My husband, M, studied Medieval and Renaissance history as part of his graduate program; that fact, combined with the fact that we love dressing in costume and the romance (however historically inaccurate) of the era, has resulted in a late summer/fall tradition in our family: frequenting Renaissance Faires! So this past Labor Day weekend, my husband, M, and I were excited to share our family tradition with our daughter, V as we journeyed to the Maryland Renaissance Faire for our third Faire experience as a family. Today, in a joint post featured on both of our sites, (TheRippleEffect2009 and Glitnir76) we’d like to share our experiences taking our 22 month old gal to a living history event.
Getting her into her costume was a bit difficult, and she wanted no part of her long (and hot) princess/gown outfit. Luckily, we brought a lighter pirate outfit consisting of shorts, a shirt, and a hat. So imagine our luck when we encountered the pirate ship at the kiddies’ playscape! Though V has braved many such contraptions before (indoor and out), I don’t think she had encountered quite so many other kiddos as were clambering all over the thing. But, dad braved the plank and walked her up to the poop deck where she explored a bit, and was especially fascinated with looking down on the brig. Fortune was on dad’s side as she didn’t have much interest in going down there…
One of the things we like to do at Ren Faires is to take in as many shows as possible (after all, they’re included in your ticket price). But with a young child, you never know what will hold their attention for the 15-30 minute show. Imagine our delight when V was enthralled with Hamlet, Act I! I mean, what kind of awesome do you need to be to dig Shakespeare at 22 months? And she probably understood about as much of it as I (her dad) did…
As V is a bit obsessed with knights and jousting (since her first Ren Faire and reading “Knight: A Noble Guide for Young Squires” with her dad), we were thrilled to be able to take her to see the jousting tournaments taking place on “The King’s Field.” At home, V runs through the house with a long wooden “jousting lance.” She does battle with her golden dragon and fierce elephant with her foam swords, battleaxe, and flail.
She watches jousting matches from “A Knight’s Tale,” frequently requesting, “Knights, jous?” So it was no surprise that V LOVED seeing real life jousting! We were able to fit two of the three jousts into our plans for the day and I think they were the highlight of V’s experience. She learned to cheer “Huzzah!” for the Scottish champion supported by our section. She bossily ordered the knights forward on the field yelling “JOUS!” at them. She clapped at the clanging of the lances as they shattered against the full armor worn by the participating knights. For a moment, she was transported into her beloved fantasy world.
Having learned to slay the Dastardly Dragon and Evil Elephant at home, I wasn’t sure how she’d react to seeing the real thing (the latter mind you) at the Faire. Would she summon her “charge” rage and go rampaging off to slay the beast? Would she cower at the sight of such a huge animal (a big step up from her stuffed opponent)? Nah, she pretty calmly evaluated her opponent from the safety of the fence and her parents’ arms which was just fine with us.
Fortunately, there was something smaller she could attempt to ride: the ponies! She didn’t seem to want to go with mom, so dad picked her up, explained that it was a noble steed for a knight like herself, and she bravely tried it out. Of course, after the first time, that’s all she wanted to do! There’s a 2 ride-a-day limit, so she was a bit disappointed that she couldn’t also ride the “white one,” but she did a great job and even managed to wave to the crowd in true royal fashion.
As the Faire came to a close for the day, we managed to fit one, last, but important experience into our schedule. 10 years ago this August, M and I began our journey together as a family as we celebrated our wedding. At our reception, M and I changed into (roughly) medieval garb. So it is fitting that we celebrated our 10 year vow renewal (we did a version of this in our kitchen as I had the flu on the actual day) at a Renaissance Faire chapel. As is our fortune, we forgot a copy of our actual vows, so we spoke from the heart and had V serve as official ring bearer as we exchanged our rings again.
Although we loved our experience, there are some challenges with taking a toddler to a Renaissance Faire. First, the terrain is NOT stroller friendly, but if you want to carry around all of the necessities for a successful day trip with a little one, it is a must. So be prepared for some tussles with the wheels. Second, as is true with “real world” shopping, browsing for wares at the local merchant’s shop can prove a challenge with an on-the-go kiddo. Thirdly, unless, like us, you have a kiddy porta-potty, potty-training efforts will likely take some damage points for the day, as the porta-johns aren’t exactly toddler friendly. Finally, Ren Faire fare does not include the healthiest options for little ones. Chicken dippers and fries were the only menu items that V would touch, so it behooves the parents of toddlers to bring a cooler with many toddler friendly munchies. Despite these challenges, we’ll keep taking V back to Renaissance Faires, because being able to touch, smell, see, and experience the past will give her a new perspective and a foundation for future learning. And because we’re just the kind of family to quest for adventure, together!