Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire

Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire
Manheim, Pennsylvania
Guildsman Way / North
Once upon a time in a magical land far, far away... The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire located in Manheim, Pennsylvania is an experience far, far away from the ordinary.  I had been to the mansion for live theater many times over the years on annual school field trips held every fall season, dedicated to the works of Edgar Allen Poe.  Every year the students formed into lines outside by assigned group as we awaited entry into the mansion for Poe Evermore.  I was always intrigued by the tops of the old Tudor style buildings just visible above the red palisade fence line that ran along the edge of mansion's courtyard.  I always made a mental note to come back at another time to visit the faire and see what was beyond the fence walls.  I finally followed through, taking my son Tyler when we were both obsessed with The Lord of the Rings trilogy of novels and accompanying blockbuster movies.  It was the perfect setting to lose yourself in a world of fantasy, inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's vision of Middle Earth

Garden Shop Greenery
The main gate of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire is in the form of an impressive castle wall and accompanying towers.  Don't even think about sneaking through, as archers from above could very well stop you dead in your tracks.  I was instantly amazed at the layout of the grounds that truly resembled a bustling town in the middle of Sherwood Forest complete with multiple Robin Hoods roaming about, causing me to secure my wallet... just in case.  The whole event resembled a giant costume party for kids and adults of all ages, with the majority of visitors in period correct fashion from various periods from Europe's historical past.  You quickly realize why they call it a faire because the majority of the structures throughout the grounds are dedicated to selling you anything and everything you might need to fit into the crowd.  Tyler was quick to catch on and was soon sporting a festive green felt woodsman's hat accented with a wooden sword and matching shield.  However, I decided to continue portraying a modern visitor from the future to save some money.    

Pirate Ship Weapon Shop
The items were not cheap in price but the quality was exceptional and withstood the hard play and punishment Tyler dished out for several years.  In fact the sword and shield are both still in excellent condition and are safely stored in the basement, just in case we are suddenly attacked by an angry dragon.  There were multiple shops selling costumes of all kinds, hats, replica flintlock firearms, swords, incense, glassware, pottery, jewelry, and everything in between and beyond.  One shop was even creatively selling small green anole lizards and playing them off as baby dragons.  That was a tough one to dodge!  There were also a lot of craftsmen and artisans working their chosen craft and selling their practical and decorative creations.  We visited a glass blower, ironworkers, potters, blacksmiths, and weavers.  There was something to catch your attention in every direction as you navigated your way along the colorful pathways of the past.           

Tyler and I Make a Memory!
One of the highlights for both of us was an elephant ride for a few additional dollars.  It's not everyday you get an opportunity to ride an elephant with you son, even if it is for just a short loop around a small track.  How can you pass up such an opportunity?  It was a little scary but a great memory!  And it's true... the elephant really did work for peanuts!  Next we headed out to Bosworth Field for the famous jousting content.  It was really a cool thing to see, complete with Queen Elizabeth welcoming her loyal subjects (aka: spectators) to the event.  There was a lot of playing to the crowd and showing off by the contest participants, which was enjoyed by all.  The two knights charged one another at speed with protruding lances quickly closing the gap.  The two came barbarically together with one contestant getting violently knocked off his armored mount to the dusty ground in defeat.  The tournament winner was quick to accept the praise of the crowd and collect the flirtatious attention of the Queen as his prize.

Garden Glen Live Theater
The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire was born in 1980 in the back parking lot of the Mount Hope Estate Winery where a jousting contest was held for fun.  As the word got out, the number of spectators started to grow and the following year they moved the event to the estate's grounds and it began to expand over the years.  Today the grounds encompass over 35 fenced-in acres that attracts an estimated 250,000 visitors a year.  Live theater has grown to become the main attraction of the faire with a dozen stages within the complex in constant use on any given weekend.  Shopping is the only thing that upstages the stage at the Renaissance Faire with 105 merchants in attendance at last count.  The faire runs every weekend from September through the end of October with several themed weekends including the Celtic Fling, Pirate Invasion, and Oktoberfest.  The general setting of the faire is the Shire of Mount Hope in the16th century during the reign Queen Elizabeth I of the Tudor Dynasty.  The works of Shakespeare are being performed at the Globe Theater, ale is disposed at the Swashbuckler Pub, and craftsman hawk their wares from brightly colored tents in every direction.

Queen Elizabeth I
Now a decade later, it was Katelyn's turn to step back in time to experience Elizabethan England in all its glory and splendor.  God Save the Queen!  The previous two weekends were rainy but it was a beautiful fall day and the crowds filled the streets of the Shire of Mount Hope.  Katelyn was into it and arrived dressed up as a pirate!  She had recycled some old Halloween costume items and accented her outfit with a blue bandana on her head and the sword Tyler had purchased a decade earlier.  Katelyn and I walked through the gate and joined a small crowd watching a group of musicians on a gazebo stage who were playing an upbeat Irish dance tune.  We descended down Queen's Market Way and visited the shops along the way.  We were joined by many adults in various high-quality costumes of the Renaissance Era, who were looking to add to their historical outfit ensemble.  There were fancy gowns, various hats, ornate jewelry, replica swords, and countless decorative collectibles.  Apparently you are only limited by the size of your imagination and disposable income.  Shiver me Timbers Katelyn!    

Garden Sculpture Shop
We both enjoyed investigating the endless available items for sale.  During the course of the day, I purchased some replica pirate knob coins to display in my classroom and Katelyn settled on a nice necklace to compliment her costume.  My favorite shops of all were a few that were connected together that resembled something right out of an enchanted forest.  The shop was consumed by greenery, vines, and colorful plants that seemed to suggest the space was constructed by Mother Nature herself.  It was really cool!  We were suddenly absorbed in a royal procession of Queen Elizabeth I and her court who we soon discovered were on their way to play a game of Human Chess.  It was an entertaining display of fun that was attended by several hundred spectators.  Katelyn and I left before checkmate to explore Avalon Hill where we found the old elephant still giving rides to kids of all ages.  Katelyn wasn't up for a ride herself but we had fun watching others take the short journey into a life long memory.      

Bosworth Jousting Field
Katelyn and I continued to explore the shire... frequenting most of the shops, watching craftsmen create their art, and listening to minstrels play their historic tunes.  There were 300 characters in full authentic dress roaming the grounds and 90 live theater shows throughout the day.  However, we missed the jousting contest but enjoyed checking out the hawks and falcons behind netted cages at the falconry den nearby.  We listened to a short presentation from the falcon trainer and watched him take his birds of prey through a short exercise.  Most of the foods were traditional fare from the time period but not much to Katelyn's liking.  Turkey legs, reminiscent of King Henry VIII, were popular hand held treats washed down with the traditional ale... if you were of legal age.  We settled on some fish and chips, split a funnel cake with powdered sugar for desert, followed by a root-beer chaser.  Pennsylvania Dutch fare meets the 16th Century... You gotta love it!  Katelyn and I sure did! 

Katelyn at the Castle Gate
We were getting tired from all the walking and it was getting a little late.  Ironically, we ran into Tyler who just happened to be attending the faire with a friend the same day.  We took one quick loop around our favorite areas and took in the festive atmosphere and beautiful fall colors one last time.  It was a great day and we plan on coming back again to visit the shire... And God Save the Queen!

A Pair of Jesters

Please Check My Additional Photos of the Faire at...

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