Des Moines Renaissance Faire

Huzzah! Today we harkened back to Ye Olde Canterbury-on-Sherwood (Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, just south of the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Des Moines’ east side) for a chance to shop, dine, and experience merriment from the age of Shakespeare.

It was also a chance to muck about in the mud, as it turns out, given the torrential rain we experienced in central Iowa yesterday. I guess it could have been worse. In the Middle Ages the streets would have been running with sewage.

This is the ninth Renaissance Faire in Des Moines and the first time I’ve attended. I was a regular at the Renaissance Festival in Kansas City (on the Kansas side) for many years…mostly before having kids. So that tells you how long it’s been. I loved that festival, with it’s unique foods and crafts (I always bought a ceramic Christmas ornament), but mostly for its bawdy humor by comedy teams like Snot and Puke and solo comedians like David Naster.

The Des Moines Faire is much, much smaller than the one in Kansas City. The first act we attended was the Twins de Fous Merde in the Viking Pavilion. I made it through exactly four bad jokes — and I mean both very badly written and very badly executed — before I had to get up and leave. It was painful to watch. (Two girls in the very small audience were laughing their pretty heads off at every joke; I have to assume they either knew the actors…or wanted to get to know them.)

Our next stop was the South Corral Mud Yard, with entertainment by Crazy Boy Coy. Crazy Boy was a darn good juggler and put on a funny and impressive show. He seemed like a real professional, unlike those two unrehearsed dumbos in the Viking shack. Crazy Boy juggled balls and flaming sticks while balancing on a large ball, and he carried on witty banter all the while. I thought he was cute and had no problem putting money in his hat after the show.

The next guy (Comedy Hamlet at the Castle Stage) reminded me of Chris Farley doing one of those out-of-control, angry characters on Saturday Night Live. You remember that guy, right? Now imagine him as Hamlet. You get the picture. He made me uncomfortable. I did not put money in his hat.

I was getting hungry at this point but the jousting extravaganza was about to begin in the jousting arena, so we joined the crowd and waited to be entertained by knights on horseback. There were three knights on three huge, gorgeous horses, and they did indeed do some kind of jousting thing. But I was not into all the silly fighting and forced storyline and guys hitting each other on the head. So I drifted over to the food vendors in search of something I could eat.

I stood in a line at the “Off with Your Bread” stand, whose sign promised fruit sorbet in a natural fruit shell in addition to soup in bread bowls. The wait was for nothing, however, because they had no fruit sorbet. So I stood in another (very long) line for a pretzel and a beer. Other food choices included bangers and mash, roasted turkey legs, gyros, fajitas, brats, crepes, ice cream, funnel cake, and pizza — most of which was not exactly available in the Middle Ages.

The Faire offered a number of shops selling leather goods, ceramics, weapons, clothing, jewelry, and the like.

Probably the most interesting part of an event like this is the costumes — not just on the festival participants but also on a large portion of the crowd. I guess if you have a costume like that, you want to wear it — and outside of Halloween, there’s not a lot of opportunity.

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