Off We Go to the Fair

I was thinking that we could get a lot more mileage out of your new pirate knowledge if we went off to the local Renaissance Fair this weekend. Not sure what I'm talking about? Are you wondering, as a friend of mine did years ago, if there will be a tractor pull? I have all the answers.

Renn Fest, as regulars tend to say, usually takes place during the reign of King Henry VIII or Queen Elizabeth I and is set in a village where the royalty has gone for a nice day off. There are artisans doing things like blowing glass, booths selling fabulous food and drink, stage plays with everything from five minute Shakespeare to fire breathing, singers of bawdy and seafaring songs and plenty of actors portraying peasants and lords. I used to play a colorblind artist at the fair in Maryland so I feel pretty confident when I say that pirates fit in extremely well at Renn Fests and can spend the day spouting out pirate talk, swilling beer, eating enormous hunks of meat and having loads of fun. I've got a list of things to do and to avoid, to make your day that much more exciting and interesting.

Do come in costume if you can. It doesn’t matter if your garb is not the most authentic on the block; you always get extra points for trying. Be warned though, if you look really good you'd better know where the privies (bathrooms) are because someone is sure to think you work for the fair and ask for directions. Don't have anything from the right period and not sure what to wear? You can get away with just about anything so long as your naughty bits are covered. I've seen women wearing steel bikinis and Viking helmets and men dressed in zoot suits. So long as you bring a good, fun-loving attitude you should get a terrific reception.

Do bring your ID. If you're planning to drink make sure you're prepared. My sister Megan worked at the White Hart Tavern for years and she said she had to turn away hundreds of patrons who told her they left their ID in their car because their costumes didn't have any pockets. While it's true that authentic garb isn't going to have any pockets (they haven't been invented yet) it's also true that your handy dandy pouch can carry more than just your money. In some states it doesn’t matter how old you are, they still have to card you.

Don't bring your pets. I know you want to bring your pet ferret/parrot/puma/elephant but no matter how charmingly it goes with your costume or does tricks the people at the front gate are going to tell you that you can't take your little friend inside with you. Then what? You can't leave it in the car and it's a bummer to have to drive all the way back home again. Plus then your pet is mad at you for promising a special treat and backing down and who wants an angry grizzly bear waiting when they get home from a fab day at the fair?

This one is tricky, some fairs allow weapons and some don't. Some let you wear swords that have been peace bonded (tied to a scabbard or otherwise marked with bright ribbons to show you understand the rules and will not use your weapon as anything but decoration) or that don't have an edge, but others say not even costume weapons are permitted. However there is one weapon that can never be taken away from you and that is a sharp tongue. If you haven't memorized any good period insults you may want to try this handy auto Shakespearean insult generator which comes up with things like "Thou jarring doghearted boar-pig!" or "Thou perfidious elf-skinned babbling gossip!" This is good stuff that can also come in handy the next time someone cuts you off in heavy traffic.

Remember if all else fails you can fall back on your old pirate standbys like "Aargh" and "Walk the plank" or "Get your hands off my booty, you scurvy dog!" Come to think of it that last one comes in pretty handy in all sorts of situations, including riding a crowded subway.

For this week's one sentence review we have an anonymous critique of the name of the new Nintendo gaming system. "When they say they want to 'bring Wii to the masses' I cringe - it's the worst name I've ever hard. Have you got a one-sentence review you’d like to submit to Quality Time? Send it in to me at and I'll run the best ones. You may focus on just about anything that fits a family entertainment format; games, movies, books, music - the sky is the limit, or is it? Want to review the status of poor ex-planet Pluto? Go right ahead.