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An authentic costume, some wine and some piece of medieval weaponry are all that is needed to enjoy a day at the faire.
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A medieval master craves weaponry sharp as cutlery

There’s a wench in the bathroom of the travel plaza. Don’t be alarmed if the bosomy beauty is sporting silver armbands and medieval weaponry—peace-tied with rough, brown cord as a show of non-violence. Her chatter resounds with Olde English—thee and thou and sir and mi-lady.


She curtsies and with downcast eyes scrabbles away from the wash basin—a modern marvel surely the work of the devil—that marks her exit with a magical stoppage of the flowing water.


There may in fact be scores of wenches, regal knights, hairy warriors and sulky serving maids in the restrooms—and the restaurants and the gift shops—of roadside travel plazas all across America. They flaunt medieval weaponry, authentic costumes and jewelry with pewter accents and roughly carved semi-precious stones such as lapis and turquoise.


Summer is the season of medieval faires


Almost every state has some kind of medieval festival. The onset of medieval renaissance faires each year is heralded with trumpet blowing, flag waving and the sharing of honey wine—or the sharing of cheeseburgers at travel plazas along the way.


Hordes hit the highway not to pillage and plunder but to seek the excitement of a step back in time. Armed with all manner of medieval axes and spears and other medieval weaponry, revelers revisit the Middle Ages—a period of nearly a thousand years that began about 500 years after the birth of Christ (500 AD) and faded before 1500AD.


Why such interest in the Middle Ages?


Medieval times were marked with a dependence of the weak on those with strength and power. Knights in shining armor practiced chivalry. Good deeds were in style. Medieval weaponry included heavy swords such as that claimed by King Arthur—the sword Excalibur.


Communities throughout Europe sprung up around the castles of feudal lords. The castles provided a source for medieval weaponry, support in times of scarcity and shelter from hostile armies invading to confiscate riches, food, weapons or wives.


There also were breakthroughs in metallurgy skills that added to man’s knowledge of medieval weaponry and metal working. Silver and gold were wrought into medieval weaponry, regal crowns and jewelry and chalices used in worship.


The trades came into prominence and multi-story cathedrals adorned with parapets and bell towers were erected. Forays into far-away lands were common as religious zeal led to the forceful conversions of native peoples whose worship was nature-oriented or pagan—focused upon the veneration of many gods and goddesses.





What are today’s medieval activities?


Those who enjoy showing off a fine piece of medieval weaponry or reenacting medieval contests in front of a king and queen at today’s summer faires have a full menu of activities from which to choose. In the old days, men wielding bare fists, sharp daggers or heavy swords fought to the death in the arenas of ancient Rome and Greece. Nobody gets hurt in today’s reenactments.


Today, there are gladiatorial contest revolving around sword fights and jousting. Trained actors and re-enactors sometimes lead the choreographed shows but there are games for all skill levels at most faires. In addition, there are displays of medieval weaponry, crafts such as spinning and weaving, glass blowing and the construction of chain mail headdresses, tunics and gauntlets. Many games can be played by the public.


• Horseshoe throwing
• Axe throwing
• Knife throwing
• Javelin throwing
• Archery contests
• Mace throwing
• Wood carving
• Horseback polo


All ages will find things to do that are fun and authentic replications of activities belonging to the Medieval era. Want to learn to milk a cow? Can you churn butter? Can you comb the raw lanolin-rich wool newly shorn off a sheep into nice, fluffy coils ready for the spinning wheel? The cloth that medieval faire workers produce from raw wool is prized for its water repellency and softness.


How does one prepare for a faire?


No matter what region of the country hosts your favorite medieval faire, there are universal guidelines that partygoers follow. Many of the yearly attendees return every season, year after year. Some blend the medieval way of life into their everyday activities. One’s home may be a showcase for medieval weaponry, suits of armor, swords and insignia-laden shields.


Frequent fair goers make a point of planning ahead. Often, the parking areas at the fair are far from the main entrance to the festival. Those who dress in full regalia, toting medieval weaponry or armor are loath to make a trip back to the car because a wench—or the King—forgot the big bag of burgers from the travel plaza.


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