Last Saturday, I took the day off from work (well, swapped shifts with a co-worker) and took Angel and the kids to a renaissance fair in Hillsboro, Texas called Middlefaire. We were invited by a friend of mine who put the event together. Hillsboro is about 2 hours north of Austin and it was the kids' first "long drive" away from home. The kids had been to one rennaisance faire in Austin that was hosted by the SCA, but this was this faire's maiden voyage (and thus, a treat!)
The weather was a bit overcast and rainy on the way up there but by the time we got parked, the rain was subsiding. The event was held on farmland, which meant it was fairly removed from civilization and flat as far as the eye could see. The whole area for the faire was the size of a large Walmart, with several different stages and vending areas. Although we kept our distance from the "Tavern" area (not for kids), everything else was pretty neat!
Shortly after we arrived, they even had a parade with all the different performers and groups from the faire. When some of them saw Adam (my oldest son) holding his "sword" (a thick stick he'd carefully selected) in noble recognition of their parade, some of them invited him to join the parade, but he stayed back. I would have gone with him, but I guess he wasn't sure if we'd approve (I would've gone with him).
After initially checking out some of the vendors, we decided to see a few of the entertainers. There were some very good singers and musicians, and it was generally a very nice crowd (both in numbers of people and their personalities). We didn't see much of our friend who invited us, as he was busy making sure the behind-the-scenes work got done, but it was nice to finally meet both him and his adult son (who looks astonishingly like his dad, down the same type of beard, etc.).
The best musical group by far (although every musician and singer there was talented, as I said) was the Brobdingnagian Bards (pronounced "brob-din-nahg-EE-en"). They were lyrically very clever and their personalities really shined through their performance (they were hilarious, too)! They were musically talented as well, with one of the bards (Andrew) switching between recorder and mandolin (in the same song!) and the other bard (Marc) played autoharp while singing. It was a fun 30 minute set. Heart of Oak and the Abilene Pipers also deserve worthy mentions.
Angel got a very nice medieval-style torquoise-colored dress and hand-made tiara from the vendors. She very much looked the part of the beautiful upper class lady. I bought the boys some kid-sized shields and rings per their request. I got to be odd man out, as I wasn't prepared to drop down $100 for an outfit this time around (maybe next year). I do want to add that the merchandise was nice quality, with much of it being hand made.
Lunch was burgers from a local caterer. There was a huge turnout to the event, so it took an hour of waiting in line to get them. Now, in all fairness, the caterers were grilling/smoking them four at a time and they were at least 1/3 pound burgers (pretty tasty and not over- or under-cooked). So, to pass the time, my sons entertained everyone with their mock sword-fights, which covered about the area of 1/4 of a football field. Adam really got into it, so much so that I had to ask him to curtail his enthusiasm just a bit. There were also lots of butterflies flying around and landing on any brightly colored clothing (and there was plenty of that).
About mid-afternoon, Josey got to be part of the entertainment! While seeing the Emerald Dragon Crew's show, Josey was asked to be part of the show. He became "Pirate Curly" and was one of two audience volunteer pirates (another boy, a few years older than him, was the other "pirate"). They were asked to give their best pirate "Arrrrh!" At first, Josey was classic "kid shy." Then Angel shouted "Go, Josey!" and he let out with a loud, enthusiastic "Arrrrrrrrhhhh!" The other kid was asked to do the "Arrh" and he made a decent effort. They were asked to do so again. Again, Josey was very shy and again, Mom shouted "Go, Josey!" and he growled "ARRRRRRHHHHH!!!!" Shortly after that, Josey was voted "Best Pirate." He was so proud...and we were, too. It was all very cute.
After watching the bagpipers again, we found that the gatewatchers had "abandoned their post" (left their chairs unoccupied), so we kindly relaxed. The boys chose to take on the role of guards at the main entrance to the faire. About this time, the sun came out in full force (which gave me some lovely sunburn by evening) but since the temperature was still in the 70s, it was pretty nice.
About 6:00pm, we decided to head home. We'd had a full day, made some fun purchases (thus supporting the vendors) and we had all been thoroughly entertained and met some interesting and fun people (some of the entertainers came from as far away as Tennessee and even Canada). We arrived back in Austin around 8:00pm and went out to IHOP (International House of Pancakes) for supper. Needless to say, noone had any trouble sleeping that evening...