The cars wind up a hill lined by trees on either side. A sign with an arrow points the drivers to turn left, into a valley of cars as far as the eye can see. A walk up the path and across the road takes guests to a ticket booth, and from there it is straight on into the medieval age.
Well, not quite.
Historians would tell the uninitiated that those times were not glamorous, nor fun. Those are two things the New York Renaissance Faire at Sterling Forest in Tuxedo Park, N.Y., actually is, and has been since its inception back in 1978. Of course, the visitor has to let go of a handful of inhibitions to fully appreciate the trip, and it might help to not be too afraid of getting dirty (more about that in a moment). Quite often, visitors arrive in costumes reflecting the time period and surroundings. It’s not required, but those who let themselves go with it tend to get swept up in all the activities and happenings.
Among the things people can participate in are games of chance like archery booths, shows involving the 75 actors across 25 different stages inside of the enclosure of Sterling Forest. Suddenly the folks around you are saying “thou art” instead of “you are,” and if you’ll allow yourself the luxury of just going with it, you might find yourself getting slightly Elizabethan yourself (never mind the mead). It’s a total-participation play, a carnival, arts and crafts shop, and an outdoor excursion all in one. Which is why we’ve made the New York Renaissance Faire our day trip of the week.
DAY TRIPPER DIGEST
Estimated Travel Time: 75 minutes
Why it’s Worth the Trip: The New York Renaissance Faire is not a “come for an hour or two” sort of event. It’s an all-day visit with food, games, shows and a lot more. Whether you go in costume or not, a good time will be had.
How to Get There from Here: Detailed Driving Directions
You’ll Probably Get Hungry: There is more food at the fair than one could imagine, from homemade beef jerky to turkey legs, jugs of mead (honey beer) and ice cream. Wait a minute … ice cream? Okay, so the menu is only semi-medieval.
While you’re in the Area: You can enjoy the peace and quiet. Sterling Forest is a very secluded place. Besides, there are literally hundreds of arts and crafts booths at the ren fair, so bypass the malls on the trip over and buy yourself a lovely gown, handcrafted wall art or a drum when you arrive. They have them and more.
Three of the things visitors will want to bring with them are comfortable shoes, a rain poncho and a little extra cash. The shoes come in handy because the terrain can be a bit rocky. Don’t feel too badly if you are 98 percent in character and 2 percent in Converse Chuck Taylors. Also, don’t be put off if you have a rain slicker tucked away. The fair is open rain or shine, and sometimes things can get a little muddy–especially when some of the actors decide to pelt each other with mud. It’s happened before. It will happen again.
The third thing, a little extra cash beyond your ticket price and food allotment, may seem frivolous until you arrive. One of the most attractive things about the venue is that it actually is a full-fledged arts community with handmade goods being sold all through the forest. It’s also a proving ground for young actors hired to stroll through, man booths, provide a sense of personality and color to the proceedings, and, if you need it, directions to the fair’s highlights.
Some of those “gotta see” events include the joust arena, where riders on horseback engage in that most medieval of tournaments; the Dextre Tripp Thrill Show advertised as “a dazzling display of daring and death-defying doom, featuring rope walking, juggling and chainsaws,” and the full-court Living Chess Match. If you like your performances just slightly spicier (but not too spicy), make a date with Vixens En Garde, who promise, “three smoking hot babes armed to the teeth. Three of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies. Three daring attempts at comedy. One stage.”
You know you’re intrigued.
There’s also the Ded Bob Variety Sho. Clark Orwick is the puppeteer behind the show. With an elaborate large-scale puppet, the skeleton Ded Bob comes to life, pulling unsuspecting audience members into the act. Orwick described the presentation.
“There is an audience oath in which my adoring fans swear to respond when requested–only when requested–and give me all their spare cash,” he said. “There's a sing along to songs like ‘Rudolph the Roadkill Reindeer’ and ‘Old Ded Bob's Dysfunctional Farm.’ And the main event, a dramatic, sordid story acted out by three audience members … a classic story of love and betrayal. Guy loves girl, guy gets distracted by new girl, first girl freaks, second girl lures guy into a trap and steals all his stuff.”
It is as much a good idea to base a history lesson on the activities at the New York Renaissance Faire as it would be to study mouse and duck relationships at Disneyland, so don’t bother trying. Rather than faithfully recreating the world of an Elizabethan village, the fair presents the fantasy of it, and on a hot August weekend that makes for an enjoyable day out, no matter what era it is in.
The fair is open on Saturdays, Sundays and Labor Day from Aug. 6 to Sept. 25, 10 a.m.-7p.m., at Sterling Forest in Tuxedo Park, N.Y.
For more information, call 845-351-5171 or visit them on the web at: http://www.renfair.com/ny/index.asp