Monday, November 24, 2008

Camping at the Texas Renaissance Festival

Studiers of history (aka historians) are well aware of the Little Ice Age that took place 1250AD-1650AD and the major upheavals it caused in the world. Villages were smashed by glaciers, populations starved due to crop failure, ports and harbors froze, and as far as I could tell from our latest jaunt through time, the resultant barbarian hordes had an odd fondness for 70's soft rock! Yeah, go figure.

We arrived on the edge of the barbarian camp late Friday evening due to heavy construction on the Time Lanes just south of Conroe. It never fails whether you are trying to get across town or across Time, the road you need will be under construction. Oh well.

The thermometer read a hair under 40F as we set up camp. Miniwether and Mambowether huddled under US military poncho liners (Mahalo!) while we set up camp and some friends set to building a fire.

Sidenote #1: the Texas RenFest camping rules state no fires are allowed other than the main campfire. Once you get there though they are more than willing to rent ($20) you a cut-up oil drum to use as a fire ring and sell you wood for $1 per log! If you do chose to be robbed in such a manner be sure to pick an oil drum that has already been used as a fire ring, otherwise you spend the evening breathing the vicious smoke of burning oil. Better still bring your own wood and your own fire ring. In the dark no one can tell you aren't using a cut up oil drum.

Sidenote #2: People, learn to build fires, okay? If you've gone through an entire bottle of lighter fluid and the logs as thick as my leg still haven't caught fire you may want to rethink your methodology! Remember, it's tinder/toothpicks/finger sticks and then small increases in size up to logs.

Eventually the camp was up and the fire was roaring.

Mambowether, entranced.

The thrill of dancing flames wasn't enough to keep the little ones awake and they shuffled off to their sleeping bags. From across the campgrounds drifted the yells and shouts of the horde coupled with...Steely Dan music?! Honestly, that was actually worse than the techno-rave music of other years. Apparently young thugs don't like cold weather, leaving the campgrounds to an older crew.

Bundled against the cold.

Being the insomniac that I am, I wandered over to the main "adult" bonfire to, uh, listen to the drummers.

Nothing to see here folks. Just good drumming and uh, good dancing.

Come morning we had a bit of breakfast before heading into the faire. Miniwether had a great deal of fun playing with the large beetle she caught while Mambowether preferred to just sit and eat cookies.

A new friend.

Camping means cookies for breakfast!

After breakfast it was time to head in to the Faire. Misseswether had sewn nice, warm cloaks for herself and the girls the week before, while I wrapped myself in three layers of Chinese silk to ward off the cold air.

Merriwether clan, circa 700AD

Me again, because I'm so dang beautiful!

As usual, we have our favorite parts of the Faire. For instance, Misseswether and Mambowether love the juggling toys...

Balancing orb.

Juggling flags

I do it!

Miniwether loves the rides and the shiney-pointies!

I want one of these in the back yard!

Mini and I thought the "Dizzy Dragon" was awesome, but it made Misseswether really sick. Imagine a telephone pole with a circle of benches around it, connected to the top of the pole by chains. Two strong guys turn the circle of benches around the pole causing the chains to twist up around the pole. Then they let go and jump out of the way. The chains unwind causing the benches to spin around faster and faster until they twist up in the other direction. Then it unwinds again. Repeat 4-5 times. It is definately worth the $4 per person!

Please dad?

Of course the food plays a big role, too!

Funnel cake and Gypsy music!

Turkey leg!

Turkey leg!

Kettle corn!

My favorite part of the Faire? Just being there. It's very different now that we have kids. Most of our money gets spent in Sherwood Forest, we skipped my favorite but wildly inappropriate for children comedy troupe Sound and Fury
and the hard blowing/drumming music of Tartanic. In return I get this:



Old friends



And of course, fireworks!

The day passed far too fast. At dusk we retreated to our campsite to munch on kettle corn and watch the fireworks followed by campfire flames. Sunday morning was spent cooking up a fine breakfast, striking camp, and saying goodbye to our friends.

Misseswether in the kitchen.

With luck I'll be back there this coming Friday, though the long-range forecast predicts ugly weather. That doesn't matter though, nothing cane ruin the Faire.

