enaissance Faire (Ren Faire or just Faire) is an amalgam of many things. It is partly a craft fair, partly historical reenactment and partly performance art. People working at Faire dress in costumes (garb) typical of the late Elizabethan period. Booths sell crafts and food. Parades wind their way through the crowds. Jugglers, musicians, magicians, and other entertainers perform through the day. Your day is spent wandering about, examining wares, sampling foods, watching plays and performers, and of course drinking fyne English Ale.
If you've never been to a Faire, then its hard to convey a sense of it. Many people when they go for the first time are overcome by the sheer hubub of it all. Hawkers in the streets, ribbons and flags waving in the wind, the sound of bells lutes and ocarinas in the air, the lilt of foreign accents, the smell of cooking foods and flowers, the warmth of sun on your face and the wind in your hair. Entertainers may want to talk to you as the character they're playing and vendors may insist the item you're looking at was carried on the backs of explorers from the wilds of the far off Indies.
The SCA is the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group dedicated to researching and recreating the Middle Ages in the present. While there is some crossover between Faires and members of the SCA, the SCA hold events specifically for their members (although often the public is welcome). You'll sometimes find SCA encampments at your local Faire. More information about the SCA can be found on the Rialto, which is the newsgroup rec.org.sca or from the SCA website.
Interested in going to Faire? Check the Faire Site Directory and contact the faire closest to you. Try contacting your local branch of the SCA. Smaller faires often carry a faire newspaper called The Renaissance Shopper which contains a calendar listing events throughout California. You can contact the Renaissance Shopper at (909) 943-7333 or at PO Box 422, Riverside, CA, 92502.
As a patron you can wear whatever you please: there are no dress codes. That said, you may find yourself getting more into the mood if you dress up. Once at Faire you'll find Pirates, Nobles, and even the occasional Klingon -- so don't worry about standing out. Clothes that you may have that generally pass as faire-like include:
Larger faires often have clothing boothes where you can rent clothing for the day. Prices vary depending on the quality of the clothing, and changing in front of other people into unfamiliar clothing is always lots of fun! You can make your own clothing, or you can buy clothing at faire. Many many people go to faire, purchase outfits, and show up the following weekend wearing them.
JMV 1994 (revised 5/1999) (revised 2010)