Huzzah! The Renaissance Faire is here!
The Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire in Bonney Lake the next two weekends offers a variety of engaging experiences.
(Note: Updated with 2018 information)
In Ren-Faire speak, "Huzzah!" is basically the old-timey version of "Hooray!" And if you go to the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire in Bonney Lake, happening weekends through Aug. 19, you'll be hearing it a lot – and probably even shouting it yourself as you take part in a variety of engaging experiences.
I attended the faire with my two kids along with a friend and her two kids, their ages ranging from 5 to 8. None of them had ever been to a Renaissance Faire before, and it had been 20 years for me. This one takes place in the vast, grassy field of the Kelley Farm, which serves as campgrounds, parking lot and fairgrounds alike.
You'll enter the faire through a Tudor-style gate, inside of which you'll find a maypole, several stages, an equestrian area with bleachers, two beer gardens and many booths and tents holding vendors, merchants and demonstrations. The faire felt just the right size for our group: big enough to offer a full day of discoveries, while still being easy to navigate. The slightly bumpy, dry-grass field underfoot prompted a sign warning people of uneven terrain, although we saw several strollers, wagons and motorized scooters seeming to handle it fine.
Upon arriving I was struck by how many attendees were in costume, some quite elaborately. You won't feel out of place in shorts and a T-shirt, nor would you as a queen, peasant, pirate, fairy, knight, troll or gypsy. In fact, half of the fun of the faire is people-watching, which doesn't disappoint.
Speaking of entertainment, you could easily spend all day bouncing from show to show. The faire has several performance and demonstration areas where you can watch things like juggling, combat, comedy, puppetry, music, dance, magic and most impressively, jousting and other equestrian contests.
We all loved the witty showmanship and horse-handling skills of the jousting show, as well as the comedy and juggling talent of a performer called Broon. The kids enjoyed watching a sword-fighting demonstration, which offered them a mini geometry lesson. My daughter particularly liked Cirque de Sewer, which featured performing rats and their even more talented trainer. We took in a Punch and Judy show, which stayed true to its roots while remaining appropriate for small kids. In the age of iPads and 3-D movies, it was neat to see parents and kids being entertained by centuries-old art forms.
The faire also offers plenty of hands-on activities, all of which will set you back a few bucks each. My son was intrigued by the Dueling Buckets, like a Renaissance version of a dunk tank where two participants try to hit each other's target to release a bucket of water on their opponent's head. Both my kids enjoyed a small, cute little area of simple carnival games. There's even a spot for kids to knock each other around with foam battle gear, which was actually more civilized than it sounds. And, if you've ever wanted to try riding a camel, throwing an axe or shooting a bow and arrow, now's your chance.
You would be wise to bring plenty of cash with you (especially small bills), although the faire does have ATMs on site. In addition to the activities which require a fee, nearly all of the shows we watched included a polite plea for tips at the end. Food vendors offered lots of tempting options, and while some were more Renaissance-era than others (turkey legs vs. corn dogs, for example), you'll have no trouble finding something good to eat.
Merchants abound selling clothing, costumes, jewelry, weaponry, art, toys and more. It's worth a look at some of the unique and beautifully crafted items. Given our hotter-than-average summer, and the faire's general lack of shade, some enterprising merchants offered parasols for sale. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection, and don't be surprised if you end up with (historically accurate) dusty, dirty feet.
Given the popularity of books/movies like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, it's no wonder that Renaissance Faires attract such a following. Even families with only a passing interest will find plenty of fun and unique things to see and do. And for that, I offer up a resounding "huzzah!"
IF YOU GO
Where: Kelley Farm, 20021 Sumner-Buckley Hwy, Bonney Lake.
When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends through Aug. 19.
Cost: Day passes are $19, $17 military, $15 seniors and students, $13 ages 6 to 17, free ages 5 and younger, $50 family of two adults and two youth younger than 18. Weekend passes are $36, $31 military, $28 seniors and students, $22 ages 6 to 17, free ages 5 and younger, $79 family of two adults and two youth younger than 18.
Contact: 800-587-0172; washingtonfaire.com.