The last Renaissance festival of the season in this area is the Folsom faire. The faire was somewhat diminished because the Folsom faire lasts but one weekend, and this year it coincided with the final weekend of the Northern California Renaissance Faire down in Hollister, CA.
For example of the diminution, I inquired after one Mr Myrtle of an ensemble of pipers, but he was reported to be at the Northern California festival. (Perhaps I should plan on attending next year’s Nor Cal Ren Faire, but it’s a three-hour drive in each direction.)
One fellow whom I’ve seen at all the local faires was in attendance at Folsom, however: the shirtless guy in the Viking outfit.
At the local Renaissance faires, you’ll see three types of attraction: vendors, performers, and actors. It is the third category that is often ignored but which deserves a bit of praise.
By ‘actor’ I mean that they set up a booth and play a part, performing some labour, but doing no peddling at all. These people are rare but can be good for instruction. That is, they’ll show and tell you about life in the Renaissance, and the good ones are so eager to do so that they require no more solicitation than to have a spectator step forward and make pointed looks at their tables.
An actor of note
One such actor, who sets up an excellent pavillion and never fails to make his instruction truly interesting, is B. Townsend Phillips, Physick & Apothecary. (Apologies for the shadowy photo.)
The apothecary will share raw licorice wood with you, with which you may brush your teeth. Or just chew them for flavour. Smell the spices and hear about the guilds and their trade. Learn the scams that traders would employ to cheat merchants (for instance, employing leisure hours aboard ship in carving inexpensive teak wood to look like nutmeg, then selling barrels of the fakes, with only a few layers of bona fide nutmeg on top).
A vendor of note
In some instances, vendors also provide a good deal of interesting information or a worthwhile demonstration of how their trade is performed. One of these, which I particularly enjoyed was Amber of Amber Wolf. Others from the Folsom faire worthy of inquiry are the potters, the weavers, the spinners, and the Pictish stone carver.
I observed three vendors at Amber Wolf, peddling some variety of goods, but the one that drew my particular interest was Amber and her incense. Amber’s methods may not be those employed 400 years ago (maybe they are; I don’t know) but she can tell you about them in detail. I have experience with incense from a wide variety of providers, and I don’t believe that I have ever found any so pleasing as Amber’s. I particularly enjoyed the juniper and rosemary concoction (called ‘Healing incense’), which smelled nothing like either of the main ingredients.
A performer of note
One performer—or rather, group of performers—which I have seen and enjoyed at several faires in the last year is Bella Donna. Bella Donna is a group of four saucy bawds. Although the dialogue in their stage show will raise a blush on the cheeks of people with delicate sensibilities, I have listened to their musical performances off of the main stages, and it is quite enjoyable.
Beware if they drop a spoon on the ground and entreat you to retrieve it for them.
Earlier this year, I wrote another post on attractions at Renaissance faires, which contains my reviews of 14 performances at Renaissance faires within 2 hours of Sacramento.