Hoggetowne Medieval Faire Concludes 2018 Run
It’s difficult to imagine how much work goes into setting up the magical experience that is the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire. After all the labor of setting up tents, building an arena, and getting your fantastical costume ready, the fun of an unforgettable experience begins.
The day begins as we pass through make-shift castle walls of which the guardsmen on top hail a volley of colorful banter at the time travelers below. The experience slowly unfolds as the sound of clashing steel and roaring crowds draw closer after the short walk from the entrance. As the armored knights descend from their horses to duke it out on foot, we make our plan for the day. Some of us have shopping to do and others set out to explore or catch a show.
Snapping an array of pictures for a few hours, I revel in the experience of being surrounded by so many costumes. A diverse array of time periods of covered all the way from club-wielding cavemen to sophisticated Victorian dresses. It isn’t uncommon to see a couple of video game or fantasy characters either – a Link continues his quest to find his Zelda at the fair and elves, of which I am one, come in many shapes and varieties. Aside from the leather-bound warriors and a few Roman legionnaires, we manage to catch sight of some orcs enjoying the fair too.
We meet back with the rest of our group to discuss the impending threat of darkening skies and heavier raindrops. They had just been to the informational tent to discuss the prospect of opening a booth next year and had met Bill, one of, if not the, director of the fair. Bill was the first person that talked to me when I went on opening day. He stopped me to say that he was thoroughly impressed by my Elven outfit, especially my ears, and mentioned that it was a good look for me. I was dismayed that I had missed a chance to speak with him again because of the delightful moment that we shared during the initial few hours of the fair.
We separate as our friends begin what may be a last-ditch effort to acquire one of those signature medieval turkey legs. Using the momentary lack of plans, we decide to visit one of our friends that suspiciously appears at, seemingly, every Medieval Fair. The wizard Avatar at Avatar Staffs and Wands sells a variety of beautifully crafted staffs and wands that would befit any witch, wizard, or warlock to own. Peeking out from lengthy eyebrows that only a wizard could grow, the wizard Avatar and I quickly launch into our usual array of banter and nonsense. We listen to a few stories from the wise wizard about the inner workings of the fair, ridiculous moments in his travels, and the time that he saw a police suspect turn himself invisible and walk out of a holding cell. We all ponder over whether it is possible to learn this power before setting off again to attend a secret event.
We worm our way into the crowd surrounding the human chessboard and watch as Robin Hood and a representative of the royal family duke it out using a living chess match. The theatrical battles put on by the Gainesville-based Thieves’ Guild are absolutely some of the main attractions of the Fair but we were here for something else. We wait patiently as Robinhood finally defeats the royal representative and asks what we should do with her. In true unscripted medieval fashion, someone in the crowd violently yells out “off with her head!” which makes it hard for the cast to not break out laughing.
The end of the show finally comes and happy endings are pondered on by the narrator.
“There is a chance,” he says, “for someone else to have a happy ending, though!”
A Jessica is called on from out of the audience. Guards, ensuring that she does not flee from stage fright, escort her through the ropes and to the stage. Her boyfriend Jake, who had disappeared to the bathroom only moments ago, appears from atop the castle in spectacular fashion. His black leather trench coat billowing in the wind, he descends the castle stairs and makes his way down to deliver a touching recap of their history together. He takes a knee to propose. She says yes. The cast and audience go wild.
Thirst catches up with us after wandering the grounds and waiting for the proposal. We grab some magic beer coins at our local tavern and redeem them for our drink of choice. My friend tries mead for the first time and is thoroughly delighted. We discuss what a shame it is that mead is hard to find as we scout around for a show to watch. Luckily, we run into the extremely talented guitarist Arne Parrot right before beginning his set. I had first met him at the previous year’s fair when he cornered a friend and I in a ditch and belted out a most impressive, lyrically intensive song about nerd culture and how we were right the whole time. The show was a thoroughly entertaining experience, as it always is, even despite the increasing rain.
Despite being caught up with the events of the day, we decide to drop in on one of our favorite aspects of the fair. Skulking around the corner of the Mystic Merchant shop, we arrive into a familiar clearing hidden away behind the shop tents. Last year at the fair we had uncovered the mystery behind Peter Meyer’s Game of Rogues which is hinted at by wanted posters posted all over the grounds. A roleplaying game that has you travel around the fair to find clues and complete challenges, Game of Rogues offers an additional layer of immersion for fans of Dungeons & Dragons and other fantasy role-playing games. Nothing is simple in the world of rogues, however, as assassins will actively hunt you down as you uncover the clues that will lead you to returning the scepter. The wise will be sure the have a wizard in their party as wizards can cast a spell to stop the assassin if he succeeds in stealthily grabbing your adventurer’s flag. Sadly, the game is shut down due to the rain and I had missed my window for photos. The Game of Rogues stays suspiciously in the shadows… for now.
After a few minutes of denial and the closure of the Game of Rogues, we both conclude that shelter is needed at least for the time being. Awkwardly hopping from tent to tent, we come up with a better idea and head back to the tavern. We complete the exchange to grab more drinks and run into Jake and Jessica. Jake is drinking mead from a drinking horn and cheers are in order, after all. We discuss at length the idea of a medieval wedding in the future. A gypsy woman jumps on a barrel of hay to get out of the rain and loudly announces that she has a joke to tell.
“How many dead bodies does it take to change a lightbulb?” she asks.
A couple of people stoically yell out that they don’t know what a lightbulb is since it hasn’t been invented yet.
“Even I don’t know because there’s six in my basement and the light is still broken!” she says before quickly fleeing back into the storm.
We watch as the rain seems to wash away the casual fair-goers until only those in costume remain. Across the street, acrobats are forming a human tower on stage which is especially incredible considering the wet conditions. Arne is there spending the beer coin that someone had tipped him. An impromptu medieval band forms amid the tavern tables where we are. A man in an impressively stitched leather doublet introduces himself to me and we spend an hour talking about philosophy, our beliefs, and tradition as the natural current of conversation over drinks takes over. It’s here that the concentrated elements of the medieval fair become tangible.
As we stand under a tented tavern, brought together out of the rain long after everyone else has left, our talents, passions, and humors combine to form a celebration outside of time. Gypsies splash in the mud as the music roars up. The spirit of dancing overcomes a handful of people and others down their drinking horns and yell for joy. For a moment, everybody forgets that there is world outside of Hoggetowne. These people, shrugging off the pouring rain in celebration of their human nature, embody the thriving, living spirit of the medieval fair.
As closing time approaches, the rain lightens up for a moment and we begrudgingly seize the moment to head back to reality. My friend and I both agree as we are heading back to the world of concrete and cell phones – five o’ clock is way too early for Hoggetowne to close.