Sidenote #3: Skip the fishing game in Sherwood Forest! Your child tries to "catch" a fish with a magnet on a pole. If they succeed they get to make a wish and then toss the "fish" back in the pool. It is craptacular.

Sidenote #4: Fire ants are still active at 45F. If camping it makes sense to put down some ant killer around your tent.

Peace be with you.


Michael said...

Hey i am a big fan of Steely Dan, but Mr Walter Becker has a new album called Circus Money, What a great album it is, just had to share that with all the Steely Dan Fans.

Windrider said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

You are a lucky man Merri.

And a cool, damned Dad as well!! Jeeze would our Dad's have taken us camping at a cool gathering like that?


We may have to get together and share a few flagons of mead when I move back to San Antonio in a year and a half.

kudos to you!!

lisa c said...

Our experience at the Texas Renaissance Festival was dreadful. We allowed our 13 year old son and his friend to play the "tomato torment" (the game is located within Sherwood Forest, which is filled with family friendly activities like the petting zoo and the maze). The "tormentor" would have to be blind not to realize these were young kids - both look to be about 10. His way of taunting them was to say "it must be terrible to know you're gay before you hit puberty" and "oh did you bring your boyfriend to help?" Management on site was callus and uncaring. Letters to the TRF brought a promise that the tomato torment and the drench the wench attractions will be marked unsuitable for children in future years. Be aware that neither the TRF or the people who own the gaming booths seem to recognize that taunting a child about his sexual identity can be harmful. Be VERY careful if you bring your kids. I don't think we'll risk it again.

MaritaBeth said...

Fortunately, experiences like Lisa C's above, must be very rare. Thousands of people show up to TRF every year, bringing children of all ages who have the times of their lives and go home happy and unharmed! The answer is to pay a little more attention to what you're saying "yes" to, as a parent!

Thanks to the writer of this original blog entry . . . what a wonderful time it seems like you have at TRF! Here's to many more years of fabulous family memories!

Anonymous said...

Keep a eye on your kids for security reasons at this festival. This place is safe because of the type of people who attend, not because there is any safety set-up.
The managment of(most)the Sherwood games are not actually by the fair itself, but owned by company that pays fees to be there. I have a friend who reported a similar incident and then worse in another game ran by the same company (I won't list details) but the real issue was the 'manager' berating my friend herself and NOT fixing the problem. That manager is usless and argumentative. The answer is not to "pay attention to what you say yes to"-although helpful. Sherwood is promoted and full of children. A employee should know better than to call a child gay (this falls under common sense, like using toilet paper) or smack kids with those heavy metal fans (like my friend). I have been attending TRF with and without my child for over 10 years. It is a big, big fair and as such over time has lost some charm, but it still the best. I wish Scarby had camping for drunken patrons-they'd make more, as I would attend more and I grieve for Excalibur to this day-so TRF it is! I am waiting for November!

Stephen said...

I bet you really had a good time and your family. I love the pics you post where there is a bonfire-drumming.. It is always wonderful to discover new sights and sounds, right?

Warm regards,
RV Resort Parks

flangerhans said...

Just to straighten out this ridiculous mess, let's see what the other side has to say about these allegations of cruel tomato comments and uncaring managers. The insult game this moronic and clueless dullard is complaining about was the same one she watched for twenty minutes beforehand and found funny enough as long as the insults were not directed at her precious little do I know? I was the one insulting them, with the same comments I used on everyone else there. Apparently, she is so concerned about her boys possibly growing up homosexual that she honestly thinks that a locker room comment is enough to ruin their sexual identity forever. Secondly, I was also there, although not the offender, at the fan incident the second poster mentions. The "heavy metal fan", mentioned offhandedly, was actually a small paper and wood one much like those available in every chinatown in the nation, and qualifies as big and heavy only if your stature is lilliputian. These posters are obviously attempting to win sympathy by exaggerating their woes in vain hope that someone cares about them other than themselves.

Anonymous said...

lisa c. your child needs to learn how to handle himself. if he's a sensitive thing then thats your fault and his problem. i went to the festival and had a lot of fun and I'm only 14