Renaissance theme, but a giant, awesome-smelling, shaded tent filled with pillows is really too good to pass up during the hottest part of the day, when every square inch of your body is sweating).
And then there's the food. Vegetarianism took a backseat when the turkey legs came out to play. It doesn't get more primal than tearing meat off the bone with your teeth while watching leopards pounce around in an endangered big cat show. Beyond offerings of pretty-much-any-meat-you-can-think-of-on-a-stick, there's also international food, baked goods and a decent amount of deep-fried deliciousness, so you're guaranteed to leave with a full belly.
The festival, currently in its 36th season, preserves the spirit of optimism that the historic Renaissance movement represents, according to its website. The era, which was less religious than the Dark Ages, marked a renewed interest in classical civilization and a rebirth of creative thought -- people were expected to learn poetry, art and literature, and to practice in the ways of chivalry.
The Colorado Renaissance Festival celebrates this with eight themed weekends; upcoming are Wine Revelry on July 7 and 8 and the Love and Romance fest on July 14 and 15.
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The Colorado Renaissance Festival is open rain or shine on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. until the end of July. Adult admission is $18.95; children ages five to twelve are $8, and children under five are free with a paying adult. Find more information at www.coloradorenaissance.com.