Of hitchhiking and gypsies: a trip to the Faire

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Every year the The Connecticut Renaissance Faire (a.k.a. King Arthur’s Fall Harvest Faire) is held on the “Lions Fairground” in this place called “Hebron,” Conn., which is 20 miles outside of Hartford and doesn’t even have a public transportation system.

You might be wondering how this is relevant. Why would anyone ever dare leave our cosy New Haven for the sordid wilderness of “Hebron”?

The simple answer? It doesn’t get better than Renaissance Faires . My friend (let’s call him Flash) and I were even willing to wake up at 5 a.m. to catch a $1 bus (just cheap, not sketchy) to Harford. From Hartford, we still had to make it to “Hebron.”

“We’ll figure it out,” Flash and I naively thought before embarking on our journey. But as a twenty-year-old international student whose friends are overwhelmingly car-less, my options were slim. It came down to taking a taxi, or renting a U-Haul. (Disclaimer: you only have to be 18 to rent a U-Haul, but 21 to rent any other kind of car. I also don’t have a Zipcar membership so just stop.)

Guess what we chose.

Wrong — we took a cab. (It cost $50.)

Anyway, we finally arrived. The ticket lady greeted us with a cordial “m’lord, m’lady” and waved us unto the past. The fairground (essentially a large open field) was divided into Renaissance-era-specific sections including the “Joust Field,” “Fields of Honor,” “Merriment Stage” and “Pope’s Pulpit.” The decor was so authentic that only one bathroom had flushing toilets.

There were also overpriced shops selling gnome rings and $100 capes, archery games, (real-life) falcons and a bevy of mythical creatures. Honestly, the Renaissance Faire, though colorful and multi-faceted, seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis. Last time I checked, there were no fairies, elves, or dragons in the Renaissance. Is this sixteenth-century Florence or Hans Christian Andersen’s brain?

The Faire also has a “cast”: a King, a Queen, Knights, the Pope, a bitter she-Knight and others (this list is not exhaustive). There’s something that resembles a plot, which establishes the important tensions and rivalries for the highly anticipated “Tournament Joust” event.

To be honest, most of the “performances” are best appreciated by people under twelve despite the multitude of terrible/awkward sexual puns (see: “Drenched Wenches,” rated PG). One of the few worth seeing sober is the “Tribal de Luna” belly-dancing show, an “interactive show for the whole family” complete with tramp-stamped gypsies. Flash was even lucky enough to be chosen as the “King of the Gypsies” and yes, he got to wear a crown.

The Rennies (the gatekeeper lady said it first), though a bit eccentric, were incredibly nice. Because the Faire is not so much about dressing up in weird or skimpy outfits, eating steak on a stick or fried ravioli. The Faire is not even about renewing your wedding vows at an altar in the mud and rain or complaining about how sunburned you got once you’re back at Yale. The Faire is about community. It’s about new experiences.

Here’s what I mean:

First, Flash lost his cellphone, but the Pope found it and kept it safe in his pulpit until we could retrieve it, thereby restoring my faith in the Catholic Church.

Then, we tried to get home. The cab driver who had taken us from Hartford to the Faire refused to drive the 20 miles back to “Hebron” to pick us up. Flash and I decided it would be a good idea to hitchhike (HITCHHIKE) back to Hartford (or New Haven), so we cleverly decided to make a sign and stand in the parking lot (don’t tell my mom). After an hour, the wonderful he-gatekeeper brought us some water to keep us hydrated in the “hot” sun.

Finally the she-ticket lady took pity on us and called her husband (a high school physics teacher) in from the 21st century — an hour away from “Hebron.” He drove all the way to the Faire to pick us up, and deposited us in Hartford (cheap and sketchy).

Ultimately, what I think the Faire is really about is to remind us that middle-aged women bearing their midriffs can be nice too. And you can get sunburned in September in Connecticut. And that hitchhiking is creepiest when in a tiny red car. And that U-Haul is always the way to go.

Be prepared.

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