Hail, ye, hail ye, knights and princesses! ’Tis time for the Faire! Thousands of people will join Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth I and scores of other costumed performers in Tuxedo to partake in the New York Renaissance Faire, which runs from the beginning of August to the end of September each year.
Guests are invited for a day out on the medieval town to peruse more than 100 artisanal shops in the village marketplace, see a Shakespearean play, watch a live chess match, or join in the drinking games of daily pub crawls — featuring plenty of mead — while surrounded by period music, costumes, and architecture. For rowdier entertainment, jousters lift their lances for live battles on horseback. Matches are unfixed, and nothing is rigged to break, so the sport is as exciting as it was in the old days.
The Faire first appeared on the former site of the Sterling Forest Botanical Gardens in 1977, and has operated annually since. At birth it was nearly half the size as it is today, though promotions director Maria Finucane says the Faire housed some of the same artisans that are still there now. The event was inspired by the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire outside of Pasadena, CA, created in 1963 by high school English teacher Phyllis Patterson and her husband as a fun way to learn about history; those seeking escapism in the wake of the ’60s counter-cultural movement embraced it.
The New York version was born out of the same sentiments. Since the Faire’s debut, guests have flocked to the forest donning their favorite historical garb and attitudes. More kid-friendly and fantasy elements have been added throughout the years, including a Kids Admitted Free Weekend, and a Time Travelers Weekend where guests dress as characters from any time or fantasy world, no holds barred.
Although the Faire has grown over the years, both in size and the amount of activities, it has stayed true to the concept of living history, Finucane said. “People have always loved to transform themselves in some way, escape modern reality, even just for a weekend event. It’s why our slogan is ‘Where Fantasy Rules!’”