The Florida Renaissance Fair is going strong in South Florida, and it’s a pop culture experience unlike any other. Yes, that’s a bit of hyperbole, but renaissance fairs, while built around the same concept at its core, offers a much different experience. And let’s be clear, I’m not here to say one is better than the other. Like any good role-playing game veteran, I know there are tradeoffs to everything. Advantages and disadvantages. But the Florida Renaissance Fair, and other events like it all around the world, offers a sense of immersion as its greatest advantage.
At the Florida Renaissance Fair, the path through the booths is winding through Quiet Waters Park beneath a natural canopy of trees.
If you’ve been to a comic-con or Buffy-con or Horror-con, but not a RenFair, let’s touch on the similarities. One: People. Lots and lots of people. The Ren Fair draws a large crowd of patrons seeking mead and giant turkey legs. Case in point:
Two: Booths. The market is strong with every convention, and so you’ll find rows of booths selling all manner of wares. In a lot of cases, you may even see the same couple selling handcrafted jewelry at a geek con and the ren fair.
After the market aspect of things and the general behind-the-scenes logistics of putting on a big event, that’s where similarities end. At the Florida Renaissance Fair, the path through the booths winds through Quiet Waters Park beneath a natural canopy of trees. The sun shines bright, which, scientifically speaking, does a lot more for a person’s health and happiness than fluorescent lights.
The outdoors create such a vivid canvas for Ren Fair
organizers to paint an immersive experience.
The outdoors create such a vivid canvas for Ren Fair organizers to paint an immersive experience. It all begins at the gates made to look like those of a castle or fort. Instantly, the cosplay is apparent, but at a Ren Fair, these people live their charaters. Speaking in character, players at the Ren Fair create a wonderful balance of modern-day event and other-worldly existence. It’s easy to lose yourself in the sight of two knights arguing over the right to a fair maiden’s heart while a harp player plucking away for the people.
Vincent Vallo, an artist and longtime cast member at various festivals of this kind says “During fair hours, we absolutely avoid using cast members’ real name and especially greeting them casually. We definitely bow to cast who are portraying the Royals, the nobles and the Cardinal Borgia and his daughter.”
The Florida Renaissance Fair doesn’t have video games, but …”
The immersion and melange of fantasy and reality are ever-present. Only at a Ren Fair will you find an accordion player, dressed as if he stepped out of the 17th century, entertaining the crowd with a rendition of the Legend of Zelda theme song.
The Florida Renaissance Fair doesn’t have video games, but it has the Cirqa Brava, an acrobatic show with two flexible and funny women. The high-flying pair got started just moments after the end of an epic jousting event. And to be clear, this isn’t some wanna-be joust with foam weapons and faux horses. The joust here is as real as it gets, with riders on majestic steeds using real weapons. A Royal Court looks on, as does a crowd of thousands.
The immersion created by the Ren Fair features
a level of detail both large and small.
As both an artist, patron, and now cast member, the inspiration at Ren Fair is everywhere “You see all these talented and seasonal people at the festival; you can’t help yourself to be imaginative. Everyone encourages each other to grow.”
The immersion created by the Ren Fair features a level of detail both large and small. Archery displays and falconers mesmerize audiences and teach a bit of history. Patrons pack seats, giant turkey legs in hand, to watch some live theatre that is telling stories of great heroes, or, sometimes, not-so-great ones.
Instead, the Ren Fair keeps you feeling happily lost in time.
The sights around the Renaissance Fair are enough to keep things interesting. But the sounds add a rich layer. At a typical convention, what you hear is a mix of crowd grumblings echoing off the walls and, sometimes, songs from various booths mixing togeter into a sonic soup with too many flavors. At a Ren Fair, nature adds the first layer of sound, but musical acts, playing old-timey songs of yore or even remixed pop hits add another layer.
You might be thinking, ‘but most geek conventions have musical acts too.’ Sure, at a specific time and place. Here, the music is a consistent part of the experience. It’s in the air. But it never becomes a clutter of noise. Instead, the Ren Fair keeps you feeling happily lost in time.
Immerse yourself in an experience that leaves a lasting impression. “I do think medieval, renaissance and pirate festivals will continue to entice people’s appetite and curiosity.” Vincent is right. The allure of escapism is strong in humans, and the Red Fair feeds that inner desire in a way that VR is still decades away from replicating.